My dog eats poop - Understanding coprophagia & solutions

My Dog Eats Poop: Understanding Coprophagia & Solutions

So, your dog eats poop…

Gross…but actually a fairly normal dog behavior…

It’s also known as “Coprophagia”. That refers to dogs eating either their own feces, or snacking away on another dog’s or other animal’s droppings.

Think rabbits, cats, horses, etc.

Why Is My Dog Eating Poop?

This behavior is rooted in the early mother-puppy bond.

That’s when a nursing bitch licks her puppies’ behinds to entice them to eliminate. She mostly does this within the first 3 weeks. 

Besides triggering elimination, she also ensures that no trace or smell will reveal her fragile litter’s presence to the outside world.

Yes, obviously there’s no actual threat to her litter in our homes, but this is instinctual behavior.

Puppies sometimes copy her behavior and start eating their very own poop. Don’t worry though, this should only be a temporary “thing”.

Many dogs eat their own or other animals' feces for different reasons. Some may be underfed, some don't get enough nutrients, some are bored. Learn how to avoid this problem!

Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.

Some dogs may “supplement” their menu if they aren’t fed a healthy, nutritious diet.

Another reason may be that they’re not fed enough and are actually hungry. 

If a dog eats a poor diet and is not able to digest the majority of his food, he will likely be attracted to partial remainders left in said poop.

He may also be attracted to the feces left behind by herbivores as they contain nutrients. 

For example, cows, horses, deer, etc.

Some dogs may also develop this habit due to boredom and being under-exercised. 

Remember, bored and mentally unchallenged dogs will find ways to keep themselves busy…and these ways may very well include eating poop!

If your dog fits into this category, make some time for playtime with them. 

Engage their braincells by teaching new tricks, and don’t forget to go for daily walks!

If your pup is confined to your backyard only, he may want to clean his personal space. That’s fair enough, too – you wouldn’t want to hang out in your feces either, right?

Also, a dog who never gets to leave their backyard views it as nothing more than a very large crate. 

A dog needs to explore different places and migrate. This need is engraved in his genes and that’s why the daily walk is so important!

Dogs who eat poop on their walks may keep up with the behavior because of how we as their humans react to it!

So rather than acting all kinds of concerned and hysteric, just give a leash correction and move on without making a big deal about it.

How to stop your dog from eating poop

If your dog has coprophagia, take them to the vet for a health checkup in order to rule out any medical issues first.

If they get a clean bill of health and continue eating poop, try the following:

How to stop your dog from eating poop

1) Pumpkin purée

Try adding pumpkin puree to their diet, regardless whether it’s kibble, wet dog food, home cooked or raw. It can help stop this nasty habit, but only works with some dogs.

Check out my post on how to make your dog’s own pumpkin puree below: 

How to make pumpkin purée for your dog and pumpkin pancakes for yourself

Adding Libby's canned pumpkin purée to kibble
Try mixing your dog’s food with some pumpkin purée

2) Covered cat litter box

If you caught your dog eating your cat’s poop out of the litter box, invest in a closed cat litter box he won’t be able to access.

An alternative is to simply place it out of your pup’s reach.

3) Spicy meal toppers

You can also try topping Fido’s leftovers with anything spicy such as really hot sauce or pepper…

4) Poop duty

… but quite frankly it would be much easier to monitor your dog’s potty routine and to just pick up the poop right away instead of having to go through all this trouble! 

Positive side effect: You won’t step into piles of poop in your backyard.

Can Dogs Get Sick From Eating Poop?

It depends on the type of poop your dog eats.

If your pup is healthy and eats their own poop or that of another healthy animal, they’re unlikely to get sick.

However, if your pup eats a pile of poop from an unhealthy animal, specifically if it’s infested with intestinal worms, they’ll likely get sick.

You can try treating your pup on your own by giving them Slippery Elm bark syrup for a couple days. That’s my go-to home remedy when my pup ate something questionable on a walk or vomits/has diarrhea.

How to make slippery elm bark syrup for dogs

If your pup’s not better after a few days, you should schedule an appointment with your vet.

If you suspect your pup has worms, you can also help speed the recovery process by feeding pumpkin seeds.

Oven dried pumpkin seeds
Oven dried pumpkin seeds can help treat intestinal worms in dogs

My Dog Eats Poop: Bottom Line

As with so many other things, prevention is key.

Invest in a healthy, nutritious diet, pick up immediately after your dog has pooped, and pay attention when he’s on leash next to you. 

I recommend feeding species-appropriate, raw dog food.

One of its many benefits is reduced stool volume.

That’s because dogs who eat raw dog food are able to absorb a lot more of the food they eat than when they eat kibble and/or wet dog food.

The latter contain a lot of empty fillers like grains and carbs that aren’t meant to be absorbed by a dog’s digestive system. 

That’s why dogs who eat a highly processed diet have much larger poops than dogs who eat less processed food like raw or dehydrated/freeze-dried dog food.

Dehydrated or freeze-dried dog food is a good alternative to offering fresher dog food if you’re not ready to make the switch to a raw dog food diet quite yet.

I made the switch from kibble to raw via a little detour of dehydrated & freeze-dried dog food back in 2015. 

But whatever the reason may be for your dog eating his own or another animal’s feces: Don’t punish your pup for it, and NEVER hit the pup or rub their face into it. 

This method is extremely counter-effective, as it only teaches him that you can’t be trusted.

Have you had to deal with a case of coprophagia in your dog? How did you handle it? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!

Related Reading:

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


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8 responses to “My Dog Eats Poop: Understanding Coprophagia & Solutions”

  1. MilitaryWifeandPugLife Avatar

    Belle did this one time, but never again! And Maddie? Yeah she doesn’t eat poo lol. She’s like no way mommy!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Good girl, Maddie :-)) Sounds like Belle had to try it once and then made the smart decision to leave it alone! Our pups tried eating poop a few times when they were puppies, but thankfully that phase is behind us 🙂

  2. Lindsay Stordahl Avatar
    Lindsay Stordahl

    Ha, so gross but seems like a common problem!

    My family has a golden retriever that used to do this. She would eat our other dog’s poop, but not her own. She finally just seemed to grow out of the habit, thankfully.

    I like the idea of putting something that tastes bad (to them) on it, like hot sauce. But like you said, the easiest solution is just to pick up the poop right away and avoid the problem to begin with. I realize that’s not an option for everyone, though.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      It really is gross 😉 My mother in law had that problem for a while with her Shih-Tzus, and ended up adding pumpkin to their diets, which was supposed to cure the pups of eating their feces. It seemed to work at first, but then the poop munching started again. Now the poop gets picked up fairly quickly 😉

  3. Elaine Avatar

    Luckily, Haley has never been a poop eater, except for rabbit poop occasionally. The few people I knew that had this problem resolved it by changing to a better quality food and of course picking up after the dog helps.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Aah, the rabbit poop…our pups seem to think of it as a delicacy…us humans don’t share their enthusiasm for it, of course, and keep them away from it as much as we can.
      Isn’t it amazing on how many different levels (quality) nutrition plays an important role?

  4. Sharon Seltzer Avatar
    Sharon Seltzer

    I had this problem with my puppy, but thankfully she’s grown out of it. For a while everything she found lying in the yard went into her mouth. You’d be surprised at all of the nasty treats she found.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      I have a slight idea of what those “treats” might have been…when our pups were puppies, Buzz had an earthworm phase…he would pick up every single one he found when we were out on walks around the neighborhood! Thankfully, he grew out of it fairly quickly!

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