Why dogs eat poo and 3 things you can do to stop it
If you are looking for the short version - scroll down to the title "The main causes of coprophagia". For the less dry Dr. D version, continue reading here.
Before we dive into the topic, I have a question for you
What is your favorite pastime? I can already hear some of you saying "having fun with my dog" and I am definitely one of you! The only thing I would add is being with and writing about dogs!
Some people who don't live with dogs may call us dog lovers crazy. What they don’t know is that they miss out on so much fun! Dogs are the ultimate comedians, who know how to be funny, cute, entertaining, sweet and loyal.
Some time ago, I wrote a blog that can make a huge difference in your dog's health and life. The topic was mineral depletion in soil and how this deficit reflects in dog’s health and lifespan. In the article, I explained what would happen if the wings of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner was missing even one element in the carbon composite material they are made of. The wings would turn into a floppy fabric and our bodies are no different. If the building blocks are missing, a disease sets in. You can read the article here.
Back to the Dreamliner
Well, today I am on board a Dreamliner! The wings are carrying me to Tokyo and then on to Bali, Indonesia. I can hear some of you saying, ‘Lucky you,’ but I have a conflicted relationship with Bali and Indonesia because they don't always treat animals and dogs well.
Why am I going then? It is a dog's doing!!! To be more precise, his name is Tot and I met his guardian Michele several years back. Tot suffered from hot spots and a few other problems. I was able to help him by applying a few simple principles for treating hot spots.
In return, Tot's mom, Michelle, helped me build a holistic health company for dogs and figure out how to help people like you create healthier and longer lives for their canine friends.
Anyhow, the reason why I am on board a Dreamliner is that Michelle's company is organizing a course for socially conscious and ethical companies in Bali and I promised I would join her.
I also find travel super important in both my personal and professional life because it is a good reminder that our North American way is not the only way.
Just before I started writing, I watched funny dog videos on the entertainment system and laughed so hard that tears ran down my cheeks. My favorite video was of a dog making a guilty face after getting into cat treats. Isn't it incredible that dogs can have the emotion of remorse? They are so much like us!
Speaking of remorse, let’s focus on the poop-eating habits of our best friends. You may find it funny that I am using the world poop here, but for people to find this article on Google, I need to use this word because that is what many people search for, but in medical terms poop eating is called coprophagia.
The main causes of coprophagia
Dog's are scavengers at heart and they have evolved to make sure that nothing in nature goes to waste, even the waste. They can definitely use the leftover predigested nutrients and have adjusted to eating feces without getting ill in most instances.
Maybe you have heard that 'fecal transplants' have become the treatment of choice for serious digestive problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease, or Crohn’s disease in people. I guess dogs were the inventors of this method because they have been using it for tens of thousands of years. Fecal transplant restores the bacterial flora of an ill individual and that is one of the main reasons why dogs eat feces. Nature knows best what is right.
3. Poor hygiene from puppyhood
Some people believe dogs that grow up in unsanitary or stressful conditions are prone to eating feces. This one is rather controversial and is a less frequent cause of this habit.
4. Processed kibble
No matter how convenient kibble is, it causes severe digestive disturbances, which can result in coprophagia. Nature never intended dog food to sit on the shelf for months on end before it is fed.
Much has been written on the topic of kibble versus a raw or cooked diet. I doubt that anyone who is feeding kibble would be willing to eat dehydrated camp food for a lifetime. No wonder dogs try to balance their digestive tract when they can't maintain healthy flora.
5. Predigested delicacy
It may sound funny, but expert poop-eating dogs can recognize the vintage and origin of poop and apparently may find some varieties highly irresistible. Predigested food is also a source of nutrients that may be missing.
6. Vitamin deficiency
Believe it or not, feces can be an important source of vitamins, especially in dogs on processed food. For example, vitamin B group and the content of vitamin B12 is used to evaluate the level of digestive health.
7. Mineral deficiency
This is the single most common reason for dogs eating feces. Agricultural soils have been severely depleted of minerals and these deficiencies reflect in the whole food chain and is also affecting dogs. Correcting this deficiency on its own can make a huge difference to your dog's life and also can stop coprophagia.
3 simple steps to stop your dog from eating feces
Some health problems and habits are difficult to solve, but luckily treating coprophagia is easy in most dogs. Here is what you need to do:
1. Hair test your dog
If your dog eats feces, it is super helpful to know what his or her mineral imbalances and deficiencies are. Here is a simple, inexpensive and highly accurate HairQ test to test your dog.
2. Feed non-processed food
Ideally, feed your dog either a raw or homemade cooked diet and avoid kibble. If you can't make the commitment, you can skip this step. If you take the leap, it is highly likely that you will add years to your dog's life.
3. Give natural essentials
There are 4 natural non-synthetic supplements that every dog should get:
The last thing I would like to mention is that every dog should have their fecal sample examined for intestinal parasites to ensure that you are not feeding any uninvited guests.
It is my experience that by applying the above program, most dog's stop their poop-eating habits quickly with some very rare exceptions.
Thank you for sharing this article with others!
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM