Why DOES My Dog Eat Poop and What Can I Do About It?

So if your dog is anything like mine, they do some pretty weird (and sometimes gross) things.

Just the other day, I saw my dog Buddy eating something off the ground in my yard.  When I investigated further, turns out he was eating . . . goose poop!

Which of course made me wonder -- why DOES my dog eat poop?

Turns out, he wasn't just being disgusting -- poop-eating usually indicates some kind of nutritional issue.  There's usually either something missing from your dog's diet, or he's not fully processing the food you're feeding him.

And you CAN do something about it.  Just a few minor tweaks to your dog's diet may be all it takes for them to leave that poop behind forever.

Why Your Dog Eats Poop

As gross as it looks, eating poop — (the fancy term is coprophagia) — is common among animals. And it's generally a sign that there's something missing from their diet, or that the food your dog is eating is not being digested and/or absorbed properly.

Although a new dog mom may eat her puppies' poop to encourage them to defecate, keep the den clean, and prevent potential predators from smelling her pups, adult dogs generally don't eat poop for behavioral reasons,

The good news is that for most dogs, you can stop poop-eating once you address the underlying dietary cause.

Two Types of Poop-Eating

There are actually two types of poop-eating, so you need to first determine:

  1. Is your dog eating its own poop?
  1. Is your dog eating another animal's poop?

If your dog is eating its own poop,  he’s probably not getting the full nutritional value out of the food he’s consuming.

If your dog is eating other animal's poop — another dog, cat, a rabbit or other herbivore—he's looking for the undigested food and nutrients from another animal's stool. (Sounds pretty desperate, amIright?)

What If Your Dog Eats Poop From Your Cat's Litter Box?

Turns out cat food is higher in protein than most dog foods.  So if your dog is consistently eating poop from the litter box, it's probably not because he's jealous of the attention you shower on your kitty -- he's probably not getting enough protein from whatever you're feeding him.

So Can My Dog Get Sick From Eating Poop?

Potentially YES!

While it’s unlikely that poop-eating will lead to any health issues, this doesn't mean that eating poop is necessarily safe for your dog.  It all depends on what's IN the poop!

Dogs like my Buddy who eat goose poop can be at risk for salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria, both of which can cause diarrhea in dogs. They may even suffer severe diarrhea, but most dogs with healthy immune systems aren’t usually affected.

If you know your dog has a goose-poop habit and he comes down with a case of the runs, the poop may be the cause. Check with your veterinarian if the diarrhea continues for 48 hours or more.

Infected bird droppings are also the source of a fungal infection called histoplasmosis. It’s most common in areas like the Midwest, the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys, around the Great Lakes, and in parts of Canada.  But it's not just water fowl that harbor the disease -- poultry and bat droppings can also contain the fungus.

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Getting Sick From Poop?

Once the fungus enters your dog’s intestinal tract, it can cause him to become unwell.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea

Less common symptoms include coughing, breathing problems and skin changes.

If you see any of these signs in your dog, or suspect histoplasmosis, call your vet immediately.

What Can I Do To "Eliminate" My Dog’s Poop-Eating Habit

Just a few tweaks to your dog's diet may be all it takes to banish poop-eating for good.

Before trying any of these remedies, you should first (and always), consult your vet about any issues affecting your pet's behavior or health.

Next, you can try any (or all!) of these 4 steps to help your dog clean up their act:

  1. Add water to your dog’s dry food: Water helps break down food so your dog can better absorb nutrients. (Easy peasy!)
  2. Bump up their protein: As carnivores, dogs need protein, and the best source is animal meat. Try to periodically switch up the proteins you provide (chicken, lamb, beef, duck, salmon) as each supplies different nutrients.
  3. Add probiotics: Probiotics help aid digestion and improve nutrient absorption by increasing the microflora in the gut (especially important for dogs that have recently been on medication, long-term antibiotics, or were recently ill).
  4. Vitamins, please: Many commercial dog foods meet only minimum dietary standards—meaning our dogs may not be getting optimal nutrition from them. Supplementing their food with whole-food based vitamins provides your dog with the vitamins they do need in the most natural form, and allows them to safely eliminate the ones they don't.

So How Long Before My Dog Stops Eating Poop?

Depending on the dog, this process can take a few months or longer. (Hey, this didn't happen overnight -- you'll need to be patient!)

So now that you know that your dog is actually eating that poop for a logical reason, you can stop focusing your attention on the behavior and start addressing the cause.

Even though they can’t talk, your dog's behavior can tell you all you need to know about what's going on -- you just need to listen!