(Dr. Chris Smith in Ask Dr. Chris - Dogington Post)
Question from one of our readers: My dog will not stop eating his own poop!! I tried giving him pineapple, some meat tenderizer as per vets instructions, forbid…nothing is working. He has the best food on the market, multivitamins and even gets yogurt every day and still no luck. If he goes out in the yard in the morning, he will just poop and eat it right away without us even knowing until his breath smells! Any ideas?
This is a great question and one that many other readers would be interested in hearing about!
When your dog eats its own or another animal’s feces (cat feces are irresistible to all dogs), it is a difficult and disgusting problem to deal with. I feel your pain as my own german shepherd, Jake, used to do the same thing. The scientific name for this behavior is coprophagia and despite what you may have read on the internet, it is natural behavior for dogs.
Dogs instinctively do it when nursing puppies and cleaning their “den” and is not typically a sign of poor nutrition or a nutritional deficiency. It really needs to be addressed as a behavioral problem, just as jumping up or going to the bathroom in the house are often seen as undesirable behaviors that can be worked on through training.
Dietary modifications have only been shown to help in approximately 2% of cases. This includes changes in dog food as well as manipulations such as feeding pineapple, meat tenderizer, yucca as well as the products that are sold in stores for coprophagia.
Keep in mind that things like meat tenderizer and supplements are thought to work by making the stools taste bad. Really?! Shouldn’t it taste bad enough? Some dogs just like it!
The best way to handle this is to offer him no opportunity to eat his or anyone else’s bowel movement.
Take him out on a leash and keep him away from the bowel movement after he has gone. If he tries to go for it, say “leave it” and pull him away. Over time, you should teach him this command, to help you in other situations where he may pick up something he shouldn’t eat.
Next, remove your precious puppy from the area and clean up the feces as soon as possible.
Consider designating an area in the yard for bowel movements to make it easier for you to know where he defecated, making clean-up easier.
There unfortunately is no magic answer to this problem. It is a natural instinct and some dogs continue to eat their stools their whole lives. Please remember it isn’t typically related to the diet you are feeding or anything that you are doing wrong, it’s just a natural behavior that is more persistent in some dogs compared to others.
Work on these training ideas and if you continue to have trouble, consider an appointment with a veterinarian that is an animal behavior specialist. Kisses from your furry best friend are not as much fun when you know they’ve been eating poop.
Christopher Smith VMD