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Coprophagia - My Dog Eats Poop

Updated on August 22, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

What is Coprophagia?

Coprophagia is the proper name for stool eating, which is actually a normal canine behavior. In the wild momma canines keeps her den clean by eating the poop of her young pups, and as the pups grow, they copy the behavior to help mom clean house. But, once weaned out of the nest, so to speak, most puppies typically stop eating poop. Generally, it takes a few weeks for pups to grow out of the phase of eating his own poop, but in some cases it can be a long-lasting problem.

Although, coprophagia is a nasty habit that isn't desirable, it isn't a behavior that is dangerous as long as your dog is just eating his own poop. Now, if he tries to eat the cat's poop, that's a whole other issue that can become hazardous to his health. Or, if your dog eats another dog's poop, he may contract an illness, as most contagious canine illnesses are transmitted through feces, so if your dog ingests poop from a sick dog, he could become ill.

Worms and other parasites can also be transmitted through ingesting poops, so ideally, it's just not something that you want your dog to do.

What Causes My Dog to Eat His Poop?

There is not 100% direct cause as to why dog's will eat their poop on occasion or at every instance, but the most popular suggestion is due to a dietary deficiency. The flaw with this theory is that in an entire litter of pups feeding on the same diet, how does one explain the one puppy who eats his poop? But, in some cases, it really is a nutritional imbalance, as studies have shown that dogs who are low in vitamin B1 are prone to eating their own stool.

Another theory is pure boredom. Being cooped up in a kennel or outside alone all day long, can cause dogs to do some pretty weird things, so why not sniff around a bit and potentially detect some undigested food in his own poop and just start chowing down.

Sometimes, it's from stress, as dogs with different fears will react different in times of stress when encountering their fear, and some may result to eating their own stool.

And in some cases, dogs will eat their poop during house training. If you punish your dog when he makes a mistake on the floor, he will try to find ways to hide it because you're not really training him what to do just what not to do without any real alternative. So, when he poops on the floor, there's nothing he can do but eat it, and in some cases it becomes habit.

For the most part, the exact cause as to why your dog is eating his own poop is going to be something that you're going to have to figure out from your own dog and his actions. Has he always eaten his poop, ever since you brought him home? Or is the behavior a new behavior that just started.

How to Stop My Dog From Eating Stool?

  • Keep a well balanced diet. A high quality, nutritious diet that is highly digestible and has very few if any fillers will result in less stool, and those stools are less attractive because the dog will be less hungry for snacks due to less undigested fillers and junk.
  • Feed your dog just enough. If you overfeed your dog, it can result in the dog not fully digesting all of the food, which means he's going to poop out undigested food that will smell appetizing and enticing to eat.
  • Clean the yard. Make sure that you pick up any stool lying around as soon as you can. The longer you leave it, the more enticing it will become to eat.
  • Walk your dog on a leash. When you walk your dog on a leash to take him out to potty, it will be easier to monitor his stool eating behaviors; this is best for avid and dedicated eaters. When you see him try to sniff or nibble at his poop, tell him 'No' in a stern voice and redirect his attention with a treat or toy. This is also a great method of training 'Leave It.'
  • Add a tenderizer. Some people claim that by sprinkling a very small bit of meat tenderizer on their dog's food makes the stool less palatable. Look for meat tenderizers that contain papain.
  • Other deterrents and preventatives. There are a few products that are effective at stopping coprophagia. These products are sprinkled on your dog's food, and once the product has passed through your dog's digestive tract, stool becomes less appealing.
  • Move the litter box. If the dog is eating cat poop, and you've already adjusted the dog's diet and the dog is still feasting in the litter box, you'll just want to move the box so the dog can't get to it.


Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.


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    • profile image

      R. McCulloch 

      3 years ago

      Our Lhasa is 13 years old. We moved and have rabbits every where. When we put her out she runs all over looking for their poop and eats it. It's like she thinks it is a treat. Is this normal. she hasn't got sick. We try to watch her closely and make her stop. Ihope the vet can help us with this problem.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am so worried my two year old lab will get a disease from eating other dogs poo

    • profile image

      jo mcconnell 

      7 years ago

      my dog is 10 n we have another dog who is just 1 well we try to clean up the poo from the yard as often as we can but when we dont my 10 year old dog eats the 1year olds poo can anybody HELP us as to why this is PLEASE THANKS

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Anybody try giving your dogs some fruit? I heard anything from pine apple to bananas might be helpful. Apples and carrots are great. Be careful some fruit may be dangerous to dogs. Do not give your dog grapes, lettuce, or tomatoes. onions or garlic. Please let us know if this works.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My dog has eaten his poop for the first time tonight and I am so upset!!! He has good organic food, chopped chicken and fresh water today. I must say I got upset today because he left my house and made me run after him for good ten minutes so he had "time out" in the kitchen.

      Maybe is it because he's upset with me? He pooped after eating the chicken so it cannot be because of that...I don't know...HELP please!

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Georgia

      I'd reduce to 1/4 cup twice a day.

    • profile image

      Alex mtl 

      8 years ago

      Just got my first dog. It's a mini teckel ( dashsund) he's 2 and a half now and tonight before bed I brought him out to do his business when I see him pic something off the grass, I took it from his mouth to find out it was poo!! I reacted badly by spanking his but but I was so disgusted with it. After washing my hands 4 times I put him back in his crate and I'm trying to get to sleep when I decided to google the problem and came across this article that I think might have made me feel a bit better.. I can't say for sure if he would have ate it or not but the picking it up was enough to get me asking questions. Any thoughts to why he did this? I feed him 3 times a day with 1/4 cup of highest quality dog food, am I over feeding him?


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have a lab/shep and adopted a german shep 3 years ago, she was 2. A couple of years ago my lab was very listless one day. I went to her and could tell she was not feeling well, i asked my brother if she had eaten anything when he had taken her for a walk and he told me she ate some poop. I took her to the vet and he gave her some pills, and she was find after that. Now today my german/shep ate some some poop from another dog that had gotten into our yard, just a little piece, but now I will take her to the vet tomorrow just to be on the safe side. This can cause all kinds of ailments and worms. So please do whatever you can to stop them from eating poop.

    • bonny2010 profile image

      bonetta hartig 

      9 years ago from outback queensland

      hi this is an interesting article and well written.I found that every time I had a question in my head it was soon answered as I scrolled down - you sure are one heck of a long distance mind reader thank you for the read look forward to rreading many more.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My 4 mo. old pound puppy recently started eating his poop. He is completely house trained and uses a pet door. I have become obsessed with getting to his poop and cleaning it up before he eats it, and I get very upset when he has some in his mouth. So today, he brought two pieces of poop into the house and dropped them. I guess he thinks I don't want him to eat it because I want it myself, so he's bringing it to me.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      Is the dog still on the pills that the vet recommended? Or did you stop giving the pills? If he's not on the pills, you may have to try them again to break the habit. Sometimes, it's just a habit that you have to break. Sometimes, it's caused by how the dog was housetrained. When I got my Yorkie about 10 years ago when I was about 12, I didn't know how to house train a dog, and was listening to many different people. Well, he ended up scared and when he pottied in the house, he'd hide it or eat the poo. To this day, if he messes in the house, he may eat a few pieces.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have a 14 month old Shih Tzu. Ate his own poo a year ago when I first got him. I tried vet recommended tablets, supposed to make it less "attractive", only made more foul smelling odor as he continued to eat his own poo. He seemed to stop in the spring but I suspect has started again (cold weather ?). His diet is unchanged, high quality food and the vet says he is healthy

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Cat poop is like Baskin Robbins to dogs! We put our cat's litterbox up on a shelf in the laundry room, and problem solved.

      However our 3 month old rat terrier is still eating her poop. She only "goes for it" inside the house. Outside she doesn't even seem to care about it. My wife and I were thinking it had something to do with the way she was raised in a crate with her mother until she was weened. We've tried pumkin and it didn't seem to work. Maybe this For Bid stuff will do the trick.

    • Akita Puppies Guy profile image

      Akita Puppies Guy 

      9 years ago

      Keeping the grounds clean is one of the best ways to slow that process down. Dogs have a natural inclination for that bad habit. Its our deal, as owners, to help the dogs not do something we find offensive...especially when they want to give you a kiss later...YUCK!

    • ScarletRyan1970 profile image


      9 years ago from Ireland

      Thankyou.I was getting a little concerned.I know what to do now.My dog did it once and i was shocked.Great hub.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      It's not going to harm them, but it's not a good habit.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      my dogs are sisters but i haven't come across them eating their own feces so far, but if one were to eat eachothers feces, would that be a problem?

    • huck tooey profile image

      huck tooey 

      9 years ago from Vineland NJ

      I had this problem with a pound puppy..he ate just his prescribed 250mg of b complex every other day .....stopped in about 2 weeks...stopped vitamins after 3 months...2 years later still no problem.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks for the info--my female chihuahua goes in spurts with this nasty habit. We feed her Nutra small bites, no people food and Bil Jac treats when warranted. Not sure why she does this from time to time but right now she is on a kick with it. Our male does not do this.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for noting that. I added the only sure-fire way to stop the dog from eating from the litter box, which is to move it. By changing the dog's diet to make sure htat it's getting the right nutrients, that generally stops the dog from wanting to heat his own poop, that of other dogs, or cats.

    • BealeD profile image


      9 years ago

      Interesting article but I did not see a suggestion to stop eating cat poop as touch on in your article. Any help?

    • BetsyIckes profile image


      9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks for sharing! My dog is a poop eater too! Been trying to stop her! This should come in handy!

    • werebear profile image


      9 years ago from UK

      wow just the info i need for my dirty little Labrador

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      It could be switching food. If changing the food all of a sudden without a slow transfer over, that can upset a dog's stomach.

    • bspilner profile image


      9 years ago from Altanta, Ga.

      We have two puppies, a Lab and a Shi Tzu, and our Shi Tzu has always eaten her poop- Coprophagia is really gross. Anyway, we recentely started mixing in wet food to their dry puppy food. Well, our Shi Tzu has been waking up in the middle of the night and crying and we've been finding blood in her stool.

      We've already made an appointment to see the vet but we've been trying to figure out the cause on our own in the mean time. We think it may be switching the food and now after reading this article I'm thinking it's possibly that she's been eating our labs poop as well and that is somehow making her sick. Any thoughts?

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      Very interesting technique. Did she eat her own or other dogs' poop?

      You gave the dog the magerine before the walk? Also any tips for what kind? For those who may be interested in trying this tactic?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My vet checked the diet - it was a high quality dry diet (Science Diet) which he said was just fine - then said to give my dog (a westie) a hazelnut sized piece margerine or butter when setting off for a walk. From the first dose of magerine she didn't eat any poop - (not her own, incidentally, she had never eaten her own) - I had to do this for 10 days.

      On the 11th day - we went for a walk without the pre-walk knob of margerine - and she hasn't touch a turd since ! That was 11 years ago.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you. My partner's dogs have now become mine too and I am trying to train them in basic behaviour but the one thing I'm stuck with is they love cat pooh! We walk them on the lead and yank them off as soon as I catch them but sometimes it's too late...your tips will hopefully help me get them out of this disgusting habit :)

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      wordscribe, sometimes it's just a matter of breaking the habit. I think I've heard about the pumpkin. Thanks

      mayhmong, that's funny.

      packerpack. thanks. i try to do my best to help.

      ronibgood, sometimes it is a dietary deficiency, but not everyone believes that's the case.

    • ronibgood profile image


      9 years ago

      That is very interesting. I have 4 dogs and 2 of them do that. I asked the vet if they were lacking something. He said, nope, just a nasty habit... Very well written story.

    • packerpack profile image

      Om Prakash Singh 

      9 years ago from India, Calcutta

      You really are a pet expert. Poop eating sounds so bad. You tips to stop your dog eating that is really helpful. Thanks

    • mayhmong profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Someone sent me an e-mail a long time ago, showing a funny cartoon version of a dog eating out of the cats litter box. After he ate it, he licked the screen and we hear, Ewwww!

      I'll keep these tips in mind, if I ever will get a dog some day.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      We tried everything and our dog still eats poop- hers and other dogs. Some people claim putting a little canned pumpkin in his or her food can help. Thanks for the Hub, it's a widespread, annoying and embarrasing problem.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      Ken, that would be interesting to see if you could do that. Ha.

      Jerilee, I'd definitely try to find a new place for the litter box. My boyfriend's grandmother has two dogs, and the younger of the two eats the poop of the older dog. He'll even go so far as standing behind the older dog and eat it literally before it hits the ground. It's rather gross.

      Definitely try the tenderizer.

    • Headstrong Farm profile image

      Headstrong Farm 

      9 years ago from Rhode Island

      Thanks for the article. We have four Jack Russels and the one male (neutered) in the house eats the feces of two of the females, a habit which started while the two unaltered females where in heat. We haven't completely broken him of the habit, but we may give the tenderizer method a go.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Was surprised at the name thing too, but our dog doesn't eat her own, she eats cat poop and at age 14 we've never been able to break her of it.

    • Ken Devonald profile image

      Ken Devonald 

      9 years ago from Edinburgh

      We had a Jack Russel Terrier and you had to make sure she wasn't around when you were changing the kid's nappies... wish I knew about feeding the kids the other deterrents and preventatives... :-)

    • AshleyVictoria profile image


      9 years ago from Los Angeles

      Wow, there really is a name for everything!


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