Picture of a dog sniffing poop

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? (The Answer May Surprise You)

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Almost all dog owners know that dogs can eat surprising and sometimes disgusting things. If your dog eats poop (it may be that your dog eats it’s own poop, or it may be eating the poop of other animals), you may wonder if this is normal behavior or something to worry about. 

The good news is that there are various reasons your dog may be eating poop, and they may not be negative. 

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Your dog is most likely eating poop because of deeply coded DNA behavioral responses. Early canines evolved to protect the pack and identify any parasites that could lead to disease, and eating poop was one way to detect those parasites.

Another reason your dog may eat poop is that they exhibit a behavioral response to food scarcity. Dogs are scavengers and hunters and repulsed by far less than humans are. 

Even if your dog is comfortably well-fed at home, they could have come from a home where they did not receive much food and so eat poop as a trauma response. Similarly, dogs with oral fixations may eat poop when they’re anxious; this may explain why dogs eat poop from the litter box.

Is It Dangerous for My Dog to Eat Poop?

Despite how disgusting it is for us, there is no real harm in a dog eating its poop. But why do dogs eat cat poop? And why do dogs eat rabbit poop? If your dog shows an interest in consistently eating other animals’ poop, this could pose health risks to your dog. If you dog eats poop and vomits, it’s a good idea to call the vet. 

How Can I Keep My Dog From Eating Poop?

The best way to prevent your dog from eating poop is to keep it from finding poop in the first place. If you have both cats and dogs and your dog is eating from the litter box, it may be a good idea to prevent your dog from being able to access the litter box at all. If you have a medium-sized dog, try installing a simple baby gate tall enough for them to jump over.

If simple prevention is difficult, it may be time to introduce stern and firm discouragement. While it does not always feel pleasant to reprimand your dog, setting clear boundaries is crucial to training a well-behaved dog. Make sure that you combine stern reprimands with plenty of positive reinforcement.

If you find that you are overwhelmed by the task of redirecting your dog’s eating habits, consider bringing your dog to a trainer. Not only will they be able to support your dog’s behavioral health, but they can also give you plenty of tips and tricks to make you feel confident when your dog eats the occasional poop now and then.

Tips from Our Vets

Dogs make excellent companions and bring so much joy to our lives. Unfortunately, however, they cannot speak to us.

If your pet exhibits odd behavior, it can be worrisome and difficult to know if the behavior is normal or a reason for concern.

Not sure why your dog is exhibiting a specific behavior?

  • Some behaviors can seem very odd but may be completely normal.
  • Others could signal illness or injury.
  • Due to the lack of ability for a dog to communicate with us verbally, it is imperative to pay close attention to what the dog is telling us through their behavioral changes.

The most important takeaway is that if you are ever concerned about a behavior that your dog is displaying, your best resource for information is your veterinarian.

In general, a new behavior that is not typical for your dog should be investigated. Examples would be:

  • Not eating
  • Suddenly sleeping more than usual
  • Being reluctant to go on walks or to play
  • Becoming aggressive or grumpy when interacting with other people or pets

These behavior changes most commonly indicate that something is wrong, and your pet needs to see their veterinarian as soon as possible. It is much easier and more likely to be successful, to treat an illness early in its course as opposed to waiting until the dog is very sick.

Other odd behaviors include:

  • Eating feces
  • Chasing their tail
  • Sudden bursts of activity (known as the “zoomies”)

These may be completely normal. However, if you notice a drastic change in your dog, for example, they never exhibited one of these behaviors, and now they suddenly are, it is prudent to have them examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if the behavior is normal, it may lead to unintended issues.

For example, young dogs consuming their feces or the feces of other dogs can be a normal behavior but can lead to gastrointestinal upset as well as intestinal parasitism.

Parasites from your dog can cause serious health complications, not only for your dog, but also for you and your family, as many are transmissible to humans.

Licking of the feet or scratching may seem like normal dog behavior but typically indicates a health issue such as allergies, fleas, or skin infection.

Left untreated, these issues will worsen and cause additional discomfort for your dog.

Remember that your best source of reliable health information for your dog is your veterinarian. Because dogs cannot verbally communicate with us, it is essential to be proactive with any possible health concerns.

Working with a trusted veterinarian as your partner will ensure many happy and healthy years for both you and your dog.

Final Thoughts: Why Do Dogs Like Eating Poop?

Dogs eating poop is a common occurrence. Though it may feel disgusting to dog owners, it does not necessarily mean something is wrong with your dog.

Dogs can eat poop for several reasons, including:

  1. They are responding to food scarcity (even if they are currently well-fed)
  2. They are acting on their natural-born scavenger and pack instincts
  3. They are anxious and looking for a way to calm down

If your dog has eaten some feces or there’s feces in your yard that you’re concerned about, we created a series of guides on identifying animal poop from different animals:

Also, if you’re looking for answers to explain your dog’s behaviors, you can check out our series of guides on why dogs do what they do:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.