Why does my dog eat poop?
- It’s a behaviour they learned as a puppy from their mum
- They get some nutritional value from undigested matter
- They’re hungry and looking for something to eat
- They're bored or stressed
- They may have a medical condition
Dogs like eating poo
One possible reason that your dog eats poo is simply because they enjoy it. Your dog’s sense of smell and taste are very different to ours and they may be able to detect undigested fats, proteins or other material that smell delicious to them. They may also enjoy the texture of certain stools, often favouring firmer, fresh faeces, particularly if it’s less than two days old.
While we often explore things with our hands, dogs use their mouths to help them understand the world, whether that’s licking your face to greet you, carrying things between their teeth, or playing with toys or balls. For your dog, eating poo may just be another way of examining something that seems interesting to them.
They’re copying their mum
Hungrier dogs tend to be poo eaters
- Do they tend to eat poo at times when they’re most hungry, such as before meal times?
- Are you giving them enough to eat?
- Do you have a regular feeding routine and do you stick to it?
- Are you giving them a good quality food that’s likely to keep them feeling full?
The effect of boredom, stress or anxiety
Eating faeces can sometimes be a response to stress, boredom or anxiety. If your dog is home alone for long periods of time, then they may eat poo because there’s nothing else to do. In these situations, your dog will need more mental and physical stimulation and you could consider using a dog walker to provide them with company during the day. If your dog is stressed when they’re apart from you, eating poo may help soothe them. If your dog starts eating their own poo, it’s important that you don’t punish them. Punishing an already anxious dog can further increase their stress levels and make matters worse. Always consult your local vet or behaviourist to get the best advice.
Possible medical causes
- Some medications, such as steroids
- Some diseases that increase their appetite, such as diabetes, thyroid issues or worms
- Issues digesting food
- Dementia or other brain conditions
- Illness that change the smell or texture of their poo, making it more appealing
Do all dogs eat poo?
A study of over 1,500 dogs found that 23% of dogs were seen eating poo at least once in their lifetime, with 16% of dogs being described as ‘frequent stool eaters’. Dogs that were found to often eat poo were likely to be:
- Described as greedy eaters by their owners
- Living with other dogs
- A terrier or a hound (Shetland Sheepdogs were most common and Poodles were least common)
No evidence could be found relating to poo eating and the dog’s age or diet.
Is it dangerous for my dog to eat poop?
Eating poo is a normal behaviour for dogs and although it’s disgusting to us it’s usually relatively harmless. Even though your dog may enjoy dining on dung, it’s probably something to be discouraged as there is always the risk of parasites, viruses and bacteria. Also, some medications can pass through an animal and into their faeces and these may be toxic to your dog, such as worming medications found in horse manure. If you’re unable to stop your dog from eating faeces, always ensure you give them something to eat or drink afterwards to help rinse out their mouth. Don’t let them lick you. Always wash your hands thoroughly if in contact with your dog’s mouth or saliva and make sure they’re up-to-date on any worming treatments.
Can my dog get worms from eating poop?
How can I stop my dog eating poo?
- Teaching them a good recall or to ‘leave it’, as these commands can help keep them away from poo when you're out on walks. Stay patient and keep using positive reinforcement. Make sure you give them plenty of praise to encourage them to behave differently
- If you’re having trouble with training, keep them on a lead when out for walks
- Wearing a basket style muzzle when out on a walk will help break the habit while still allowing your dog to pant
- If they choose not to eat a poo give them lots of praise and attention
- Distract your dog by giving them something else to carry in their mouths, like a ball or a toy (never a stick as these can splinter or cause a blockage if eaten)
- Make sure you always pick up your dog’s stools as soon as possible and keep them on the lead when they're going to the toilet
- Try feeding them more regularly or try a diet that fills them up for longer. Always speak to your vet before changing your dog’s diet
- Some people recommend feeding dogs food that makes their faeces taste unpleasant, such as pineapple or courgette, but there is little scientific evidence to suggest these work
- Give your dog a bit more attention during the day. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation, so remember to play games with them or think about new activities to do together, such as obedience, agility, rally or flyball
What not to do if your dog eats poop
How can I stop my dog eating cat poo?
- Cleaning out your cat’s litter tray more regularly
- Moving the litter tray to a place that your cat can reach, but your dog can’t, such as:
- High up on a table
- Behind a stairgate with a cat flap in
- In a litter tray that has a lid or a door
How do I clean my dog’s mouth after they've eaten poop?
One of the worst parts of seeing your dog eat poop is knowing that they’re going to try to lick you later on, or will have disgusting smelling breath, so how can you clean them? If your dog enjoys eating excrement then you could:
- Give them food and water to drink, as this will help to wash away anything unpleasant and help to freshen them up a little
- Wipe around their mouth with a cloth and some water
- Use your dog’s toothbrush if you already use one. Don’t ever use human toothpaste as some of them may be toxic to dogs
- Give them a dental stick to chew on
- Give them plenty of praise while you clean them up to make it as stress-free as possible. It’ll also help take your mind off it too!
Why does my dog eat poop in the winter?
My dog eats poo - when should I contact my vet?
If your dog regularly eats poo, or you’re concerned about their health or behaviour, then you should always contact your vet for advice, particularly if this is a new issue. Your vet may be able to give you some information on how to manage this problem, or they may suggest that you speak to a behaviourist. If your dog is eating poo and is showing other signs of illness, you should contact your vet immediately.
Find out more
- Why does my dog eat grass?
- Why does my dog shake?
- Why does my dog stare at me?
- Why does my dog follow me everywhere?
- Why does my dog lick me so much?
- Why does my dog lick my feet?
- Why does my dog sneeze so much?
- Why does my dog smell of fish?
Think your dog may be affected?
If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!
We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information
Find a vet near you
If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.