Yes, it is unusual for us humans, but for dog’s it’s a normal thing to do, especially for a mother with young puppies. She will clean them, provoke the defecation and make sure the environment is clean too.
The right term for this behaviour is Coprophagia, not only do dogs eat their own stool, but they often like the feces of other animals too (cats, deer, rabbits etc..). It’s still not clear what provokes the dogs to do it, but we have a few clues to determine why they might start this. It could be related to health or behavior problems.
These are a few reasons why they eat their poop:
- Low-quality diet or malabsorption- due to a parasite.
- They simply like the taste, especially when there is undigested food present. This can happen when a dog is overfed or eats “people” food. Dogs seem to especially enjoy the taste of cat feces, perhaps because of the flavor of high-protein cat food.
- They are stressed and experiencing anxiety of some kind (some dogs who are intense coprophagian usually have other behavioral problems such as an anxiety disorder). It could also be a way to get attention from their owner.
- The yard is filled with feces, and they are trying to “pick-up” and “clean-up” their environment.
- They have been punished for eliminating in the wrong place and are attempting to “hide” the evidence.
- They have learned coprophagia from other dogs and has become a habit.
Why should we stop it:
Coprophagia is harmless most of the time but can spread an infectious disease or parasite to your dog. It can also cause gastroenteritis that results in vomiting and diarrhea.
Here are a few ways to stop your dog from eating feces:
- Feed your dog a high-quality dog food at regular intervals.
- Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Keep your dog’s living area and yard clean. The easiest way to avoid the development of coprophagia is to keep the yard free of feces and supervise dogs when they are in the yard or on a leash walk.
- Try a food additive designed to make the feces taste bad (for example: Forbid ). Note: Even though these additives are available over-the-counter be sure and check with your veterinarian before using.
- Teach your dog the “Leave It!” command and try to catch them in the act.
- Walk your dog on a leash and pick up the feces right away so they don’t have the chance to eat it. This is also a good habit when you go for a walk in the woods to avoid them from eating other animal’s feces.
- Put the litter box in a place where your dog can’t reach it, but your cat can (this can be a challenge!).
Talk with your veterinarian for additional options if coprophagia becomes a serious problem for you and your dog.