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Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop?

Dogs are much like humans and have their own motives for the way they behave. Dogs eat their poop for a variety of reasons, based on: age, training, living conditions, and diet. There are basically five different reasons that your dog may be eating his poop.

He Was Born That Way

Before dogs were domesticated, they lived as scavengers- living off of what they were able to find. Dogs most often ate the waste of other animals- which means that eating poop could be just a remnant of their history.

In some cases, such as a mom with a newborn litter, eating poop is an instinct and is totally normal. A new dog mom wants to keep her den clean so she doesn’t attract predators with the scent.

If you have several dogs, it could be indicative of the pecking order. The submissive dogs will typically eat the poop of the dominant one.

He Learned To Do It

Unfortunately, dogs can quickly learn new things- and will often learn things you don’t really want them to do. For example, if you are trying to housebreak your dog and you rub his nose in his poop when he has an accident- he will learn to eat it to get rid of the evidence in the future. On the other hand, if you clean up after your dog while he’s watching, he may start “cleaning up” after himself.

He Prefers Poop to Dog Food

Your dog’s digestive tract depends on a specific mixture of enzymes to successfully break down carbs, fats, and proteins. There is also some evidence that is suggestive that a dog’s digestive tract hasn’t quite evolved enough to handle the modern diets that include more carbs and plant proteins and less animal protein. Some vets suggest that dogs will eat poop to replenish those enzymes so they can more easily digest their food.

You are a Neglectful Owner

Many times, the behavior of a dog is directly related to the behavior of his owner. Most of the time, a dog will eat his poop simply because it gets attention from his owner- just like a child misbehaves to get attention from his neglectful parents. After all, negative attention is still attention.

Finally, if your dog is bored and lonely, he may start eating his poop- or perhaps he’s not getting enough real food. If your dog’s living quarters are not cleaned regularly, he will often start eating his poop in a “housekeeping” effort.

Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

As a cat owner, you may be delighted at having a litter box that never needs to be cleaned- but finding your dog with a mouthful of cat poop is a nightmare. The condition of coprophagia, or purposefully eating fecal matter, is an issue that every dog owner will deal with at some point- especially if there are cats in the home. There could be just one- or even several- reasons for the behavior, depending upon the circumstances.

Cat Poop Contains Nutrients

One of the primary reasons that dogs eat cat poop is because it is full of undigested proteins. Both humans and dogs can use carbs and proteins as an energy source- but cats cannot use anything other than protein for energy. Therefore, their diet must contain lots of protein. In order to properly digest protein, your cat must also have 10 essential amino acids. If the cat is eating more protein than he needs, there will be leftover protein in his poop.

Eating Poop is Instinctual

Believe it or not, if you see your dog eating your cat’s poop, it could be from instinct. Dogs descended from wolves are much more likely to keep their area clean. Often, mother dogs eat the poop of their young in order to keep the den clean. He may be acting on the instinct to keep the den (your home) clean. This is reflective of his desire to keep the weaker dogs and his den mates safe.

He Has Learned to do It

Your dog, like your children, has been watching you. He may be mimicking you. This is a behavior that is known as allelomimetic behavior, which simply means that your dog is trying to be like you. He sees you as the “pack leader” and wants to help you out by lightening your load a little.

Solutions to Dog Eating Cat Poop

Pay attention to when your dog is visiting the litter box. Is he doing so after he eats or if his food bowl is empty? Have you noticed any indications that there could be an underlying issue? Is he only eating the poop when you are not home? Be sure to jot down the circumstances and the times when it happens and speak with your vet or other canine professional to find out if there could be a more serious medical or psychological issue as the root cause.