Why do dogs eat poo?

Why do dogs eat poo?

This might be a fairly unpleasant subject but it is a question we get asked a lot in the clinic and on Facebook.  There are many reasons why this happens and it could depend on their age, their training, their living conditions or their diet. Here are some of them.

Dogs are born to eat it

Thousands of years ago, before dogs were domesticated, they ate everything and anything even the waste of other animals (including other dogs). In a pack, if one of the dogs was unwell, the other dogs would eat the poo of the sick animal so it would hide the fact they had a weak member of the group. Also, a mother with pups would regularly eat the stools of her little ones to keep the den clean and to ensure no smells were left around to attract predators.


Learned behaviour

Dogs are quick learners and will often learn things you don’t want them to do.  Puppies, for example, learn by putting anything that appears in front of their face in their mouth.  Generally, puppies that eat poo will grow out of the habit very quickly. Ensure you clean any mess up as soon as possible so they don’t have the chance to pick it up

If you come home and find a little surprise package on the kitchen floor, shouting at your dog could cause them to eat their own mess. They will associate you telling them off and cleaning it up with what they have done so next time it happens they will eat it to cover their tracks.


Dogs might eat poo to get the nutrients it is not currently getting. This could be because the food they eat is low quality or they are not being fed enough.  Also, if they are being over fed, their body can’t absorb all it needs from the food the first time, so the dog recycles their nutrient rich waste. If a dog is lacking in certain vitamins they could eat feaces to get what their body needs.


Other reasons

If a dog spends a lot of time on their own, they could eat it out of boredom. They could use it as a way to get attention from their owner. Any attention is better than none. Stress and anxiety can cause a dog to eat animal waste, and finally they are just copying what they have seen another dog do.

Is it bad for my dog?

If you have a healthy, vaccinated dog then it shouldn’t cause them any harm if it’s a once in a blue moon event. However, if your dog is eating poo regularly you should take your dog to the vet as there may be an underlying issue such as:

  • Diabetes, Cushing’s, thyroid disease, and other conditions that might cause an increase in appetite
  • malabsorption syndromes
  • A diet deficient in nutrients and calories
  • Parasites

How do I stop my dog eating poo?

Firstly, as mentioned above, if they are doing it on a regular basis, take them to the vet to be checked.

  • Look at their diet. Does it need to change? Speak to your vet for advice
  • Make sure you pick up your dog’s waste at home and when out for a walk so they are not tempted to eat it.
  • Keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Allow plenty of play time, walks and toys etc.
  • If they leave a mess in the home don’t shout at them.
  • Ensure you have a solid recall or rock solid response to a cue meaning “leave that alone”

These are just a few reasons and solutions on why dogs do it and how you can prevent it. If you have any further questions, please call the clinic or leave a comment on our Facebook page.