Why does my dog eat poop?

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  • You may wonder why your dog eats poo. Is it normal? Could it make him sick? It may be that he likes dining out on his own poop or he might be partial to someone else’s he finds on a walk. It sounds absolutely horrifying, grim and unacceptable to most people, but the question is why does my dog eat poop – and how can I stop him?

    Why does my dog eat poo?

    There are many reasons that dogs might eat poop of some sort – and the reasons tend to vary with age and lifestyle.

    Puppies explore the world via their mouth, so everything is tested out. Some puppies will have watched their mothers – who eat their puppies poo until they are weaned – so a young dog may continue to copy their mother moving forward having learned to keep their area clean.

    Dogs can find that poo smells like their food, especially dogs fed on kibble or dry dog food. It takes longer to digest than raw dog food and when dogs poo, they sometimes confuse it for as good as the dry food they ate. It could be that your dog’s diet doesn’t satisfy him or provide him with the nutrients he needs, which results in the the urge to eat it again.

    If a dog has been starved or is not getting enough food, they will also exhibit frantic and scavenging behaviour, so take this as a sign you need to feed your dog more, and a better quality diet. I find that many owners will feed the recommended daily amount but, as with humans, not all dogs’ metabolisms are the same so it’s important to be consider his energy output and mental state when working out how much to feed him.

    An older dog or rescue dog may have been punished for toileting in the house and become so fearful of the consequences that feel they need to hide it quickly – so will eat it. Similarly, if a dog is poorly, they sometimes feel they need to hide this weakness from other dogs.

    Unfortunately, however, some dogs are just gross and enjoy the taste of it.

    What poo do dogs eat?

    A dog will always try and eat what he is lacking – and sometimes this can be found in another animal’s poo. For example, all dogs need certain vegetables and good carbs as they are not completely carnivorous, which is why wild dogs and wolves will eat the poo of other animals – it provides the balance and it’s already partly digested for them.

    Human poo

    Disgusting, I know – but it often happens on countryside walks or dogs find a baby’s nappy that hasn’t been disposed of properly. To them it smells delicious – and is the forbidden fruit because they don’t get to eat what we do.

    Sheep poo

    This seems to be the equivalent of dog ecstasy. Dogs love it and I suspect it is be something to do with what is in the sheep feed as they are not purely grass fed. I once had a client’s dog that was forever raiding the chicken pellet bin. A blood test showed a zinc deficiency, which was prolific in the chicken feed.

    Horse poo

    It can sometimes have traces of corn in it, and they see it as recycled grass, which is sweet. It may have traces of fruit in it, too, which they find attractive. Most dogs will always have a nibble, but if they start eating a lot of it you may need to take a look at their diet again.

    Rabbit poo

    As poo goes, this is interesting as rabbits have two types of poo – the normal type looks like little round currants and the second type looks like a bunch of grapes. These cecotropes, which isn’t actually poo, has lots of nutrients and healthy bacteria that rabbits produce, so it’s bit like us taking the little gut bacteria drinks.

    Cow poo

    This is messy as it is not particularly solid at the best of times, but it is extremely aromatic, has lots of things in it that a dog needs and is part digested.

    Is eating poo dangerous?

    The short answer is yes! Dogs can get poorly if they eat a large quantity of horse poo or livestock animal faeces. These animals are often frequently wormed, which can result in ivermectin poisoning. Ivermectin is found in many wormers and there will be a high concentration of this chemical in the poo in the days after worming. The poisoning cause dilated pupils, lack of balance, drooling, seizures, vomiting and disorientation. There are several breeds of dogs that are predisposed to ivermectin toxicity due to a gene mutation, including the Shetland Sheepdog, Australian Shepherd, merle Pomeranians and long-haired whippets. There is a test that can be done to check whether your dog is at high risk or not.

    Dogs that eat poo are at a higher risk of contracting gastrointestinal worms or other parasites and upset stomachs. If your dog shows any of the aforementioned symptoms or has literally dined out on an “all you can eat buffet” of poo, then contact your vet immediately.

    How can I stop my dog eating poo?

    The first thing to check is whether their diet needs adjusting. Then I would suggest teaching the “leave it” command – ideally from a very early age. You can also use sound to distract and redirect – this could be anything from a squeaky ball (like this one on Amazon) to a dog training whistle.

    I would also introduce the “find it” game with high value rewards, such as cocktail sausages or cheese. This is more motivational and moves the brain forward from fixating on poo to good old-fashioned work to reward. If your dog is partial to their own or another dog’s poo, it’s also helpful to be vigilant and use a foul-tasting repellent, such as an anti-chew spray, on the poop as soon as the business is done. Do this several times to form the association that eating it tastes disgusting.

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    How to clean your dog’s mouth after eating poo

    There is nothing worse than being licked by your dog after he’s eaten poo – trust me I know! You can use a wet cloth with water or coconut oil and clean inside and all around the gum line. You can also use a veterinary mouthwash or spray (like this one on Amazon) as well as one of the best dog toothpastes and dog toothbrushes for a regular clean.

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