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Why Do Pooches Eat Poop?

Posted December 18, 2014 in Dog Diet & Nutrition

Guilty dog

Gross! Dr. Sophia Yin tackles a disgusting habit of dogs: eating poop.

How many of you dog owners have been a victim of this scenario? Your dog enters the room and sees you on the other side. He tosses his ears back, puts on a smile, wiggles his way over and gives you a big smooch. For an instant you’re overjoyed but then you realize, “That’s not normal doggie breath. Yuk. It smells like poop!”

If this has happened to you, rest assured, you’re not alone. According to a study presented at the Dr. Benjamin Hart at the 2012 ACVB/AVSAB Animal Behavior Symposium, 16% of dogs are serious stool eaters (a.k.a. copraphagia), meaning they’ve been seen eating dog poop at least 5 times. For those of you who have lived with a cat and dog together, I’m sure the situation seems even worse—it seems like a majority of dogs will eat kitty poop eventually if they have access.

You might think that such a foul habit points something abnormal such as a nutritional deficiency or that it means Fido’s not getting enough to eat, but according to Hart, that’s not true. In their survey-based study of 1548 dogs where the researchers compared poop eaters with non-poop eaters, they found that diet was not an important factor. However the did find that the size of the household was. 

“The more dogs you have the more likely your dog will eat poop,” says Hart. “19% of poop eaters were in single dog homes whereas 24% lived with two dogs and 30% lived in a three-dog household.”

A second study survey looking at super poop eaters only—dogs who had been seen eating poop over 10 times, shed more light on why this trend would be so. It’s because they’re not eating their own poop that much. “Eighty five percent of poop-eaters ate the feces of other dogs,” states Hart. Meaning that the more dogs, the more access to feces from other Fidos. Yes, it just gets grosser.

You might wonder how poop-eating could become such a common pastime among dogs. It all began over 10,000 years ago when dogs started hanging out near humans so that they could scavenge off our trash. This tendency to scavenge can be seen in the present day "wild" model of the domestic dog—the village dog. While dogs in the U.S. experience the luxury of a

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Sophia had several years of experience as a veterinarian, applied animal behaviorist and author. She was also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.