“My dog, Freckles, eats her own poop as well as our other dog’s poop. I looked out the window the other day when she was outside (we have a doggie door) and she was sitting waiting for my Great Dane to poop so she could eat it! She has even tried to carry the poop inside the house to eat it. It’s so gross. I have to give her a bath almost every day since she is a fluffy white dog and she will come in with poo all over her face. I’ve tried the pineapples in the dog food trick, didn’t work. I switched to Bil Jac dog food and still didn’t work. Why is she doing this and what can I do to stop it? My Great Dane, who never used to eat poop, is now seeing her do it and is trying to do it, too!”
- Freckles' Mom
Dear Freckles' Mom,
Dogs eat their stools for various reasons, everything from protein deficiency, behavior, or it just tastes good. Over the years I have seen stool eating becoming a predominant behavior pattern in dogs.
Let’s first look at health issues. I would check for Giardia, Coccidia, hookworm, whipworm, and kidney infections. Once this is ruled out then we can begin to look at diet and protein deficiency.
Today’s diet is a funny thing. You can get carbohydrate-based foods with potatoes, carrots, soy, etc. and chicken meal. All of these things are good for a dog to a certain point, however in my opinion they are just fillers. I am seeing far more stool eating now than I have ever seen 15 years prior. If you check the label on your dog food bag, you will see that your dog food probably contains chicken digest. This is an excellent source of protein that is very cheap as opposed to meat, and is used for meat-lacking foods. I don't know how to win here since carbohydrates lack in protein giving your dog then need to eat stool since stool is very high in protein. On the other hand, meat meal-based foods are high in protein giving the stool a higher protein level. One must evaluate whether processed kibble contains digestible protein and if so then how much. Then you have to determine the percentage your dog’s digestive system can really use. I like to use meat as a supplement with kibble because it is 100% digestible and a natural protein source. A 70% kibble-to-30% frozen raw meat ratio works for my German Shepherds.
As for this being a behavioral issue, stool eating goes back to the whelping box. Mother dogs clean up after their puppies. This isn't just about cleanliness, it is also an issue of protein vitamins for the nursing mother. It isn't unusual to see breeding females eating stools after their first litter.
Habits of stool eating also extends from where your dog came from. Places that aren't clean and don't use quality food could promote this at a young age as well as parasitic infection (Giardia and Coccidia in puppies is common.) If left untreated it could promote the behavior. I have seen this in many dogs I have rescued from not-so-satisfactory conditions.
The real issue is behavior modification; yours and the dog’s. When a dog sniffs the ground on a loose walk, call the dog to you (teach the leave it command.) Don't allow the dog to get its head buried into what it is sniffing and be very attentive. Teach focus so the dog looks to you regardless of what is in front of it or on the ground. Clean up immediately after your dog goes to the bathroom.
Parasitic control maintenance, good diet and proper focus training are key factors in helping your dog give up their poop eating habit.
Eating stool is a natural thing for dogs. Even though it annoys us humans, just don't let the dog lick you. Parasitic control maintenance is important, and good diet and proper focus training are the issues that help control it. Bitter Apple and all these store-bought sprays have never worked in my books.
A great source for diet advice and supplements that may help your dog with this issue is my friend Martin Leiberman. His website is www.martinsk9formula.com