Coprophagy, or why does my dog ​​eat poop?


Coprophagy is the ingestion of feces from the same animal or another. Common in canines, very rare in felines. The only coprophagic behavior considered normal is the ingestion of feces of the pups by their mother (usually from births to 3 weeks of life of the puppies), possibly to keep the area clean avoiding that possible predators are attracted by the faeces.

It can be considered natural (not normal) to ingest feces from ungulates in which they find various nutrients that come from fermentations of the large intestine.

As consequences there may be recurrent infestations of intestinal parasites, and, less frequently, gastroenteritis due to the ingestion of large amounts of ungulate feces.


Possible: halitosis (bad breath). Possible polyuria / polydipsia (A lot of urine and a lot of water, anorexia and gastroenteritis as a result of possible medical problems underlying coprophagia.


  • 1.- Behavior: habitable area of ​​the dirty dog, response to the punishment for defecating in inappropriate places (imitation of the owner when “feces” disappear), stressful conditions such as sudden changes in the environment, availability>2.- Doctors: exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (it is the most frequent medical cause). To a much lesser extent, it has also been possible to relate to: hyperadrenocorticism, administration of exogenous corticosteroids, intestinal malabsorption syndrome, intestinal parasitism, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, deficit diets (there are currently not enough studies to support this latter theory)


A differential diagnosis should be made to determine the cause of the coprophagia.


The prognosis depends on the cause, as well as its treatment. If the cause is ethological (behavioral) you can try:

Rapid elimination of their feces before the animal has access to them, giving a fair food reward when defecating to encourage the animal to wait for such a reward before eating its feces.
Place some aversive substance on the stool (pepper or other spicy substances) or inject apomorphine into them to cause vomiting if swallowed.
In general, try to have the dog associate the ingestion of feces with some unpleasant thing or punishment.
If the cause is medical, it will be necessary to visit your veterinarian to do the corresponding treatment

Coprophagy, or why does my dog ​​eat poop?

The coprophagy, or ingestion of feces, is an unpleasant problem, but more for the owner than for the dog.

It is included in a disorder called pica, It is defined as the ingestion of substances that are not typical of the species' diet. Among the disorders of pica, the most frequent is coprophagy.

The main question we ask ourselves is: "Is it normal?" Well, the ingestion of feces is only normal in the case of a mother who is raising her pups. The mother ingests the feces of the puppies to keep the environment clean of dirt and odors that can attract predators.

Outside this breeding period, coprophagy is no longer normal and normal.

Dogs can ingest their own feces, from other dogs or from other species (including human).

The cause of a dog starting to ingest feces is not too clear, but what is clear is that it can have an organic or behavioral origin. So, as always, you must first rule out a possible medical cause:

-Nutrient deficits (vitamins and minerals).

-Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

-Problems of digestive malabsorption.

-Drugs that increase food intake (glucocorticoids).

Within the behavioral causes we can find the following:

- Avoidance of punishment.

-Learning of the mother.

-Dirty environments (pet shops).

-Demand for attention.

-Stress and anxiety.

-Lack of environmental stimulation.

- You make very palatable (cats, herbivores, supercharged animals).

-Conducted reinforced by the owner.

How do we treat it? Obviously, the necessary check-ups and analytics must be done first with the veterinarian, and if there is any pathology, treat it accordingly.

As for behavioral treatment, it will depend on the diagnosis we have reached. As a general rule, it is essential to completely eliminate any reinforcement that is being made of the behavior (including punishment). The problem is that the behavior is self-reinforcing, so it is often difficult to eliminate. Therefore we will rely, depending on the case, on the following general measures:

-Elimination of punishment.

-Remove the reinforcement of behavior (demand for attention).

-Keep always clean the environment.

-Distribute the diet into 3 servings a day.

-Increase fiber in the diet.

-Control of the walk so that it does not ingest substances from the ground.

-Obedience in eating food.

- Positive reinforcement if you ignore feces.

-Conditioning when defecating.

-Environmental enrichment (physical, social and mental)

-Add substances that worsen the taste of feces (pineapple, zucchini, enzymatic supplements, fiber or vegetable oil)

In general there is very little research on the subject, but it is obvious that a veterinarian specializing in behavioral medicine should be consulted so that a correct diagnosis can be reached.

What is an ethologist and how is it different from an educator and a dog trainer?

The canine coprophagia It is the ingestion of feces, either their own or others. A dog can ingest its own feces, those of other dogs or those of other animal species. In some of these cases, this behavior may be normal and in others represent a behavioral disorder.

We know that it is a very unpleasant topic to talk about, but it is part of the behavioral alterations that some dogs present, so today in Izekan, we tell you the causes and solutions for this unpleasant behavior.

Is canine coprophagia normal?

There are a form of coprophagy that is considered natural of the species. During the first days of the puppies' life, the mother performs anno-genital stimulation to the puppies so that they can meet their needs. During this action the mother ingests the feces of the puppies.

During the following weeks, when the little ones can already eliminate on their own, the mother also eats the waste to keep the nest clean. This behavior is useful for canids in nature and is maintained in our domestic dogs.

Medical causes of canine coprophagia

Faced with a problem of canine coprophagy, many people say "that is that the dog lacks some vitamin".

While medical problems are not the most common cause of this behavior, should be the first thing to discard before starting to perform a behavior modification treatment.

Some organic causes of canine coprophagia are:

  • Nutritional deficit
  • Malabsorption syndrome
  • Pancreatic problems
  • Parasitosis
  • Mellitus diabetes.
  • Cushing's disease
  • Others.

Behavioral causes of canine coprophagia

Exploratory behavior.

Sometimes dogs simply eat feces as part of the discovery of their environment. This behavior usually occurs in puppies and remits autonomously with age.

Avoidance of punishment.

A dog can eat his feces when he has just defecated because on previous occasions he has been punished for doing so in the wrong place. Thus, eliminating the test avoids punishment.

Lack of environmental enrichment, social isolation.

Spend many hours if no sensory stimulation and nothing to do can cause the dog to have fun with the only thing he has available, in this case his own feces.

Nail bad breeding conditions Puppies (poor and dirty environments) also increase the chances of coprophagy.

Stress and anxiety.

Stress can also cause problems of coprophagy and pica in general as compulsive behaviors.

Palatable stool

This is the least sought cause and many times the real one. To many dogs they like to eat fecesThey find them tasty.

This explanation is usually the right one in cases where dogs eat feces from other species (cats, herbivores, humans ...). The dog has no behavioral disorder, he has simply found another delicacy in his way.

Dogs that are very anxious at lunchtime and are always hungry can also eat poops from other dogs for this reason.

Canine Coprophagy in Puppies

First of all try to keep the environment where the puppy is as clean as possible. Remove stool quickly After you delete it you will avoid the problem.

If you know what the most likely times to defecate of the puppy you can use this guideline more effectively.

Reward the puppy for eliminating in the right place. If every time the puppy defecates in your presence you give him a prize for doing well, he will come looking for the prize instead of turning quickly to eat his feces.

Provide environmental stimulation with the physical exercise and cognitive enrichment appropriate to their age. Let him interactive toys especially when he is left alone, so that he has other objects to which he directs his boredom.

Don't punish him! As we said before, punishing the dog for defecating where it does not touch or actions such as bring the snout closer to your stool to see that he has done wrong, they do nothing but create a conflict between you and your dog and enhance the possibility that the dog ingests its feces As soon as he does his needs.

Autocoprophagia in adult dogs

If your dog He is an adult and continues to show this behaviorIn addition to being able to apply the guidelines described for puppies, you can make their feces less attractive to eat them.

This is achieved by administering in your diet some specific foods that cause stools to be less appetizing Try pineapple, papaya or vegetable oil. There are currently some synthesized products for this purpose such as Coprovet®.

Intraspecific and Interspecific Canine Coprofagia

In the event that the problem of canine coprophagia that your dog manifests is that during the walks he eats feces from other animals, whether from dogs or other species, Treatment guidelines will be aimed at increasing control and self-control of the dog.

Work signals like the 'Loose', the 'No no' Y the call They will allow you to prevent your dog from eating poop during his walks. Of course, you should always be aware of what your dog does to avoid behavior.

In our article on itches in dogsyou will find in detail how to work thesecontrol tools

Another option is to prepare in a controlled way a “minefield” where all the feces you find carry some aversive product, like pepper or tabasco and let the dog do so that he himself verifies that the feces have an unpleasant taste and repeat this scenario several times.

For this to work and for the association of stool = unpleasant taste, it is necessary to completely prevent the dog from consuming other feces without such a product accidentally.

We must tell you that modifying this behavior can be very complicated in some cases. Sometimes it is necessary to use the muzzle or take the dog on a leash in the dirtiest environments. As well as perform the recommended deworming on a regular basis.

Can tell us your case in the comments or contact usif you want to work the canine coprophagy of your dog with professional help. We will be happy to help you.