It’s true that our beloved dogs can harbor some cringe-worthy habits, including rolling in smelly dead things, butt-licking, and drinking toilet water. Most pet parents would agree that poop eating lives at the top of the “disgusting” list. Whether it’s canine feces or “tootsie rolls” nudged out of your cat’s litter box, this habit, called coprophagia, is gag-inducing to most dog lovers.
If your own dog delights in this delicacy, don’t despair. We’re about to dive into why dogs eat poop, and how to stop it.
Why do dogs eat poop?
A 2012 study found that one in six dogs were classified as “serious stool eaters,” so this habit isn’t uncommon. It’s also a habit with natural origins. Mother dogs eat their puppies’ feces to keep the nest clean, and dogs may have evolved to eat feces when food was scarce.
It’s important to visit your veterinarian to rule out health issues if your dog is constantly dining on dung. Parasites, an inadequate diet, conditions that increase appetite like Diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, or thyroid issues, could be prompting your dog to ingest feces. Steroid drugs also may increase appetite.
Your dog could also be anxious, bored, curious, or scared. If your dog is regularly confined to a kennel, small room, basement, or crate, the sheer boredom of isolation may prompt your dog to experiment with poop eating.
Your non-housebroken dog could be extra smart! If a dog is punished for defecating in the house, they may eat their poop to keep from being chastised. Patiently revisit toilet-training, using positive, non-punitive methods. Here are some tips for house training an adult dog.
Puppies may learn to associate feces with food, since the smell may be on their nursing mother’s breath after she cleans them.
How can you stop your dog from eating poop?
Because stool-eating is a fairly common habit, there are training techniques, nutritional supplements, and quite a few products available that give poop a “yuck” taste that some pet-parents report to be successful.
Reduce the opportunity for dining on doo doo
- Pick up feces in the yard and closely supervise and clean up after your dog on walks
- Make sure cat litter boxes are out of reach and are cleaned regularly to reduce temptation
Teach your dog the “leave it” command. Begin training this command in a positive way (rather than punishing the dog), by teaching them to “leave” a treat. You can find step-by-step help here.
Vitamin supplementation. A dog multivitamin may help, if something unknown is lacking from your dog’s diet.
Stool-eating deterrent products make your dog’s feces unpalatable so that (hopefully!) they are as turned off at eating their poop as we are to see them do it. Every dog will need to be supplemented in multi-dog households, if there’s any chance at all of the poo-snacker reaching their buddy’s feces before you can clean it up. If you have a cat who is pooping outside the litterbox, or whose litterbox can’t be kept out of reach of your dog, the cat should also be supplemented with a product labeled for use in cats.
In online product review, pet-parents state that success with deterrents varies. Some have found that they need to continue giving their pet the product for a longer time than indicated on the label for it to have an impact. Others report that their dog still eats feces, but at least hesitates long enough that the dog mom or dad has the opportunity to swoop in and grab the poop before it goes down the hatch.
Here are 11 deterrents that can be added to your dog’s (or cat’s!) food or fed as a treat, to help convince your canine that snacking on poop is a less-than-flavorful snacking option!
- For-Bid Stool Eating Preventative is a product for both dogs and cats that has been on the market for over 40 years! It is the original coprophagia deterrent marketed and made in the USA with FDA-approved ingredients. This powder, added twice daily to your dog’s food and once a day for a cat for 5 days, makes stools unpalatable and helps reduce unpleasant odors in feces and your pet’s breath.
- GNC Pets Advanced Coprophagia Dog Supplements is a made-in-the-USA digestive support chew with yucca schidigera, digestive enzymes and probiotics. If this brand sounds familiar, you’ve likely seen or visited GNC’s stores for human supplements. GNC offers health products for the entire household, both furred and unfurred.
- FurroLandia No Poo Treats for dogs, is a daily chew that comes in bacon and peanut butter flavors, containing enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics. It’s made in the USA with no wheat, corn, sugar or preservatives. The company offers a full refund in the unlikely case your dog doesn’t enjoy these chews (although we’d hope a pup who eats poo would also welcome a peanut butter or bacon treat)!
- NaturVet Coprophagia Stool Eating Deterrent is a soft chew for dogs and puppies over 12 weeks old, also made in the USA. It’s wheat-free, with chamomile, yucca, parsley, and an enzyme blend that also helps to freshen your dog’s breath. NaturVet suggests that you allow 2-4 weeks to see results.
- NaturVet also has a product for both cats and dogs called Outta My Box to discourage your pup from treating your cat’s litter box like a restaurant buffet. It provides dogs with ingredients that help them lose the craving for cat stools and help with gastrointestinal balance. When cats are given the treat, it helps reduce stool odors so their feces smell less tasty to dogs. We like the idea of tackling the problem from both ends!
- Healthy Solutions for Pets No Stool Eating soft chew with breath freshener, also has a money-back guarantee and is formulated with yucca, chamomile and proprietary enzymes. It’s for use in dogs over 12 weeks of age.
- Vetrinex Labs Probiotic Formula for Dogs and Cats is a USA-made powder that you add to your dog and cat’s dinner. Some dog parents purchase it for digestive or immune system support, and some for coprophagia. It has 7 strains of probiotics, is vegetarian and gluten free, and helps with bad breath, loose stools, gas, stool eating, and scratching.
- Nutri-Vet Nasty Habit is a liver-flavored chewable for dogs only. Yucca, cayenne, parsley, chamomile and other ingredients that cause your dog’s stools to taste unusual and unpalatable. It’s an affordable product, at about $13, made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients.
- Essential Pet Stool Eating Deterrent with Yucca Schidigera Extract for Dogs causes a dog’s stool to taste bitter. It comes in a chewable tablet. Yucca Schidigera Extract helps reduce stool odor, and enzymes help absorb more nutrients from your dog’s food to reduce the volume of stool as well. It’s made for adult dogs, with human-grade ingredients.
- Coprovent Coprophagia generously sized beef-flavored soft chews, safely and effectively deter your dog from eating their own stools with yucca schidigera, glutamic acid, and chamomile.
- Zesty Paws Chew No Poo wins in the imaginative name category and throws in a fun slogan “Too Cool For Stool” to add a bit of fun to an unpleasant topic. This grain-free soft chew, for dogs only, features “Capsimax,” a controlled-release form of Capsicum extract (chili) to give stool an unpleasant taste
If your dog is on a medication or special diet, you should check with your veterinarian before starting a stool-eating deterrent or any nutritional supplement. Because the ingredients in these products vary quite a bit, be sure to bring along the product container or print off the ingredient label from online, to share with your veterinarian.
Should you have success giving a deterrent product to your pup, remember that you’ll need to remain vigilant on doggy play dates, at the dog park, rest areas, and other locations where dog feces may have been left behind. The untreated poos in those places will still be “tasty!” If your dog continues poo-grazing while visiting elsewhere, the habit will continue to be difficult to break at home.