PET TALK WITH THE TURNER VET: Eww! Why does my puppy eat that?

By Rhonda Baillargeon, LVT

There is nothing quite like getting kisses from a dog that has just consumed a pile of poop. Ewwwww! Why do dogs do this, and how do we prevent it?
Dog moms instinctively clean up stools from their pups to reduce the chances of a predator finding the den. Puppies are natural mimics and will copy behaviors they see mom performing.

Most puppies will outgrow this behavior once they get older and discover other things in their environment that catch their attention.
If it is not outgrown, further investigation is warranted. Sometimes parasites can be the cause of this disgusting behavior. Worms will steal nutrients from the host, and this will cause hunger because the body is crying out for sustenance. In some cases, a review of the pup’s diet is needed. Some animals have conditions that affect how food is metabolized by the body. The food is basically coming out the same way it went in. Because it smells the same as the food the dog is eating, it is consumed as food.
Other causes are boredom, stress or seeking attention. If the dog is an adult and recently started displaying this behavior, a visit to the vet is the first step. Even adult dogs can become infected with worms or there may be a metabolic change that requires further testing to identify.
To prevent this behavior, always clean up after your pet. If you catch your dog snacking, distract him and wait until he is otherwise occupied before cleaning up the waste. Try not to make a big deal out of the behavior –even though it is gross — because that may entice the dog to continue consuming poop to get that reaction again.
Leash walk puppies while they are being housebroken so you can directly distract the pup from eating his or another dog’s waste. Be sure to exercise the dog daily and feed a good quality diet. Occasionally, additives may be needed to change the texture or smell of stools to discourage eating them.
Other dogs will leave their own stools alone but will snack on piles left in the litter box or from the neighbor’s pasture. Managing the environment is the key in these cases. Keep the litter box in a place the dog cannot go and walk your dog on leash to reduce trips to the pasture.
Annual stool exams are a good idea for all pets and this is especially true for those who have this bad habit. Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your fur baby.