Exasperated dog owners often ask this question. Multiple dog owners are just as perplexed as to why one or two of their dogs eat their own poop regularly while the other dogs in the pack never do. Unfortunately, the typical answers usually bring little satisfaction, much less help in getting their dogs to stop eating feces. The truth is, no one knows for certain why dogs eat poop. Many experts have different theories about what makes eating feces so enticing to some animals, however.
First, when dogs eat their own poop, they are said to be practicing a behavior known in veterinary medicine as coprophagia. It should also be noted that this behavior isn’t limited to the dog's own feces. Dogs will sometimes dine on the poop of other dogs, cats, horses, or other animals. In addition, some dogs enjoy "poopsicles" exclusively and prefer to just eat poop during the winter months.
Secondly, while the act of eating feces may seem revolting to humans, dogs simply consider it fair game. After all, dogs are pack animals, which means they are scavengers. From their point of view, anything that smells remotely edible left lying on the ground is permissible. Since most dogs are fed meat-based food, whether wet or dry, it’s reasonable to assume that the end waste product contains undigested portions with similar characteristics. This is one popular theory as to why some dogs eat poop.
Another theory offered to explain why dogs eat their own poop is poor nutritional status, or a deficiency in pancreatic enzymes. This theory also holds that dogs instinctively attempt to correct such imbalances by eating feces. To counter this activity, some veterinarians recommend adding an enzyme supplement such as papaya extract to the dog’s food, or even something as simple as powdered meat tenderizer. This approach has the added benefit of aiding digestion to make eating poop less attractive to the dog in the first place.
Puppy-hood presents a different psychology when it comes to eating feces, though. First, it is normal for the mother to eat the feces of her young pups since this is how she cleans the den. Secondly, she must teach her pups to defecate by stimulating them through licking, and no doubt partakes in a puppy poop snack now and then. In addition, puppies can easily become confused or frustrated during housebreaking and may eat their own poop to avoid the detection of accidents.
Several cures are offered to discourage dogs from eating poop. These usually involve some sort of post-poop deterrent, such as seasoning freshly made feces with hot sauce, powdered cayenne pepper, or a splash of vinegar. Of course, prevention is worth a pound of cure, and to that end, every effort to keep the yard free of poop should be made, in addition to keeping dogs away from cat litter boxes. If poop eating persists, or results in a parasitic infestation, a consultation with a veterinarian is a good idea.