This post may contain affiliate links.
I am not a veterinarian.
It's so discouraging when I see a sign that one of my dogs is eating poop. They walk in the house smacking their mouth as if they just finished eating something and there is nothing in the yard that they would be eating other than grass and poop. The way their yard is laid out, there is an extended gravel path up to the door with nothing “tasty,” so I know that it's poop. Dammit! The first thing I do is open their mouths to take a sniff and check to see if there is brown on their back upper teeth. DAMMIT!
Whenever you look up how to stop a dog from eating poop, or copraphagia, you'll find article after article with lists of products that deter this gross habit, but it's important that we address why our dogs are eating their poop (or other dog's poop), especially when it seemingly starts up out of the blue.
Why Dogs Eat Poop
This isn't my first time to the rodeo, so I've learned a few things about why dogs eat poop and how best to stop the habit. Four of our dogs have eaten poop at some point in their lives despite being raw fed. So, let's recap; dogs eat poop because…
1 – There's Something Lacking in a Dog's Diet
For Rodrigo, he was looking for the digestive enzymes in the poop. He has a history of digestive issues since he was a puppy. I didn't realize that his pancreas wasn't compromised until 2019. However, years ago, I began adding a digestive supplement to his diet that stopped the poop eating. Some people ask why I didn't add fermented foods, raw goat's milk, or kefir – I did and they weren't enough for him.
2 – A Dog is Curious
This is more for puppies because they're curious about everything and everything goes in their mouth. When Scout and Zoey were puppies, they went through a brief stint of poop eating (a few days) because they saw Rodrigo doing it and they followed his lead. It drove me crazy to think that I might have three dogs that were eating poop, but thankfully it didn't last with the puppies.
3 – A Dog Likes the Taste of Poop
Sadly, there are dogs that like the taste of poop. And that sucks monkey butt. This is definitely the case with cat poop, so our dogs don't have access to the area of our home where the litterbox lives.
4 – A Dog Has a Bad Habit
If a dog has a history where they had to eat their stool to keep a kennel clean, then it might be hard to deter this behavior. I've been told that this is seen in rescue a lot with neglected dogs.
5 – Your Dog is Hungry
And if a dog is hungry, then he may begin consuming stool. This is something that is also seen with neglected dogs.
Is Copraphagia the Beginning Stages of EPI?
Having lost a dog to cancer and currently raising a dog diagnosed with EPI, I have officially accepted that I'm a helicopter dog mom. I thought I was one before, but NOPE, my obsession with my dogs pre-2020 has nothing on my obsession today.
While Scout's situation may not be as serious as EPI, I did see signs of an issue, including mucus-covered poop, which means that the digestive tract is a bit irritated. I've been told that if a dog regularly has mucus covering their stool (or tons of mucus), then a call to the veterinarian is a good idea. However, in Scout's case, I decided to treat him at home with probiotics and digestive enzymes (more about this below) because other than gas, poop eating, had mucus-covered poop – Scout is his normal, happy active self.
If your dog isn't feeling well, call your veterinarian. A friend, who is also a vet (shout out, Dr. Coger) told me once that I'd never regret checking with my veterinarian and she's right.
How to Stop a Dog from Eating Poop
People will tell you to sprinkle hot sauce on the poop or add pineapple or meat tenderizer to your dog's dish. There are also a plethora of products to add to your dog's diet (or give as treats) to stop stool eating. This may seem like the easiest way to address the issue, but if your dog is having digestive issues, then these tips only serve as a bandaid and not a permanent solution. In this post, I'm going to share five things that have helped stop this behavior in my dogs.
1 – Improve the Diet
If you've been to my blog before, then you can guess that I'm going to recommend raw feeding. This was the improvement that I made and it worked for my dogs. But raw feeding isn't the only way to improve your dog's diet. You can try one of the following:
- home cooking
- hybrid diet (raw & home cooking, raw & kibble)
- freeze-dried or dehydrated food
- adding fresh food (raw, cooked, freeze-dried, dehydrated, sardines, vegetables, bone broth, etc.) to kibble
The goal is to feed a diet that promotes a healthy gut, which, in my opinion, includes fresh food.
2 – Train Your Dog Not to Eat Poop
Recently, I noticed that Scout's breath was off and I began watching his behavior. None of my dogs will eat poop when I'm around because they know that I don't like it. One of the easiest ways for me to stop poop eating that wasn't due to a health issue is through training. Whenever my dogs go outside for a potty break, I go with them and if I notice them becoming curious about poop, I wait until they're right about to lick or take a bite and firmly say “Leave it!” This is something that has to be done consistently and during training, I don't allow the dog in question to go potty alone – I always accompany him (it's always one of my boys).
In my experience, training stops the majority of stool eating, but, as I said, if I'm not around to see them, then I'm not around to deter them. So, there's another step to take.
3 – Pick Up Dog Poop Regularly
Since I'm not always able to monitor my dogs, I clean up their yard daily. This task allows me to take a look at how everyone's poop is and I can combine this chore with training (because the dogs come out with me). One thing I'm looking for, despite a clean yard, is loose stool, diarrhea, or poop with a lot of mucus (which is a sign of an irritated gut). And because we have multiple dogs, it's easier to apply the remedy to everyone's diet unless a dog is showing signs of digestive issues – like eating poop.
4 – Add Canned Pumpkin to the Diet (Optional)
If you have a dog, then you've heard of the canned pumpkin trick. It's usually given to dogs that have diarrhea or anal gland issues. But I read somewhere, can't remember where, that while dogs enjoy a dollop of canned pumpkin (it must be 100% pumpkin with no spices), they don't like the taste of pumpkin poop. So adding a tablespoon of canned pumpkin (we have big dogs) may help to deter the poop eating while you're working to get the gut in order. I add the pumpkin to each meal for at least two weeks while I'm working on the gut.
Canned pumpkin can be found in the grocery store aisle that contains baking products (cookie/cake mixes, flour, sugar, spices, etc.). Look for the 100% canned pumpkin (no spices) and when you find it on sale, purchase several cans because this is a great food to have on hand when raising dogs.
5 – Add a Digestive Supplement to the Diet
I know that my dogs aren't hungry or nutrient deficient, which leaves me to think that they need more gut support in the form of probiotics and digestive enzymes. The easiest way to add these to the diet is with raw goat's milk, kefir, and fermented foods. However, with some dogs, whole food options may not be enough and that's when I turn to supplementation. For two weeks, I add a supplement to both of my dog's meals (I feed my dogs twice daily). I continue adding goat's milk and fermented foods to the diet.
There are four supplements that I've tried with my dogs with various levels of success:
FullBucket Daily Dog Probiotic
I was introduced to FullBucket years ago when I was battling Rodrigo's but issues. It was the only supplement that worked consistently for Rodrigo for years and today, and I restarted my recurring order for Scout. FullBucket is an all in one supplement that works; it contains probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes. This is a supplement that I can give to all of my dogs, however, the price, at $22 (recurring order price) for a 30 serving contain means that it won't last long with four dogs, so I use this one for the dog in question. When all of my dogs are doing well, I use FullBucket in rotation with goat's milk and fermented foods while watching for discounts to stock up.
I'm kicking myself for missing out on Black Friday.
HEADS UP! If you think FullBucket will work for your dog, don't hesitate – order today! The pandemic has created delays in shipping, so the longer you wait, the longer it may take to get the product.
Bio Case Plus
Bio Case Plus is a digestive enzyme that many people raising dogs with EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) or a dog exhibiting symptoms of EPI. I started giving this to Rodrigo a couple of years before he was diagnosed with EPI with success. Today, I keep Bio Case Plus on hand as a back up to his daily supplement (Enzyme Diane's). The bonus of Bio Case Plus is that it works – this supplement pre-digests the food we feed to our dogs, making it easier for them to absorb the nutrients. The downside is that I have to allow the supplement to settle in the food for 20 minutes (after mixing it in with warm water), which can suck if I'm running late and the dogs are hungry or someone else is feeding the dogs. It's not the end of the world; just something to keep in mind.
I would choose Bio Case Plus over FullBucket if Scout was also losing weight or always hungry, which was the third sign that Rodrigo had a gut issue; the first signs being loose stool/diarrhea and eating poop.
Mercola Digestive Enzymes
The Mercola Digestive Enzymes didn't work for Rodrigo nor has it made an impact on Scout's gut health other than reducing the gas (another sign of digestive issues). I wasn't adding the recommended dosage because Scout also gets fermented foods in his diet, but, in writing this blog post, I was remknded that fermented foods are not digestive enzynes; they're probiotics.
It's not necessary to allow this supplement to sit in the food for 20 minutes like other enzymes (mentioned above) that use to treat Rodrigo's EPI.
Going forward, I'm going to add the recommended dosage of enzymes to Scout's diet daily and combine them with the Mercola Complete Probiotics (below). I will alternate these supplements with FullBucket Daily Dog Probiotics (switching when I run out of one)
Mercola Complete Probiotics
On the other hand, Mercola Complete Probiotics for pets has been beneficial and this is a great backup if I run out of FullBucket and the new order hasn't arrived; it's always helpful to have a backup for crucial supplements. Don't confuse this with the Mercola Whole Food Probiotic, which is almost twice the cost and, according to reviews, has a strong taste and smell which may turn pets off of their food. I haven't tried the Whole Food Probiotic with my dogs. Nor have I tried the Mercola GI Support, which also supports gut health, but appears to be a mild supplement when compared to what I give to my dogs, using herbs to treat gut issues instead of probiotics and enzymes.
A Warning About Digestive Enzymes
If your dog is new to digestive enzymes, start easy – don't start with the recommended dosage on the container. I learned first hand that the side effects of digestive enzymes can include cramps, constipation, diarrhea, gas, nausea, or vomiting. I suggest starting with one scoop and slowly work your way up to a dosage that works for your dog. If your dog has gas or any of the other symptoms mentioned above, back off on the dosage or try another supplement.
With the Mercola products, I start my dogs on one scoop. With FullBucket, one scoop is all it takes unless one of my dogs needs more support and I'll add an additional 1/2 or full scoop.
Can We Stop Our Dogs from Eating Poop?
I'm sure there are dogs that will eat poop no matter what we do. In my experience with my dogs, this gross habit can be stopped once the cause has been addressed. One of the cool things about raising dogs is their behavior. Our dogs know what they need – this is why we see them eating grass to calm digestive issues or to access the chlorophyll. After 10 years of raising dogs, I've learned to pay attention to what they're trying to tell me and when one of my dogs suddenly starts eating poop, then it's because they need more gut support.
It usually takes a couple of weeks of supplementation while removing temptation for me to see this behavior go away. However, this time around, I stopped the poop eating within 24 hours and I suspect that this is because