3 min read

Can Dogs Get Sick from Eating Their Poop?

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Overview

Coprophagia. You may have never read this word before, or even heard of it. But it’s something you’ve likely seen your dog practice.

Coprophagia is the act of ingesting poop. If you’ve witnessed your dog or other dogs doing this, you may have worried: Is that healthy? And why do they do this?

You’re not the only one with this curiosity. And so, we’ve explored this odd yet valid question: Can my dog get sick from eating their feces?


Can dogs get sick from eating their poop?

a dog poop sign in a park

YES!

However, it’s relatively unlikely that any surfacing symptoms are the result of coprophagia. Ingesting poop is a canine ritual that’s passed down from mother to pup. Ancestors of the dog, wolves, are also known to eat poop when food is scarce.

While it’s unlikely that poop-eating habits will lead to any health issues, it does occur depending on circumstances. The ingestion of poop from other dogs or even other animals has led to animals falling ill. Because feces contain remnants of whatever that animal happened to ingest, it is possible for something within the poop to not sit well with your dog.

For example, a dog became sick after eating sheep’s feces. It was later discovered that the sheep were administered ivermectin, a deworming medication, which the dog in question had a sensitivity to.


Is my dog sick from eating their poop?

leashed dog is sniffing at his feet

Most of the symptoms you may witness in your pet aren’t the direct result of eating poop, but rather eating poop that contained something their immune system is unfamiliar with or sensitive to. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Lethargy

  • Disinterest in food

  • Diarrhea

  • Intestinal worms or parasites

Despite our belief that eating poop is disgusting, your dog may actually be doing it to boost their own healthiness. There are many reasons why your pet may be eating poop, including:

  • Scent association – This is common in dogs in kennels who eat near or in the same place that they relieve themselves. Their strong noses become accustomed to the scent of excrement when eating and therefore think of poop as food.

  • Health issues – Dogs will eat poop if they are experiencing enzyme deficiencies.

  • Behavioral issues -  Sometimes, they may not be craving feces as much as they’re craving attention.

If your dog is experiencing frequent stomach issues or is eating a lot of, or nothing but, poop, consult with a veterinarian about possible underlying issues. To learn more about dogs and their relationship with coprophagia, review Eating Poop in Dogs .


How do I treat my dog's Coprophagia?

a black and white dog in a yellow beanie

In most cases, this is a rudimentary and harmless habit that many dogs practice, but if it’s something you believe to be disrupting their health or occurring too frequently, there are some tactics you can practice with him or her.

One or a combination of any of these tactics has proven to work. To deter your dung-craving friend, try:

  • Supplementation – vitamin and enzyme support mixed in with their food or administered orally may stop their need.

  • Training – Supervise your pet on walks and practice commands when they linger over feces, such as “Come” or “No”.

  • Cleanliness – Keep their off-leash areas clean of poop. This includes the yard, as well as indoors, especially if you own other animals, such as cats.

Training a dog to avoid eating poop can take a while and progress may fluctuate. Vigilant attention to the matter and advice from a veterinarian may have your pet on track within a few months.

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How is Coprophagia similar in dogs and other animals?

Dogs are not alone in their desire to eat the undesirable. Another animal well known for their crude dining habits is the rabbit. Like the dog, the rabbit will:

  • Eat its own poop as a means of ingesting vitamins and protein

  • Eat the poop of other rabbits

  • Eat poop only as a supplement to their routine diet

Other animals and insects also eat feces as a means of gleaning otherwise wasted nutrients, such as:

  • Monkeys

  • Dung beetles

  • Rabbits

  • Wolves

  • Coyotes

  • Guinea pigs


How is Coprophagia different in dogs from Coprophagia in other animals?

A main difference between rabbits and dogs is that a dog’s coprophagia practices can sometimes stem from mistreatment or behavioral issues. Dogs will eat poop because they are sick, whereas rabbits eat poop to prevent illness.


Case Study

A pet owner owns two dogs. They’re both around the same age, with one being a male and one female. On a few separate occasions, the owner notices each dog eating feces. Knowing it’s common in domesticated dogs to do so, the owner isn’t too concerned.

A week later however, one of the dogs begins experiencing nausea. The other, however, is fine. A visit to the veterinarian with the sick dog determines that they’ve picked up an intestinal infection. It’s difficult for the vet to say exactly how the infection came to be, but they infer on the dietary habits of the dog as a likely source.

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