Why Dogs Eat Poop

Have you ever had a dog that ate poop?  Two of my dogs found poop to be quite a delicacy.  It’s a repulsive problem.

Shockingly, 16% of dogs eat their poop regularly, according to a study done at the University of California at Davis.  And it’s a common reason for re-homing or euthanizing a dog.  That’s sad!

What would cause a dog to develop this disgusting habit?

Well, in puppies coprophagia (poop eating) is instinctual.  In older dogs, it’s a health or behavior issue.

A normal puppy will often eat their poop because they’ve learned this behavior from Mom.  To keep her den clean and to protect her babies from predators, Mom eats the poop to get rid of the scent.

A puppy will follow Mom’s lead and learn to eat poop but they’ll usually outgrow the habit.

Sometimes though, the taste of poop can become normal for a puppy because they taste and smell it on their mom’s mouth.  She may regurgitate food that’s mixed with the poop she’s eaten.

Mom also licks the pups tush to stimulate pooping in the first three weeks, which also leaves fecal matter in her mouth.

The puppy becomes used to the scent of poop on Mom’s breath and the taste of poop when the feces mixes with regurgitated food.

This normalization can make breaking the poop eating habit difficult.

While exploring the world, eating poop is normal for a puppy.  But if they are eating a well-balanced healthy diet, they should stop doing this.

Why wouldn’t a puppy outgrow poop eating and why would an older dog suddenly start?

Sometimes poop eating in puppies continues long after it should stop because they think food should be poop flavored from their days with Mom.

But they may also continue to do this for health or behavioral reasons.  In addition, an older dog may suddenly start scavenging for poop.

If your adult dog is eating poop and they’re showing other symptoms like weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea or behavioral changes, this could be the sign of a health issue.  Talk to your vet.

Here are the main causes of coprophagia.

Poor digestion – Feeding a diet that’s low in digestible nutrients may cause the food to come out the way it went in.  To your dog, that tastes good.  A problem with the digestive system may also cause the food to come out undigested.

Diseases of the intestinal tract, liver and brain, parasites, malabsorption syndromes, diabetes, Cushing’s, thyroid disease –  Your vet can rule these out.

Drugs – Some medications like steroids can cause your dog to eat poop.

Boredom –  If you leave your dog alone for hours, they may play with and eat their stool.

Stress – A dog that’s crated for long periods or a dog that’s re-homed may eat poop because they are under stress.  Any stressful situation can bring this habit on.

Hunger – Is your dog getting enough to eat during the day?  If they aren’t, anything that seems edible will do as far as your dog is concerned.  If you aren’t sure how much to feed, ask your vet.

A dog can also be hungry if they’re harboring a parasite that’s leaching nutrients from their system.  Your dog will look to supplement their diet any way they can.

Attention Seeking – If you’ve freaked when you’ve seen your dog eat poop, they’ve learned they can get you to react when they do.  Even if they’re getting negative attention, they may continue to eat poop to get a rise out of you.

Alternatively, a dog may eat their poop to get rid of the evidence if you’ve yelled at them for having an accident.

Restrictive confinement – Puppy mill dogs crated all day may eat poop.  In addition, these dogs may lack food, which encourages poop eating.

I rescued a greyhound that was a poop eater.  Long hours crated at the track was probably the cause.

Isolation –  Dogs locked in a basement or garage away from their people may eat poop.

Associating poop with food –  This can happen if you feed your dog too close to where they do their business.

Living with a sick or elderly dog –  A healthy dog may eat the sick dog’s poop to protect the pack from predators… instinct.

If you live in a multi-dog home and one of the dog’s eats the poop of another, it could be a sign that the pooper is sick and not sufficiently digesting their food.  To the poop eater, eating their housemates poop is like scoring another meal.

And finally, some dogs just like to eat poop.

How can you stop this behavior?

From my experience I can tell you it’s difficult to end this behavior if a health problem isn’t the cause.

Start by feeding a high–quality digestible food like HusseThis will ensure your dog’s body is using the protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in their food and not pooping them out.

Assess your dog’s level of exercise, playtime and the attention you give them.  Dogs need those things.  If they’re not getting what they need from you, they’ll let you know.  And they may do that by eating their poop.

You can try additives in the food.  These stool-eating deterrents never worked for my dogs.  And studies show they work in only 2% of cases.  Some say meat tenderizer added to the food makes the poop unpleasant as a snack.

The best advice is to be diligent about picking up your dog’s poop as soon as they go.  And always walk your dog on a leash so they can’t eat another dog’s poop.

There haven’t been many studies of coprophagia even though it’s a common habit.  But the little research that’s been done revealed things about a dog’s preferences.

Interestingly, dogs will rarely eat soft poop or diarrhea.  They like their stool snacks firm.  Most dogs that eat poop want it to be fresh… 1 to 2 days old.  Females are most likely to eat poop and intact males are least likely.

And 85% of poop eaters prefer eating another dog’s poop to their own.

Even if your dog doesn’t eat dog poop, most dogs love cat and horse poop.  So prevent access to this delicacy if you own a cat or your dog is around horses.

Although coprophagia is a difficult behavior to change, you can avoid the problem by cleaning up after your dog and controlling them on a leash when you are away from home.  Much better alternatives to giving your pet up, or worse yet, euthanizing them.

Does your dog eat its poop?  How do you handle the problem?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

Cannabis And Dogs

With all the talk about medical marijuana, do you wonder if it might help your aging or infirm dog?

I do.  After all, if marijuana has medicinal benefits for humans, why wouldn’t it be beneficial for our pets?

In my quest to find the answer to that question, I’ve gained clarity.  But I’ve also learned cannabis is a slippery slope.  Here’s why.

Just like in humans, marijuana can relieve many unpleasant medical conditions and symptoms.

But because it’s not legal in many states, and the federal government doesn’t recognize marijuana as legal in any state, little research on dogs (or humans) has been done.

Veterinarians won’t recommend it for fear of losing their licenses.  And you can’t get a medical marijuana card for a dog.

But cannabis, the plant marijuana comes from, can be helpful in relieving some debilitating health conditions.  And if you decide cannabis is right for your dog, ways exist to get it.  We’ll discuss those in a minute.

How can cannabis help your dog?

Marijuana can relieve symptoms of cancer, seizures, stress, anxiety, arthritis, back pain, nausea and other gastrointestinal issues.

There is much anecdotal evidence of improved quality of life in once-suffering pets.  But no scientific research to back it up.

And as long as it’s considered a controlled substance by the federal government, research on cannabis will remain stalled.

How does cannabis work?

Here’s a little lesson in marijuana, one byproduct of the cannabis plant.  Cannabis contains over 400 known natural compounds and at least 60 plant-based cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are like messengers that travel to receptor sites in the endocannabinoid system, which all vertebrates have.  This bodily system regulates many physiological and cognitive processes including appetite, pain sensation, and mood and is the system of the body most affected by cannabis.

In marijuana, the two cannabinoids produced in greatest abundance are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Of all the cannabinoids found in cannabis, only THC will make you high. CBD provides the medicinal component and THC the psychoactive component.  Any cannabis product you would give your dog would contain a low dose of THC, not enough to get them high.

In fact, many products for dogs get their CBD from industrial hemp, a product with many purposes.  Hemp, like marijuana, comes from the cannabis plant but does not have psychoactive properties.

Cannabis grown for industrial hemp has a very low THC content, only around .3%.  The THC content of cannabis grown for marijuana can be 6 to 7%, sometimes up to 20%.

The two cannabinoids used together are what make medical marijuana most effective.  So a small amount of THC is necessary.

The receptors the cannabinoids bind to determine the effects of cannabis.   There are two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.  In dogs, CB1 exists in the brain, salivary glands, and hair follicles.

CB2 is in the skin, immune system, nervous system, and some organs.  As in humans, it’s important to give your dog the right cannabinoids to achieve the desired effect.

And correct dosing is critical!  Your dog will not get high if the dose is correct.

Although death from marijuana in dogs is rare if it’s used correctly, an overdose can be life threatening.

The biggest risk of an overdose in dogs is them getting into your stash.  Most dog deaths related to marijuana overdose occurred when the dog ate edibles infused with pot that contained large amounts of chocolate, raisins or coffee.  All toxic for dogs.

Consuming large amounts of marijuana, however, can be fatal.  The signs of an overdose are lethargy, dilated pupils, balance problems, drooling, muscle twitching, vomiting, involuntary urination and even unconsciousness.  Get to the vet if you suspect your dog got into your pot.

How much cannabis should I give my dog and how do I get it?

Determining the correct dose is one of the greatest challenges because there is no research to tell us the right dose.

Weight doesn’t determine dosage.  The efficiency of the endocannabinoid system affects dosage.  Your vet must observe your dog to assess that.

If you decide to give your dog medical marijuana, you must find a vet who has experience using it for treatment.  Many holistic vets do.  They can suggest reputable manufacturers and correct dosing.  But they will not dispense it.  And they are not able to give you a medical marijuana card for your pet.

Dogs are usually given a topical oil or an edible—a food item made with marijuana or infused with cannabis oil—which you can buy at a dispensary.

If you live in a state where marijuana is legal you can get it easily.  If you live in a state where only medical marijuana is legal and you have a medical marijuana card, you can go to a reliable dispensary and find products made for dogs.

Only give your dog a product formulated for them.

Dogs are more sensitive to cannabinoids than humans.  They need a much smaller dose.  There is a concern in the veterinary community people will use their own experience with medical marijuana as a guide and will give their pets too much.

If you live in a state where medical marijuana is not legal, you may still be able to buy hemp products.  These products still offer the benefits of CBD.

As with any medication or supplement, I can’t stress enough the need to seek the advice of a veterinarian before you give your dog cannabis.

Marijuana instead of medicine?

Marijuana should not replace any medicine your vet recommends.  You can use it in conjunction with traditional treatments, or when other treatments have failed.

It is not a cure-all.  But marijuana does not seem to have the life-threatening side effects of many traditional medicines.  It doesn’t cause organ damage, stomach distress or sedation.

When considering medical marijuana for your dog, be realistic about its capabilities.  But if it can improve your dog’s quality of life, marijuana may be worth a try.

Do you use marijuana to treat a medical condition in your dog?  Share your experience at the top of the page.