Spending quality time with your dog, especially in activities such as playing catch with his favorite toy, can be a satisfying and therapeutic experience for both of you. But there’s another side to your furry friend that may not be as pleasant – the occasional display of irritating habits such as resource guarding, biting during playtime or barking incessantly. On top of this, they may display worrying dietary choices such as eating poop, grass, stones and other odd choices of snack. In case you’re wondering what on earth your 4 legged friend is thinking, the underlying reasons are explained in this article.
Reasons Why Your Dog Could Be Eating Poop
#1. Nutritional deficiency
Despite what the label may say, dog food doesn’t always come with all the nutrients your dog needs. Vital ingredients like vitamins (especially vitamin B), iron and other minerals may be lacking in your pup’s system leading him to eat poop as a way of replenishing depleted nutrients. Keeping your dog on the same diet for long periods of time can be a reason for insufficient nutrients in his diet, so it’s always good to offer him variety during meal time. Keep in mind that dogs can also eat poop to acquire certain bacteria to help their digestive systems function better.
Even though you may not recognize it, your pup gets some of his characteristics from wild dogs. Starving wild dogs are known to eat poop as a survival mechanism and even though our pet friends have long been domesticated, they still carry around some of the old habits they share with their wild relatives.
#3. As way of cleaning the den
Normally dogs are clean animals, they poop far from where they sleep and pass this lesson to their young ones. This behavior is observed more among mothers who have whelped. We all know that new mothers rarely wander far from their pups, which limits their options when it comes to keeping their den clean. In such instances, mothers will eat their poop and that of the pups to maintain a clean den.
#4. As part of their learning process
Like most children, pups learn about their surroundings through smelling and in some cases even tasting. Eating poop for these puppies is a natural part of exploring their environment. Sometimes puppies see their mother eating poop while cleaning the den, and can take up this habit to mimic their parent.
Overfed dogs cannot break down all the food you give them because they lack certain enzymes that aid in this process. While it’s true that dogs can eat all kinds of food, evidence suggests that a dog’s digestive system may not be equipped to handle modern diets that contain less animal protein and far more carbohydrates and fiber. Consequently, they may resort to eating their own poop to supply them with enzymes needed for digestion.
#6. As a form of submissive behavior
If your household is made up of a number of dogs, you’ll often find that there’s a hierarchy where some canines exercise dominance over others. In such situations, submissive dogs sometimes eat the feces of their dominant colleagues.
#7. Hiding the evidence
If you punish your dog severely for a housebreaking accident – for example, by rubbing his nose in his poop –the next time he has an accident he may try to hide the evidence by eating his stool. This is why training through positive reinforcement is a preferred method of correcting regressive behavior.
Other reasons why dogs eat poop include:
- Restrictive confinement
- Seeking attention
- Living with another sick older dog
- Sniffing poop on their mother’s breath
- Regularly being fed near poop
Ways of solving the problem
- Get advice from a vet: eating poop may be the result of lack of nutrients, the presence of parasites or a problem with the pancreas. Before taking any action make sure your dog isn’t eating poop because of a health issue.
- Try using taste aversion products: spraying your dog’s poop with products like garlic, parsley, pepper-paint, or chamomile makes poop eating a far less appealing prospect for your dog.
- Keep your dog’s kennel/sleeping area clean: remove any traces of poop around this area, but be mindful about how you do it – you don’t want him to think he should clean up after himself by eating poop! If you have a cat, make sure you keep the cat’s litter bin out of the dogs reach.
- Training your dog: is a more permanent solution, pay extra attention to commands like “leave it” in this training to stop him from eating poop. You can introduce him to toys with treats to reinforce good behavior and speed up the training.
Coprophagia can pose a danger to your health
If not contained early, coprophagia can pose a serious health hazard to other members of your household. A dog can harbor bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and other infectious parasites in their stomachs without showing outward signs of illness. Those in their habit of kissing their dogs, or allowing them to lick their face can fall victim to dangerous parasites – hence the need to seriously discourage poop eating.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Before you worry yourself to death over this odd behavior, you should know that grazing the lawn is a natural and fairly common habit among dogs which is observed even in wild dogs. Pica, as the habit is officially called, can be an indication of nutritional deficiency, boredom – especially among puppies, or behavior reinforced by stress factors. Keep in mind that eating grass can have mixed results for your canine with some dogs suffering from side effects while others show no negative signs from the experience.
Here are some of the reasons why your dog occasionally chews on your turf.
#1. They like the taste
Being scavengers by nature, dogs are programmed to look for food anywhere they can find it. They also happen to enjoy chewing on all manner of things that humans find disgusting like stuff thrown into the trash can, or dirty socks. Your dog could be chewing on grass simply because he likes its taste or texture.
#2. Dogs are omnivorous
Another theory states that dogs are omnivores and get their dietary requirements from both meat and plants. Remember that their relatives from the wild ingest everything including the vegetative material found in the stomachs of their prey, and it’s thought that canines have acquired a taste for plant matter over the years.
#3. Nutritional deficiency
Some believe that canines eat grass and other plants to supplement their needs for vitamins, minerals, and roughage which could be lacking in their diet. Although a lot of commercial dog foods incorporate plant matter in their ingredients, you should seek a professional’s opinion on how best to increase your pup’s fibre intake.
In some instances, your dog eats grass just to kill time. If he’s left all alone in the backyard with nothing much to do, he may turn to regressive habits like barking at strangers or chewing on the lawn to keep himself entertained. Taking your dog for a walk or playing with a frisbee is a good way of exercising his mind and body. You could also keep him busy with a chew toy to keep his mind off the grass.
Self-medication or zoopharmacognosy is a habit that is observed among different animals, and dogs are no exception. Although the topic is controversial (because the evidence used is mostly circumstantial or anecdotal), proponents of this theory suggest that dogs consume grass to induce vomiting whenever they have problems with their digestion. Some experts believe that the grass binds with any unwanted material in the stomach and acts as an irritant causing the dog to vomit. However, there are those who dispute this notion because they don’t think that dogs are smart enough to know how to treat themselves when they have an upset stomach.
Sometimes dogs lick or chew grass where another dog has urinated as a way of exerting their dominance, pretty much in the same way as scent marking. This behavior has even led to one variety of grass – couch grass – which is a dog favorite to be christened Agrospyron Canina, a botanical name derived from the dog family.
Is eating grass harmful to your dog?
Most of the dogs that eat grass wind up with no problems at all. However, your dog may experience complications from eating grass if he ingests pesticides or herbicides which have been applied on the lawn or surrounding plants. There may also be plants in the yard which are poisonous and can therefore harm your dog when ingested. To ensure that the plants your dog comes into contact with aren’t poisonous, you can check out ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center web site for more information.
How to make this behavior to stop
Most vets will tell you that that letting your dog eat grass doesn’t pose a serious danger, provided there are no harmful chemicals that have been applied. However, it’s good to be on the lookout for a sudden change in behavior; for example if your dog all of a sudden increases the amount of grass he ingests, this could point to more serious issues like illness.
Here are some prevention measures you can take if your dog shows a high tendency for eating grass:
- Consult your veterinarian for advice: health complications like gastric reflux or inflammatory bowel disease could be the underlying reasons for eating grass. If your pet appears lethargic, diarrheas, or experiences weight loss that is concurrent with grass-induced vomiting, he should see a doctor.
- Switch to a high-fiber dog food: some pet parents find that eating grass stops once they switch their pups a high fiber diet. If you think your pup isn’t getting enough fiber in his diet, consult with your vet to find out what changes you need to make to your dog’s meals.
- Get him some exercise and a chew toy: Sometimes the solution lies in simply providing a chew toy to keep him distracted and committing to spend more time exercising with your dog.
- Make sure you frequently monitor your teething puppy. Such pups tend to ingest a lot of leaves, grass, and even sticks which can create a blockage in their digestive tract.
- Use only non-toxic products to maintain your own lawn and be careful where you walk your dog to reduce the risk of him ingesting grass that is treated with chemicals. You can also consider growing a grass or herb garden specially for him to chew on if you’re satisfied that this behavior isn’t a result of a health problem.
Eating poop or grass isn’t a desirable trait in a dog and pet parents should monitor their pups to ensure this errant behavior doesn’t get out of hand. If you have serious concerns about your dog make a point of consulting a vet or other canine professional to find out if there could be underlying issues affecting your dog.