A Tasteful Discussion
Like any companion or roommate, dogs — for all their love and cuteness—have habits we just don’t understand. One question dog owners often ask their pets: “Why? Why would you eat poop?”
When we polled* dog owners recently, most thought it was because a dog is lacking nutrients (49%), they’re anxious (43%) or they just think it tastes good (40%).
Dogs are significantly more likely to eat the droppings of another species (e.g., horses, rabbits) than their own.
But Why? Whyyyyy?
We held our noses and got to the bottom of the issue with the help of some experts.
Do Dogs Eat Poop Because They Lack Nutrients?
While those in our poll thought this was the number-one reason for the behavior, it has actually never been proven. “It’s a myth dogs eat poop because they’re seeking nutrients they aren’t getting. There’s no evidence to back this,” says
Opens a new windowDr. Jo Gale, BVetMed CertLAS MRCVS, Senior Manager, Global Science Advocacy at Waltham Petcare Science Institute.
Do Dogs Eat Poop Because They're Anxious?
Opens a new windowDr. Tammie King, Applied Behavior Technical Leader at Waltham Petcare Science Institute, “It can occur where there is lack of environmental enrichment. You see this often in dogs who are kenneled and have a lack of opportunity to exhibit normal canine behavior.” So if you need another excuse to get out and play with your pooch, this is a good one.
Do Dogs Eat Poop Because of the Taste?
Believe it or not, this is the main reason dogs eat poop. Dr. Jo Gale explains: “Dogs are scavengers by nature and use any opportunity to eat what they can, when they can. They consider it a ‘tasty snack.’” Dr. Tammie King adds that “[Dogs eating poop] is a learned behavior. They’ve done it, enjoyed it, and that behavior is repeated.”
We love our dogs so much that we’re willing to trust our best friends on this. Maybe we should come out with a line of doggie breath mints though. Hmm.
Is Eating Poop Harmful to Dogs?
“Ingesting feces from any animal increases potential for ingesting parasites and pathogens,” cautions Opens a new windowDr. James Serpell BSc, Phd Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. He went on to say, “[It’s] not something humans should ignore, but it's not worth getting too excited about it.”
All the experts we consulted said that if your dog occasionally eats poop, it’s nothing to be overly alarmed by. Just keep an eye on the frequency and their overall health. And as always, make sure they’re getting a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise and attention. If you have any concerns contact your vet.
Despite dogs liking the taste of poop, we’re going to stick with the healthy range of more traditional flavors offered in all IAMS dog foods.
*Surveyed U.S. dog owners, age 18+
Sample Size: n=201
Fielded May 8 to May 10, 2020
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Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active
It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.
Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health
At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.
Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite
Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.
Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Continue to use preventive medicines.
Senior Dog Health: Dental Health
Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.
Senior Dog Health: Exercise
Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.
Senior Dog Health: Diet
Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.
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