Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
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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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- adp_description_block439A Healthy Diet for Your Dog Can Mean Good Health for You
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As a veterinarian, I’ve found that pet owners take seriously the responsibility of ensuring their dogs live healthy, happy lives. They worry about making sure their dog gets enough exercise, receives regular wellness checks and receives balanced nutrition that gives them energy to run and play.
What some people don’t realize is that owning and caring a dog can improve the owner’s health as well. Spending quality time with your dog and providing them with quality nutrition is good for the dog and can help ease stress and anxiety levels for you. Studies have shown that owning a pet can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels1 — which is great news for your heart health.
In short, when your dog is getting the best care, proper exercise, nutrition and love, they can enjoy a long and healthy life. And that can ultimately make you healthier, too!
So what does that mean when it comes to feeding your dog?
Many owners see their dog as part of the family, and that sometimes means they will feed their dog like they feed themselves. For example, some people may choose low-carb or gluten-free diets for themselves and do the same for their pets. However, while this instinct comes from a place of love, many owners don’t realize that their dog’s dietary needs differ from their own.
Take grains for example. As a veterinarian, it’s important for me to note that grains are good for your dog. Yes, you read that right — they’re good!
A very small percentage of dogs may have a food sensitivity that requires a special grain-free diet or a dog food without a certain protein. However, this is not necessary for the vast majority of dogs. Most dogs benefit from a complete, balanced diet with healthy grains, high-quality proteins and essential vitamins and minerals.
Here’s why: Grains are a good source of carbohydrates that provide healthy energy. Some grains, like rice and wheat, provide “quick” energy, while other grains, like barley and sorghum, take longer to convert to energy. A combination of these different grains can offer a time-released energy source that helps dogs sustain energy. The whole grains in IAMS dog food are a beneficial mix, as they supply steady energy.
In addition to the grains you’ll find in IAMS food, you’ll also find high-quality proteins, like chicken and lamb, as well as essential nutrients needed to help support heart health. Together, this combination will give your dog a steady source of energy to be active on walks, runs, hikes or play sessions around the house.
For your dog to be healthy and happy, be sure you feed them a well-balanced diet and allow them enough exercise time. In return, you’ll get unconditional love, plenty of sweet doggy snuggles and maybe even more exercise — just a few of the ways you and your dog are joined at the heart.
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