Coprophagia And Digestive Enzyme Deficiency in Dogs

allergies and dogs, hypoalergenic dogs

If you own a dog, you’ve probably seen them eat some pretty strange things, going through the garbage eating spoiled food, entire sticks of butter, or even their fecal matter or some other animals.  The term for the latter is Coprophagia and there is a reason your dog does that.  It’s chalked up to deficiencies in certain digestive enzymes.

Well one of the reasons your dog may do this is because of low-quality food or perhaps not enough food.  They are missing something in their diet, a digestive enzyme, which stops nutrients from food to be properly absorbed by their body.  Something in your dog’s body is telling them that they are starving so in an attempt to get the right nutrients, their instinct is to eat fecal matter.

Dogs’ sense of smell is very different from humans.  Where we think the smell of feces is disgusting,  it can be quite appealing to dogs.  Dogs are sometimes attracted to because that’s how they figure out their environment.  So if they are attracted to the smell, they may very well think it would be good to eat.

Cat faeces and faeces from other animals sometimes have enough appealing attributes to attract dogs. As dogs interpret smells differently to humans, it’s important to remember that poo isn’t necessarily an unpleasant smell to a dog. In fact, poo is an odour that dogs are consistently attracted to when exploring their environment. In turn, if poo is attractive enough to your dog, you may find your dog eating it.

Diagnosing and Treating

Some of the symptoms of Coprophagia in Dogs is you may see your dog eating feces in the backyard, they may eat cat feces from the litter box or  eat poop he finds during his walks.  Sometimes your dog may vomit feces. And the mother sometimes eats her puppies feces.  Your vet will determine this by a simple blood test. Your dog may also experience weight loss too if they have this. Your vet may prescribe digestive enzymes or antibiotics and suggest you change their diet. They will need these enzymes for as long as they live. They help break down the food so they can digest it correctly. This is when you’ll see the weight loss diminish, along with them eating feces. Just make sure to pick up their stools on a regular to they are not tempted any longer. The main point of these digestive enzymes is to make the stools less desirable.  

How to Stop It

  • Make sure to keep the litter box cleaned out and watch your dog when they are outside.
  • When you’re walking your dog, when he goes to sniff at some feces, gently give a tug on their leash.
  • Change the behavior with good re-enforcement.  When they come to you and don’t eat feces, reward them for doing the right thing.

Causes of Coprophagia

  • Intestinal parasites – The parasites are feeding on the dog’s nutrients 
  • Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) – Is a disorder where the pancreas is not producing digestive enzymes; the food being ingested is not broken down nor are the nutrients being absorbed (the dog is starving)
  • Underfed – Not feeding the dog the right amount of food Poor quality diet 
  • Malnourished – Cat feces may taste good to a dog
  • Mothers will eat their puppies poop to clean the den; this is a normal behavior in dogs
  • Prescription medications can make a dog very hungry
  • Digestive enzyme deficiencies
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Diabetes, Cushing’s disease or thyroid disease

Medical problems that result in a decrease in absorption of nutrients, cause gastrointestinal upset or increase the appeal of a dog’s stool can lead to developing coprophagia.  Your dog should see a vet for a full physical exam, which will include going over their diet, taking a stool sample and tests to see if they have any parasites.

Sometimes abuse in a dog can cause them to do this but if they came from a puppy mill and were neglected, all the anxiety may cause this too.  If your dog is home alone a lot and is not getting the attention he/she needs, they may start eating their feces.  Dog need activity and a lot of playtime.  


When purchasing dog food for your pooch, make sure it does not have by-products in it.  It needs to be protein.  Your vet will suggest a dietary supplement and vitamins to help combat this.  Now if your vet determines  your dog not to have any medical reason to be eating feces, they may ask if they have any behavioral issues and how much playtime and walking you do with your dog.  

Your dog, as well as all dogs, need attention on a regular basis – they do not do well being isolated.  Make sure you are picking up their poo in the yard on a regular basis.  If you have multiple dogs and you just don’t have time to keep up on it, there are dog-do pick-up services you can hire for a minimal cost.  Make sure to provide plenty of toys to play with and be very strict on commanding your dog not to eat it when you catch him.  Pick up some soft chews with natural ingredients, this may help also.

dogs and eating poop, coprophagia in dogs