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Why does my dog eat her puppies’ poop? Is it normal for a dog to eat puppy poop? Being a dog owner is a rewarding experience, but it has its moment that will leave you feeling grossed out. Puppies are adorable, but their first couple of weeks in the world can sometimes be tummy churning. In this post, we’ll explore why they do it and if it’s a problem.
A mother dog eating her puppies’ poop is an instinct that most mother dogs will experience. However, there is nothing to worry about as long as the behavior begins to drop off as she weans her puppies. As this is considered normal behavior, there is nothing for you to be concerned about.
Mother dog eats puppy’s poop
A mother dog will typically clean up her puppy’s poop for the first three weeks or so of their life. Each dog is different, so the exact time can vary. Usually, by the time the puppies begin moving to solids, just after three weeks, mom can’t keep up with cleaning duties any longer and has started to focus on weaning.
At this point, it is up to you to step up the cleaning and to make sure your puppies start the practice of going to a specific area to poop. This is the earliest stage of potty training.
As pet parents, we want to be understanding of our dog’s behaviors. However, a good dog parent knows that their dogs are not people, and we can’t expect them to behave like us. That makes it no less jarring to see your dog eat her puppies’ poop for the first time.
The first question you will probably ask is ‘why?!’ followed shortly after by ‘how do I make this stop?’
There are a couple of theories on why mother dogs eat their puppies poop. The simplest of these theories is that the mother eats the puppy poops to clean up the nursing area. When you think about it, it becomes pretty obvious.
It is a question of who else was going to do it? Leaving the puppy poop to collect where the pups feed would be an unsanitary mess and pose a serious health risk to the pups. Not only is it gross, but it would also attract pests like flies, and it would be a haven for bacteria and fungi.
A mother dog might also eat her puppies poop to protect them from predators.
Unfortunately, the puppy poop can draw more predators, especially opportunistic predators who hunt for easy pickings.
Mother dogs have most likely eaten their puppies poop for the first couple of weeks of their lives since their ancestors still roamed the wilds.
It makes sense that a mother dog would take this precaution, so it should be no surprise that the behavior has become an instinct.
Another reason mother dogs eat their puppies’ poop may be to preserve nutrients. The mother dog’s body has to dedicate an enormous amount of its nutritional resources to producing milk for her pups. So much so that one can usually see the physical strain it takes on her body.
By eating her puppies’ poop, a mother dog can reclaim any nutrients that the pup didn’t absorb, saving anything from going to waste.
The idea sounds pretty offputting by human standards, but it’s a common behavior in dogs. Professionals believe that this is one of the reasons that dogs eat their poop.
They may struggle to absorb all the nutrients in their food and essentially eat their poop to have a second go at it.
Yes, and one of the biggest risks associated with dogs eating poop is that they cross-contaminate each other with parasites. That happens a lot with a mother dog and her litter of puppies and is one reason they need deworming as often as they do.
We recommend consulting your vet about deworming your pups and using a trusted brand of dewormer for the mother dog. You must always make certain to get the right dewormer for your breed’s size and weight.
It is also vital to look for dewormers like Panacur Pet Paste (not the Panacur for horses or livestock) that are safe for puppies as old as two weeks, and to deworm the mother at the same time as the puppies.
Why does my dog eat my puppy’s poop?
That brings us neatly to our next question. Why does my older dog (not the mother) eat my puppy’s poop? That is likely a more common experience for most dog owners who aren’t breeding.
Fortunately, we don’t all go through the ups and downs of caring for a dog with newborn pups. It is far more likely that you will bring a new puppy home and your existing dog will start eating their poop. This is quite common and is the act of a dog eating poop actually has a name, Coprophagia.
There are a couple of moments in our pets’ lives that stand out. Moments when we want to walk away and pretend we have never seen this four-legged hooligan before. Moments when they assault a neighbors cat or startle a sweet little old lady halfway to death’s door. Introducing your new puppy to the rest of the family and then witnessing your older dogs zoning in the first time your puppy poops is one such moment.
If your older dog is a female, they will be more likely to eat your puppy’s poop, too. However, this doesn’t entirely exclude males from the act. Your older dog will also be unlikely to eat the puppy poop if it’s older than a couple of days, so be sure to pick up those poops as quickly as possible.
Before you sign them up for doggy therapy, you must know that this behavior is completely natural. There are several possible reasons your dogs might eat poop, be it a puppy’s or their own, so let’s explore some of them.
Reasons for your dog eating puppy poop:
It makes sense that a dog might feel threatened by a new puppy. After all, they demand more care and attention. They require training and frequent feeding, as well as extra play. These are all things over which your dog might feel a bit jealous.
Some dogs will eat poop in response, and the reason is pretty smart. They know it gets a reaction from you. It’s essentially a type of reinforcement. Whether the behavior upsets you or you try to stop them, the dog has gotten your undivided attention.
Anxiety and stress
If your dog suffers from anxiety or stress, this can also be a cause for them eating your puppy’s poop. This may even be exacerbated because there is a new puppy in the house getting all the attention.
Make sure your older dog gets plenty of exercise, cuddles, and even put on some music for them during this time.
A dog who just loves to eat will be more likely to eat puppy poop. They may have struggled in the litter to get food, and so now take what they can get, or in this case, find! A rescue dog who foraged for their food will also likely fall into this category.
You feed your dog a healthy diet, so surely they don’t have any deficiencies that could make them want to eat puppy poop? Unfortunately, several conditions can lead to deficiencies, regardless of a balanced diet.
Another point to note is that high-quality puppy food is usually higher in fats and protein. Since this can be excreted, the resulting poop may actually draw the attention of other dogs. Unfortunately, coprophagia is a common behavior in dogs, and even the experts don’t fully understand it. But there may be several factors at play.
The first thing that comes to mind is, of course, parasites. Internal parasites, to be specific. A parasite is an organism that latches on to another and steals nutrients and other resources from its body.
Naturally, that means that all parasites, including ticks and fleas, steal resources from your dog, but internal parasites often strike right at the source–the digestive system. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
It’s also no stretch of the imagination that a dog that does eat puppy poop probably eats other poop, so parasites are a very likely candidate. Intestinal worms are also a reason to keep puppies, their mothers, and any other dogs’ deworming schedule up to date.
Intestinal malabsorption syndrome
Intestinal malabsorption syndrome is not itself a disease. Instead, it’s a condition that can be a symptom of several other diseases and health concerns.
There are a couple of systems inside your dog’s body that need to work together so that they can digest their food and absorb the nutrients it contains.
These systems include functions of the pancreas and small intestine, and when something goes wrong with either, your dog could develop intestinal malabsorption syndrome.
If a dog cannot absorb the nutrients they need, they are far more likely to start eating poop, including that of your puppy.
Ailments that affect appetite
Health problems like diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and thyroid disease can increase your dog’s appetite. If the effect is that your dog suffers an appetite that they can not sate in a healthy diet, they will turn to other sources of ‘food.’
Puppy poop, along with any number of non-foods, will make the menu of your dog who suffers from these kinds of appetite-inducing ailments. However, you may have to intervene in such cases, particularly if your dog is sensitive to certain nutrients.
What happens when a dog eats baby poop?
Dogs are pretty safe eating their poop, and aside from the risk of parasites, other dogs’ poop doesn’t pose too much risk either. But unfortunately, eating poop from a different species is an altogether different story.
Dogs can become extremely ill from eating poop from other animals, including humans. In addition, eating baby poop will expose your dog to microbes with which their body can’t handle. If your dog does manage to eat baby poop, it is best to monitor them closely for signs of gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea and to take them to the vet. Deworming both baby and dog is also an important rule of thumb.
Mother dogs eating their puppies poop is perfectly normal and natural. They should start tapering off this behavior after three weeks, or when they start weaning. It is not fully understood why other dogs may eat poop, but there are several theories. If a dog is coprophagic, the best thing to do is control their environment and limit their access to poop by cleaning their yards as often as possible. A deworming schedule is vital for everyone in a household, not just the dogs.
Tamsin has worked extensively in dog behavior problems and in rescue. She has worked with trainers who specialize in Shutzhund and protection training. Nowadays, her focus is on canine nutrition.
Tamsin is pictured here with her much loved boy, Hudson. She is a true dog lover with a wealth of knowledge on dogs, and we're grateful to have her on the HoundGames team.