Coprophagia (poo eating)

Why they do it and what you can do about it

Poo eating is a pretty revolting habit (from the human perspective anyway). It’s not pleasant to watch and it’s even less lovely to be on the receiving end of a pooey kiss. 

There are obvious health considerations, particularly if there are small children in the household.

Advice about this problem is frequently asked but it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t an exclusive beagle problem – all types and breeds of dog do it too.

Why they do it

There are quite a few reasons why a dog may indulge in coprophagia.

In packs of wild dogs, excrement is viewed as a source of nutrition by pack members lower down the pecking order, especially when food is scarce.

Dogs have a short digestive tract and they process their food quickly. Very often, the modern, convenient, complete food that most dogs are fed on, passes through their system so quickly that it’s still appealing to them when it comes out the other end. 

A dog’s digestive system is dependent on a specific mix of enzymes to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. 

There is some evidence that suggests that dogs’ digestive systems haven’t quite caught up to modern diets that include less animal protein and far more carbohydrates and plant proteins. 

Some veterinary nutritionists have suggested that dogs eat poo to replenish enzymes so that they are better prepared to digest their food.

There is also evidence that dogs that aren’t getting enough of certain nutrients will resort to eating poo. A lack of vitamin B is often said to be a cause of coprophagia.

Sometimes there are health reasons why a dog isn’t able to absorb enough nutrients from their normal diet, they can then resort to coprophagia.

Some dogs will eat poo to clean up an area. This is more likely if your dog is confined to a crate or kennel, or when he’s chained up or otherwise restricted.

Some dogs will eat poo to hide the evidence. If you punish your dog for pooing in the wrong place, at the wrong time, he might eat it to stop you from getting angry.

Some dogs will simply eat poo to pass the time. Some dogs will eat poo because they are bored or lonely. It can be a sign of neglect.

If your bitch has puppies, she will eat puppy poo. This is an instinct to hide the poo from predators. Getting rid of it keeps her puppies safe and keeps the den clean. Young dogs and puppies will often eat poo as a novelty, they’ve seen mum doing it, so they give it a go. Most will grow out of it.

Many dogs simply like the taste of poo. This obviously doesn’t make sense to dog owners but that’s irrelevant. Some dog like to eat it and that’s that. It’s warm, moist, and very much like what your dog was given as a very young puppy.

If you only feed your dog once a day, and your dog eats poo, it could be an indication they want to eat more frequently. (Beagles will always want to eat more frequently!).

Some dogs will eat poo to get your attention. Many dog owners get very upset when their dog eats poo, which means the dog gets attention. This is a wonderful opportunity for your dog to interact with you, albeit not for a very pleasant reason.

pooping beagle

What can you do?

With young pups, try to nip it in the bud. Don’t make a huge song and dance about it – just say “No” very firmly and swiftly remove the temptation. You can do the same with adults but once a habit becomes entrenched, Beagles can be very difficult to discourage.

Pick-up quickly and frequently.

A change in diet can make a big difference but this tends to be trial and error. However, more natural diets tend to take longer to digest and have less appeal once processed.

There are now additives that can be sprinkled on the dog’s food that can be very effective (or not work at all, so only buy a small amount first time) such as Copro-Nil. You can get them from your vet, or you can buy them via the Internet.

Sometimes, just knowing that you aren’t the only person in the world whose beagle eats poo is very reassuring. If you’ve only got one who does it, count yourself lucky!