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Help! My Senior Dog is Eating Poop

Back end view of a chocolate labrador retriever pooping in grass

Coprophagia is a common canine behavior and dogs of every age can indulge in this gross habit. According to a study, every 4th dog can eat their poop at least once. Likewise, 16% of pups are classified as serious poop eaters because they did this behavior at least 5 times. Keep reading to know why your senior dog is eating poop and learn what you can do about it.

Why is My Senior Dog Eating Poop?

Several reasons (both behavioral and medical) can trigger this frustrating habit. Therefore, owners have to be very vigilant to determine the underlying cause. You may also need to visit your vet for professional help to solve this riddle. Let’s discuss some of the most common causes of coprophagia in senior dogs.

Maternal Instinct

Momma Golden Retriever with her puppies laying around her head, outdoors in the grass

Mother dogs lick their puppies to clean them and it’s normal for them to ingest feces during this process. Therefore, if your female dog has given birth to puppies, her behavior is completely natural. Some puppies also tend to mimic their mother’s behavior and start eating poop. Most of them grow out of this habit as they grow old, but some canines can continue to do so, even in old age.

Malnutrition

Border collie eating kibble from a white plate at a bright yellow table

A starving canine will eat anything that comes in his/her sight and poop is not an exception. Hence, you must consider the dietary requirements of your pooch and fulfill them. It’s highly recommended that you consult your vet for these calculations. This will make it easier for you to feed your senior dog a balanced diet.

Several nutritional deficiencies can cause coprophagia in senior dogs. For example, vitamin-B deficiency can instigate your pooch to start eating poop.

On the other hand, some dogs are just obsessed with eating and ingest everything, including their feces. If that’s the case, you will need to have a close eye on your canine companion during bathroom breaks. Make sure that they don’t get enough time and space to indulge in this disgusting habit.

Medical Reasons

Vet examining an older black dog

Many medical problems can lead to coprophagia, and it’s imperative to resolve these issues to control this habit. According to experts, the conditions that decrease absorption of nutrients can result in malnutrition even if your dog is eating enough food. Digestive enzyme deficiencies, caused by gastrointestinal upset, are among the primary causes of this problem.

Your senior dog may also start eating poop if he/she is suffering from pica syndrome. It is a condition in which a pup experiences increased appetite and inappropriate ingestion. Similarly, brain diseases, like dementia, can also cause coprophagia in senior dogs because they are disoriented and confused. 

Anxiety

Long haired dog standing with front paws in a window sill

Stress can make your dog do silly things and eating his/her own poop is on the top of that list. Many different situations can make canines anxious and they become more vulnerable as they grow old. For example, loneliness and boredom can be massive problems for pups that stay alone for long spells. Separation anxiety is another factor that could cause coprophagia.

Attention

Black and white spotted dog outdoors with a person in a yellow coat standing behind them.

This usually happens when your dog considers this habit a game to grab your attention. When a pup indulges in this behavior, it’s natural for owners to correct their behavior. If someone has yelled at their young canine friend while they were eating poop, the puppy starts treating it as a game. Although most pooches get rid of this habit, some can carry this tactic with them in old age.

NOTE: Some senior dogs will eat their poop just because they like its taste. Yes, you read it right!

What to Do if My Senior Dog is Eating Poop?

Every owner wants to curb this disgusting behavior irrespective of the underlying cause. Once you have identified the problem, it’s time to implement a suitable plan of recovery. Some of the ways that can help you achieve the desired results are as follows.

Keep Your Dog Active

Woman playing in the waves with her goldent retriever

If your senior dog is eating poop due to the lack of exercise and mental stimulation, this should work well. You can give your pup interactive toys and puzzles to stay busy while you are away. Likewise, you can schedule a comfortable walk with your canine friend to make him/her feel good. However, you must keep them on leash so that they could not go fetching for some poop.

Feed a Balanced Diet

Overhead view of a golden retriever with a food bowl between its feet

Changing the diet of your dog can also prove useful to counter coprophagia. Some commercial dog foods are not balanced and can result in malnutrition. Hence, you should always discuss your canine’s diet with a vet and design the meals accordingly. This will ensure that your dog is getting all the nutrients and he/she won’t have to find any in poop.

Other than the nutrients, you may also need to provide probiotics and digestive enzymes. They help your dog to absorb the nutrients and get all the benefits of the food.

Clean the Poop Right Away

Maltese watching as a human picks up dog poop with a bag covered hand

If you know that your pooch is tempted by poop, you should get rid of it as soon as your dog has finished his/her business. You should also try to accompany them on their bathroom breaks so that they can be distracted. In the case of multi-pet households, the litter boxes of your cats should also remain covered at all times. All these things will limit the chances of your senior dog eating poop.

Add a Poop-Eating Deterrent to Your Dog’s Food

Bowl full of mashed pumpkin on a destressed wood table

Dogs hate certain smells and adding them to their poop can make it less appealing for canines. For example, adding canned pumpkin to your dog’s food will make his/her feces taste terrible. Similarly, you can use a bitter-tasting spray or a commercial poop-eating deterrent to prevent coprophagia.

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