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Occasionally, you may notice your Yorkie eating poop—their own or another animal’s. Poop eating, called coprophagia, is a common behavior in dogs. In fact, two studies suggest that between 16% and 28% of dogs frequently eat canine or herbivore stools.1, 2
In this guide, we’ll go over the theories of why dogs eat poop and ideas for how to stop this behavior.
In this guide:
- Why do Yorkies eat their own poop?
- Is it dangerous for my Yorkie to eat feces?
- How to stop Yorkies from eating poop
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Why do Yorkies eat their own poop?
According to a 2018 study, the most likely reason Yorkshire Terriers eat their poop is due to an ancestral instinct to keep their den free of parasites.2 Most commonly, however, coprophagia is viewed as a second chance for an animal to extract nutrients from its diet.
There are many other theories out there as well. Some theories include poor nutrition, health issues, or behavioral issues. The truth is that the reason can vary and is somewhat of a mystery.
Your Yorkie may be eating its own poop to gain additional nutrients they are lacking. Your dog may be missing essential nutrients if their food is not being digested properly or the nutrients are not being absorbed during the digestive process. This could be due to a number of reasons that should be discussed with your vet.
It’s also possible that those nutrients might not be present in their diet in the first place. A good Yorkie diet consists of quality protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat. If your pup is not getting these necessities in their diet, they could be undernourished and left needing a way to satisfy these requirements. There are a number of common reasons why their diet could be missing these necessary nutrients.
Sometimes well-intentioned owners create homemade dog food without fully understanding a Yorkie’s nutritional needs. For example, dogs need quite a bit more protein in their diet than humans. Other times, dogs are fed low-quality, manufactured dog food that lack bioavailable (usable) nutrients and replace real food with cheap fillers.
When a Yorkie is regularly underfed or fed a poor diet, the pup is starved of certain nutrients, so they’ll go looking for something that will satisfy this need, including their own poop.
If you’d like to improve the quality of your dog’s food, our informational guide on the best dog food for Yorkies is a good place to start.
Your Yorkshire Terrier may fancy his feces if he has undiagnosed health issues. There are a number of medical problems that result in decreased nutrient absorption, gastrointestinal issues, increased appetite, or unusual appetite. Sometimes pieces of undigested food in his stool point to a health condition or low-quality food.
A few of these conditions are listed below, although it’s unlikely that poop eating would be the first noticeable symptom.
- Diabetes: A disease that occurs when the body is unable to create enough insulin to help sugar convert into fuel for cells.
- Cushing’s disease: Cushing’s disease results when the body produces too much of a hormone called cortisol.
- Thyroid disease: A disease that occurs when it is unable to produce enough thyroid hormones, which control body functions like temperature regulation and metabolism.
- Medications: Medications, such as steroids, can have a myriad of side effects, such as obesity, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Parasites: Organisms that live inside of your dog, like hookworms or Giardia, subsist off of the food your dog is eating. This leaves your pup with less nutrition for their own body.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: A disease involving inflammation of the intestinal tract. Many dogs with IBD suffer from severe diarrhea and vomiting.
- Anemia: A condition in which the body has a decreased number of red blood cells, resulting in lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, and other symptoms.
>> Read more: 8 Most Common Yorkie Health Issues
Several theories suggest that Yorkies eat their poop due to behavioral issues. These issues could be caused by:
- Boredom: Just as a Yorkie may bark or be destructive when the day does not bring enough stimulation, they may also eat their poop to entertain themselves.
- Stress: Mental stress may be due to a change in routine, a new member of the family, or Yorkie separation anxiety.
- Confinement: Dogs that are regularly confined to a small space have been known to eat their own poop.
Some dog owners and behaviorists have suggested that your Yorkie may eat their poop because they see your excitement after they do it, or they are trying to imitate how you clean up their mess. Both of these theories seem highly unlikely and there is no evidence to support either one.
According to the 2018 study, the most likely reason your Yorkie eats poop is due to an adaptive behavior practiced by the ancestors of domestic dogs—wolves. This study, conducted by Benjamin Hart, et al., surveyed about 3,000 dog owners to obtain the following data.2 The study began with two opposing hypotheses:
- Dogs exhibit coprophagic behavior due to one or more contributing causes, like nutrition, stress, health, etc.
- Dogs exhibit coprophagic behavior due to an adaptive behavior inherited from ancestral wolves.
According to wolf expert L. David Mec, wolves expel the eggs of intestinal parasites in their stool, which usually don’t develop into infectious larval form for several days. When wolves eat their fresh poop, it’s thought that they are keeping the den safe by eliminating the risk of parasitic infection.
Additionally, the study found that:
- 85% of dogs in the study were reported to eat stools no more than 2 days old (fresh stools).
- Dogs who ate feces were reported to be as easily house-trained as the dogs who didn’t eat their poop.
- Dogs who eat their poop were more likely to be described as “greedy eaters,” with the reasoning that “one would expect greedy eating to be a common wolf characteristic.”
- Terriers and hounds were the most likely breeds to be coprophagic.
- Most dogs lived in multi-dog homes and often ate dirt and cat stools
- No relationship was found between the dog’s tendency to eat poop and the dog’s age or diet.
- No relationship was found between coprophagia and the occurrence of compulsive behaviors, separation anxiety, aggressive behavior, destructive behavior, or excessive barking.
One of the conclusions of the study was that none of the findings in the study supported the first hypothesis. Additionally, since dogs frequently display wolf-like behaviors and they have a preference for fresh stools less than two days old, it’s more likely that the cause of coprophagy is the second hypothesis.
Is it dangerous for my Yorkie to eat feces?
Naturally, we think it’s pretty gross if our dog eats poop. But, according to Hart’s study, some experts suggest that coprophagia might actually be medically harmless to dogs since parasites’ larvae do not become infectious for at least two days.2
Eating poop may even be a natural part of certain stages of your Yorkie’s life. For the first few weeks of a puppy’s life, sometimes its mother will clean up the puppy’s feces by eating it. Puppies may learn this behavior from their mother and consume their poop or the poop of other animals.
Dogs eating cat poop is a common problem, especially if you have a litter box in your home. It’s possible that the puppy could encounter health problems, such as parvo, parasites, campylobacteriosis, cryptosporidiosis, and diarrhea by consuming the poop of other animals, but it’s less likely if it’s the poop of another pet that is up to date on their medications. Fortunately, many puppies eventually grow out of this behavior.
How to stop Yorkies from eating poop
However you choose to handle this behavior, do not get angry or punish your Yorkie. You can be certain he’s not doing it to annoy you, and you’ll make far more progress with positive reinforcement.
There are a number of things you can do to attempt to curb this behavior.
Rule out underlying medical issues
Have your vet rule out all underlying medical issues with a complete physical examination. It’s likely your vet will test the dog’s stool for the presence of parasites.
Taking note of your Yorkie’s diet as well as the frequency and consistency of their bowel movements before you go will be helpful information for your vet. Unusually soft stool or stool with undigested pieces of food may require additional testing.
Improve their diet
Exchanging low-quality dog food for wholesome, real-ingredient food is a wise choice in general, but especially if your dog is eating its own poop. Aside from mitigating health issues, a proper diet will help ensure that your pup isn’t experiencing any nutritional deficiencies.
The best foods will consist of an appropriate balance of healthy proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It will also avoid manufacturing processes that strip all of the nutrients out of the ingredients to make the food more shelf-stable.
If you’ve been looking for real-ingredient, whole foods to feed your Yorkie, we suggest looking into Nom Nom Dog Food, Ollie, or The Farmer’s Dog. These companies slow-cook fresh, human-grade ingredients at a low heat to maintain nutritional value, then freeze the meals and ship them to you on a regular basis.
Additionally, consider adding a bit of pineapple and papaya to your dog’s diet. They are both known to aid the digestive system. Pineapple contains bromelain, which promotes digestion by helping the body break down protein chains. Papaya contains papain, which also breaks down proteins and is often a key ingredient in powdered meat tenderizers.
Consider supplements & deterrents
While a holistic approach is the best way to improve your dog’s nutrition, there are some supplements that may help deter your Yorkie from eating their own poop. It’s important to speak to your vet about the safety and long-term consequences of these supplements before giving any to your dog.
Multivitamins & probiotics
Some experts suggest that a multivitamin may be helpful in making up for some nutritional deficiencies. It’s suspected that a deficiency in Vitamin B, in particular, may lead to poop eating.
Check with your vet about Pawty Trained Stool Eating Deterrent. It contains five B Vitamins, with a boost of echinacea, licorice root, and fennel seed to help soothe digestive issues and strengthen the immune system.
In conjunction with a healthy diet, a probiotic supplement like Dr. Mercola’s Complete Probiotics may help with digestion, absorption of nutrients, and overall bowel health.
Digestive enzyme supplements
Some people recommend meat tenderizers because they contain ingredients that help break down the proteins within foods. When proteins are broken down, they can be more easily digested, which increases the body’s nutrient absorption. While the idea is good, some of these products contain less desirable ingredients like salt, sugar, MSG, and cornstarch.
We recommend using a digestive enzyme supplement that aids in the digestion of food, so your pup gets the maximum amount of nutrition available. You should look for a product with quality ingredients like Dr. Mercola’s Digestive Enzymes, which contains natural ingredients like papaya and pineapple.
Since dogs prefer well-formed stool, it has been suggested that adding a stool softener or laxative may deter some dogs. However, this does not seem to be a healthy, long-term solution as it does not get to the root of the problem.
There are many food additives that can make stool less tasty to your dog. Some of these options include CoproBan, NaturVet, For-Bid, and DisTaste. Some of these additives contain not-so beneficial ingredients like MSG, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and artificial flavors.
In the 2018 study by Benjamin Hart and his colleagues, dog owners reported a 0%-to-2% success rate using food additives and tablets, with CoproBan being the most successful.2 This finding should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as the results were owner-reported and the researchers do not know how well owners followed product instructions.
>> Read more: My Dog Ate a Cotton Ball! What Do I Do?
There are a few Yorkie training methods you could try in hopes of deterring poop eating.
A 2003 study found that citronella training collars were an effective tool, minimizing the stool-eating behavior in about two-thirds of the 14 dogs examined during a three-week trial period.1
The 2018 study gathered information on the various types of methods owners used to stop the behavior as well as their thoughts on how well those methods worked. These methods included: chasing the dog away from stools, rewarding them for obeying a command to leave it alone, lacing the stools with pepper, and punishing the dogs with an electronic (shock) or sound-emitting collar.
While this study did not determine how well the owners correctly used the procedures, the overall success rates were only 1%-to-2%, with the exception of the ‘leave it alone’ command, which had a 4% success rate.
Keep an eye on your pup during potty time
If you aren’t already doing so, it’s a good idea to supervise your pup during bathroom breaks. Instead of simply letting them out, put your dog on a leash during potty breaks. This will help you stay observant and help you keep your pup away from poop in the yard. Bring doggy poop bags and clean up the poop immediately so there isn’t a chance for consumption.
If your pup is having accidents in the house and eating the poop, it’ll be beneficial to read our Yorkie potty training guide to help you get your pup to eliminate in the appropriate location.
Whatever the reason may be for your Yorkie eating poop—it sure is puzzling. Be patient in finding a solution to the problem. If what you are doing doesn’t work, try something new.
Be consistent and give clear, concise commands to your pup. Also, be sure to give your Yorkie plenty of exercise and playtime outdoors to keep her happy and mentally stimulated.
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- Boze B. (2008) A comparison of common treatments for coprophagy in Canis familiaris. Journal of Applied Companion Animal 2, 22–28.
- The paradox of canine conspecific coprophagy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5980124/