Copraphagia is the term used for poo eating. It is a bad habit and not a medical problem. There are a number of reasons why dogs eat poo:
Oral fixation habit – Puppies go through a phase where they put anything and everything in their mouths in order to investigate. Often this will include faeces, as they mature, usually this habit goes away, but not always. Try to encourage oral investigation of toys and other objects. Do not punish or give them attention if your puppy does eat faeces, as this will just reinforce the behaviour and cause it to continue.
Attention seeking – many dog owners get annoyed or upset when their dog eats poo, which means he is getting the attention he desires. Although it is negative attention, it is attention. Try not to react when you know your dog has eaten his poo. Pretty soon it will lose its novelty and without your attention, many times they drop this behaviour.
Housekeeping – Dogs that are crated, or even kept in one room within the house will learn to function as their own cleaner. In other words, if they poo in their space, they will “clean up” the only way they can. To prevent this, clean any faeces up immediately. If your dog is crated throughout the day, consider asking a friend, hiring a dog walker or someone to come in during the day to clean up.
Genetics and Instinct – there are some breeds that are “carriers”, they carry poo around and may also eat it. Also, if your dog has puppies, she is likely to eat their poo. This is an instinct to hide the poo from predators. This instinct usually goes away in a mother dog. Otherwise, the best you can do is to teach the “leave it” command and be meticulous at cleaning it up.
Food problems – Not very likely these days, but still thought by many to be the main problem. If a dog is not getting a nutritionally balanced diet, or eating a poor-quality food, they may be eating their poop because of a deficiency. If your dog is eating too little or eating too much, they can also engage in poop-eating. Always feed a high quality, nutritionally balanced diet in the correct quantities to maintain your dog’s ideal weight.
Medical problems – this is the least likely reason for your dog to eat poop. If a dog is plagued with parasites or problems that cause maldigestion or malabsorption, they may eat poo. If you are really unsure, have your vet check your dog for parasites and perform a general health check. Remember, if your dog eats poo routinely, they are more likely to acquire parasites and ensure you always worm four times a year.