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Food allergies in Setters and poo eating. Advice please?

Hello all, Harley has always had an on/off habit of eating poo. It phased out when he reached a year/18 months old but in the last six - twelve months it has come back with a vengeance.

He is fed on Harringtons kibble mix and has been for the last couple of years. My issue with the poo eating is not only is it absolutely disgusting but it seems to be more than just a dirty habit.
My apologies for going in to such detail but he eats it as it is coming out of him, it doesn't even hit the ground. He's also got to the point where on walks, I have to follow him everywhere as he will sometimes eat other dogs poo which frightens me because if he is eating random bits, it could be from any animal and have all sorts of nasties in it.

Having spoken to a friend who had a Setter, she was telling me that Setters can be prone to the canine version of coeliacs disease and have severe allergies to wheat, soy etc. Could this be what is causing him to eat his own droppings? I honestly don't know where to begin with this, I've phoned my vets and they've advised it's just a bad habit but I am sure it isn't, I've known dogs to do it but not to the degree he does.
Does anyone have any advice or pointers as to why he could be doing this and more importantly, how to treat it?
I've never had a dog who has done this, even in puppyhood so Harley is my first experience of it.

Any advice would be welcome, thanks :-).

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I have heard that if you give them pineapple, something happens to it as it goes through the gut and it makes the poo taste revolting.  This may put him off the habit.  Other than that, I can't really help.

Good luck with Harley.

Hi Julia, I have had this problem in the past with my two young boys and my vet has said he felt that it was because the poo still contains undigested goodness and so still smelled of "food" to the dog. This indicated in my dogs particularly, a malabsorbtion problem (both their poos were soft and both quite skinny). I was prescribed an enzyme powder to put on the food to enable it to break down quicker and advised to soak dry kibble overnight to feed next day. I think fran griffin (see her discussions on this siteknows of a good enzyme (mercola) which can be bought direct. I got mine (a different make) from the vet and it was about £75.00 a tub. However because it is a recognised problem in some dogs the insurance covered it because the vet prescribed it. This didnt fully stop the problem completely so then I changed their diet to Fish4pets and low and behold that particular issue stopped dont know why maybe coincidence or were they getting better nourishment??.

I think I would change harleys food. my vet said try giving only one protein source at a time (i.e not a food that has say Lamb and chicken together) avoid one which says poultry as it can be a combination of birds. Turkey, Duck and fish have given me the least problems over the years. Unfortunately I think it also can end up being a learned behaviour which is a further problem to overcome. 

Just one point one of my boys became intolerant of fish4dogs in that he drank excessively and ended up with a bladder problem. both boys are now on Bob&Lush (Duck, Rice and Peas) and are thriving well no bladder or malabsorbtion problems. Good luck.

Hi, just a thought have you had Harley checked for diabetes or pancreatitis?     Years ago a friend had and English Setter who did exactly this and he was diagnosed with diabetes and the reason seemingly, that he and his kennelmates rushed to eat his poo was because it was sweet!!!!!!!!     When I mentioned it to another friend who had a Great Dane who had the same habit her vet diagnosed pancreatitis and when he was medicated he stopped it.   The ES took longer because it had also become a habit but his Kms stopped immediately when he began his treatment.  Happily both dogs lived to old age.   Also the pineapple is a good suggestion, I've heard that one before, it's ok if it's a habit  but get him checked by vet to eliminate any possible health issues.


Hi my last boy also did this but just eating his own poo, i also asked vet he didn't think there was anything wrong and he would stop as he got older, which he did, but he only did it when out in the garden not when on walks so i just cleared it up extra quick so he didn't get the chance to eat .

I feel very  strongly that there ARE malabsorption issues in a lot of Irish Setters.  I also feel that this leads to the gut developing a great deal of bad bacteria, based upon on the latest research of how the human gut is working.  I also think they ought to be looking in this direction for the cause of bloat, as bad bacteria will ferment, and cause some very weird and dark bacteria to form,  This is the main reason why mine are fed good quality, well balanced raw food, have plenty of omega 3's (no 6's or 9's) and also digestive enzymes.  On top of this, I am fermenting raw vegetables (for myself and my own health issues) and have just started introducing very small amounts of this into the dogs food, as this contains the highest possible amount of probiotic (which no powdered form can get anywhere near) and the kind of good bacteria which no powdered form can provide.  The fact that one of my dogs, who was supposed to have died by Christmas 2011 latest, is still here, enjoying life, looking good, is living testament there being a high probability that I am on the right path with this.  There is plenty of research going on with regards to humans at the moment, which my niece is very much involved with at Sheffield. The vet who now looks after Tallulah is also convinced there is a problem in Irish Setters, based upon her own experiences over the years.

Feeding any form of kibble cannot help the gut to work properly.  It goes against the very nature of how the gut processed food. It is denatured food you are asking a gut to work on which has spent millions of years evolving to process natural food.  The pet food industry lie through their flipping teeth when they claim that the dogs gut has evolved in the past 50 years.  That too defies the laws of evolution !

Here you find the great Dr. Mercola (who is a true advocate for getting the latest and most accurate information out to people) interviewing Dr. Karen Becker on the pet food industry, who makes some very strong points, but barely scratches the surface of what is going on. 



Hi Finn.  The fermented veg are the same that  I feed to myself.  Fermentation is the oldest preserving process known to humans, and is on the way back,  What it actually does is replaces bad bacteria from poor diets, and any antibiotics which have been prescribed with very good bacteria. Many people freak out at the idea of giving fermented foods to dogs thinking that adding fermenting ingredients will cause gas and possibly bloat.  It could do IF they are not introduced very gradually.  What happens is that when you start to introduce good bacteria into the gut, the old bacteria are going to start fighting for their existence, and they effectively declare war. This is where some type of crisis can occur.  I am literally adding a teaspoonful of this into their diets, and then monitoring what happens.   They seem to be doing ok  After a few weeks I might increase this to about a desert spoon of fermented veg.  What I am looking to do is to repopulate the gut with good bacteria, and gradually kill off the bad stuff.  This should start to boost their immune systems and the way the stomach works like nothing else on earth, increasing absorption, thus helping their metabolism to function as it should.   I am reporting all this back to our vet, and waiting to see what transpires.

Your experience with the can food and kibble sounds just like what happened to DaisyMae after a TV shoot in London last year, where she ate a bowl of Beta.   My goodness she was unwell for a few days after, and suffered with anal gland issues for some months after.  After a lot of detoxing, she is now back on track. Hopefully these fermented foods will now start helping her gut to recover from the anti-biotics (anti life) she had and prevent other things from taking hold further down the line.

Poor you!  What a nuisance. 

I'm on Setter #5, and two of them were poo eaters.  They grew out of it eventually.  You shouldn't need to spend a lot of money on fixing this.  Meat tenderizer makes their poo unappetizing to them--I've used a brand called Adolph's Meat Tenderizer.  The vet recommended it.  You just sprinkle it on their food as though you were salting it. 

But that doesn't help with other dogs' poo.  I would get a garbage muzzle - one that he can't eat with - and put it on him every time he is outside.  I had to do that with one setter who had a garbage addiction and another that kept up an ear-splitting howl the entire time we were in the car.  With the muzzle on he could only hum.  They both grew to LOVE the muzzle because it meant we were going out. 

In addition, apply a taste deterrent to his bum - Garrick's Bitter Apple works well for me - so that he gets it in his mouth if he's rooting around back there.  Oddly enough, you'll need to try a number of the taste deterrent products because they'll love to eat most of them.  But there will be one he hates and it WILL put him off.  It broke one of my setters of the nervous habit of licking his paws raw and another of licking his backside raw.  Keep it up and it will work.

ALL of my setters have been allergic to gluten.  One of my setters would get a completely bald belly from wheat. You shouldn't have to break the bank feeding them, however.  Read the food bags really carefully.  I was furious to discover that an expensive "lamb and rice" product I'd been using contained corn - which of course is a gluten grain!!!  My current setter is doing well on Salmon & Sweet Potato from Costco @ about $1 per lb.

If he has persistent runny stools he likely has parasites or worms.  Get something from the vet and never mind the foolishness and silly advice about about magic foods and remedies. 

I sympathize but hang on and it will all work out.

If anyone has any doubts about what crazy feeding, and crazy veterinary advice can do please READ THIS ARTICLE.  I find it ASTONISHING BEYOND BELIEF that vets are SOOOOOO brainwashed, suffering from cognitive dissonance that they keep on "let's try this, let's try that" whilst all the time the dog is dying, and then along comes a real "crazy/dangerous" who hasn't been brainwashed by the pet food industry and the pharmaceuticals which are invariably LINKED and hey presto. Isn't it great for some pet owners like myself can continue enjoying their beloved dogs after finding somebody who dares to think outside of the box.


Well said Fran...I agree with all you say and am proud to say I have never fed Riley or Cassie commercial food and never will and as for filling them with chemicals well you know my thoughts on that..

1. One of the reasons dogs were domesticated in the first place is because they eat poo.

2. I didn't realize that dog feeding/medical care was a religion. My apologies to those Believers whom I have inadvertenty dissed. Hopefully I am still entitled to share my experiences.

No religion. Perhaps you would like to elaborate on  your views based upon the above video as well as the experiences of my own Setter who if left to convention would have died late last year?  One of her early symptoms was poo eating when she was fed a commercial diet.

Am not talking about 'belief' systems,  Just fact.  Poo eating is a survival instinct of wild dogs and wolves when they are they are in a famine situation......  not when they have plenty. However, when plenty isn't actually providing what the body needs, leaving the body in starvation mode which is what modern foods are doing,(to dogs and humans) then the nutritional balance needs to be resolved.   I can back my knowledge of how the gut works from the latest research coming from well respected sources. I have to keep abreast of these things you see. as this is the only way I have been able to save the life of one of my dogs, as well as my own life, because conventional medicine failed us both. So if you know something I haven't yet come across, please enlighten me?

Poo eating is within a normal range of behaviours for a dog, like a child picking its nose in public.  It's just a problematic behaviour that needs to stop.

Nobody can tell you how long your dog is going to live, and that's a fact.  The information you received about it's life expectancy was someone's best guess.  As much as your dog is lucky indeed to be so loved and cared for, the fact that it has lived longer than the guess is simply not proof or even evidence it had anything to do with your home treatments. 

I don't go to the health food store when my dog gets sick, I go to the vet.  And when I take my dog to the vet, I expect the vet to treat whatever the problem is most likely to be.  And in the unlikely event that that doesn't work, then I expect we will try the next most likely thing.  There are about 6,000 "orphan" medical conditions in humans with no treatments, because they're too rare to be able to earn the research costs back for developing a treatment.  If only 6 people (or dogs) in North America need your new pill or ray machine, you're never going to get your $2 billion you spent on development. So you might indeed find yourself on your own.  I expect it's the same with dogs.  The fact that doctors and vets don't always have all the answers (and sometimes they even MAKE A MISTAKE!!!) is not support for self-doctoring or evidence of a conspiracy involving vets and/or dog food complanies.  I'm glad you and your dog got better, but I'm not going to watch the snake oil video. 


With a million tons of pets being destroyed every year because people just can't manage, let's not make people feel guilty about buying (gasp!) commercial dog food.  My dog is alergic to gluten.  You would not like to see what comes out when he eats gluten.  He does just fine on gluten-free commercial dog food.  His teeth are clean, his eyes are clear, his coat gleams, he's full of beans, his poo is a wonder to behold, and he hasn't eaten any of it since he "got the message" 9 years ago.




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