Infants & Toddlers | Safety
June 30, 2017

What to do if your child eats dog poop

by child ate dog poo

Beyond moving past the yuck factor, here’s what to do if your child eats dog poop.


“My child just ate our dog’s poop!”

Young children’s natural curiosity causes them to touch and to feel things, and very often to put those objects in their mouths. We love that our children are curious and have a sense of adventure, but cringe when they push the limits of what is sanitary or safe. This mother’s worst germ-phobic nightmare may have been realized in that moment when her precious child put the dog’s stool in her mouth.

Feces, poop, doo-doo, scat, #2, caca, BM, stool.

We have many names for that which we hope that our toddlers never think of investigating too closely.

Eating poop earns a “yuck factor” of 10 for all of us, pediatricians included, but, all polite conversation aside, we need to know if a child who ingests stool could come to any harm. We love our children and many of us are pet lovers, too. Should we worry that our children will get sick from ingesting Fido or Fluffy’s — or heaven forbid, their own — #2?

As you know, poop (called excrement or droppings in scientific literature) contains large amounts of bacteria. Despite seeming an enormous bio-hazard, according to the Tennessee Poison Center, the ingestion of a small amount of stool of a healthy animal or person is considered minimally toxic. They state that the ingestion of a mouthful of poop is not toxic and that the great majority of children have no illness afterwards. Maybe just bad breath, yucky teeth and an exasperated parent.

So if children eat any type of excrement, be it canine, feline or human:

1. Clean them up.

Wash their hands and face well with a washcloth, mild soap and warm water, being careful to make sure that their fingernails are clean. Wipe their teeth with a washcloth or soft toothbrush. And for reassurance, it is always OK to call the Poison Help Hotline: 1-800- 222–1222.

2. Give them a few sips of water to drink.

They may experience immediate nausea and vomiting from the unpleasantness of eating something so unpalatable. They may (or may not) feel “yucky” and lose their appetites for a little while or they may vomit a time or two. It is safe to give your child a few sips of water to drink, and watch them at home for symptoms.

3. Watch them over the next few days for problems.

Most children will act as if their dietary indiscretion never happened, but occasionally children may develop symptoms similar to food poisoning, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and mild fever. Most likely these symptoms will run the course and don’t require a trip to the doctor’s office. But call your child’s pediatrician if your child experiences vomiting for more than 24 hours; has severe abdominal pain, bloody stools or diarrhea for more than 7 days; or fever. The call can help you decide if and when your child needs to be seen by the doctor.

Bottom line: No need to worry. The majority of children are unharmed. Children’s bodies and their immune systems are amazingly designed to fight off the attacks from the microscopic world of microbes. And for yourself, let go of parenting guilt. And don’t give the dog away for this!


This post was written by Stephanie Eidson, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Infants, Early Childhood

Mother comforting child

Vanderbilt’s Children’s After-Hours Clinics offer the convenience of a walk-in clinic with care provided by a board-certified pediatrician from Children’s Hospital. No appointment is necessary, but we recommend calling your pediatrician first. Learn more about services and find locations for Children’s Hospital After Hours Clinic locations.

2 thoughts on “What to do if your child eats dog poop”

  1. T. says:

    Disgusting! but insightful.

  2. Renee says:

    I tasted my female German shepherd’s poop around the age of 18 months old in the backyard. I was curious. I just took a pinch of my nanny shepherd poop, put it to my lips, and touched the tip of my tongue to it. It tasted like dog crap. My mother cleaned my hands and face, and then, gave me some children’s mouth wash to swoosh in my mouther. I didn’t get sick. The mouthwash took the taste out of my mouth. My worse indiscretion as a child was swallowing a dime I saw in the change area of a soda machine. The doctor told my mother to slap me. Why? Well, mom had to go a hunting for three days as I defecated into a hat (plastic container placed in the toilet). Yes, she found the dime on the third day. The dime had evidently oxidized from the acids in one’s stomach and colon. Whenever you see an oxidized dime, it was probably inside of some child’s intestine. If it is difficult to discern the dime from a penny, it most likely was inside of a child’s digestive system. If you tell the cashier what it looks like, the cashier will most likely agree. Babies are like dogs — everything goes in their mouths! Parents must talk with their children to educate them — no matter how old or young they may be. A human child (baby) understands more than you think. The more time spent with that baby, the more one speaks with that baby, the more quickly the child’s brain begins to function to full capacity. That’s why some kids can skip a few grades. The more time one invests in educating one’s child, the quicker the child learns — and the higher the child’s intelligence quotient.

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