There is no question that dogs are great animals and even better pets. They play with us, comfort us, guard us and love us unconditionally. Every house should have a dog.
Dogs are also capable of some pretty quirky behavior too. Dogs have been known to roll around in the mud, chase cars and drink from toilet bowls. They lick each other rear ends. But perhaps the most perplexing and gross habit of dogs is when they eat poop.
The proper name for poop eating is coprophagia. Sadly, some dog owners feel that this habit is deserving of rehoming their pet or even euthanasia. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are several reasons why your dog might be eating poop, and it is worth the time and effort to figure out why and take steps to break him of this habit.
- Some History On Coprophagia
- Is It Ever a Normal Behavior?
- Can There be a Medical Reason for Coprophagia?
- How Can You Help Prevent Coprophagia?
- Points to Remember
Some History On Coprophagia
It is helpful to remember that dogs were originally scavengers. They lived in packs and had to eat whatever was available and what they could find. Some animal behaviorists feel that coprophagia was a survival method-when food was scarce, they had to eat whatever was handy, even poop.
Facts about dogs eating poop
1. Having more than one dog in your home increases the chances of one of your them eating feces.
2. Coprophagia is more common in females than males, especially males who have not been neutered.
3. 92% of dogs who eat poop will only eat it when it is 1 to 2 days old.
4. Most dogs who eat poop, 85%, will not eat their own poop.
5. Dogs who tend to steal food from counters and tables are more likely to be poop eaters than those who do not steal food.
6. Dogs who eat feces do not eat soft stools. They prefer stools that harder and well formed. Frozen poop is a treat.
Is It Ever a Normal Behavior?
Although humans find the idea of eating poop to be disgusting, it is actually normal in some stages of a dog’s life.
A mother dog will lick her puppies. This is to help encourage them to go to the bathroom as well as help clean them after they have defecated. It is also normal for puppies to eat poop. It is an age appropriate behavior for them.
Different types of coprophagia
Although it may seem that eating feces is a category unto itself, they act of eating feces can be broken down into two different categories.
Dogs that enjoy their own feces have what is called autocoprophagia.
If your dog eats his own poop and the feces of other dogs and animals, that is called allocoprophagia. Puppies tend to eat their own and will eat others too. Horse and goose feces are particular favorites.
It is not medically worrisome for dogs to eat their own feces. They will not get sick from this. The concern comes from eating the feces of other animals. Then it can be easy for them to get sick from parasites or viruses.
Can There be a Medical Reason for Coprophagia?
Anytime you have a question about your pet’s health, you should absolutely call your vet. It is important to keep in mind, though, that there can be medical reasons why your dog might be indulging in feces. If you notice your dog starts this behavior, you should get medical advice from your vet.
Some medical reasons for coprophagia include:
1.Parasites. This definitely needs to be diagnosed by your vet so the proper treatment can be administered.
2.A deficient diet. If your dog is missing key nutrition or vitamins in their diet, they could be eating feces as a way to get what is lacking in their food.
3.Problems absorbing nutrients. Again, if your dog is getting proper nutrition, but is having problems digesting and absorbing them, they could resort to this behavior.
4.Autoimmune Diseases. Diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disease or Cushing’s can cause your dog to eat poop.
5.Medications. If your dog is on steroids to treat another condition, it can cause him to eat feces. If you notice this develops while taking medicine or steroids, talk to your vet.
What are some other reasons why my dog might eat poop?
Coprophagia can be caused by more than just medical concerns. In fact, this behavior can very likely be a symptom of environmental stress or behavioral triggers. Here are some of the ways stress can lead to coprophagia.
- Research has proved that dogs who are kept alone are more likely to eat feces than those who are surrounded by their family. Do not keep your dog in the basement or a kennel.
- Dogs who are confined to small spaces can suffer from coprophagia. This is one reason why you may see this behavior in dogs who have been rescued from over-crowded shelters.
- Owners who use harsh punishment or extreme house-training methods could actually be causing their dogs to develop coprophagia. The theory is that the dog will eat their own feces so that do not get punished by the owner.
- Looking for attention. Just as with people, dogs can use negative behavior as a way of getting attention.
- Feeding too close to the bathroom area. Dogs who are fed in the same area where they eliminate will begin to have trouble differentiating between food and feces. This is because the smells become the same. Be sure to feed your dog in a clean space, well away from where the do their business.
- Living with a sick dog. In houses with more than one dog, it can be possible for a healthy dog to eat the feces of a sicker or older dog. The theory that animal behaviorist attribute to this is pack mentality. The healthy dog is helping to protect the sick dog by eating the feces.
How Can You Help Prevent Coprophagia?
Thankfully there are several easy steps you can take to help prevent or eliminate this behavior in your dog.
- Make sure they get a nutritious diet. You can give them vitamin supplements to be sure they are getting the nutrients they need. There are many available over the counter and your vet will be happy to help you figure out the best one for your dog.
- Give an enzyme supplement. It is thought that the diet of dogs today is too high in carbohydrates, and lower in protein and fats. Some dog owners give their pets an enzyme supplement which seems to help stop the behavior of eating feces.
- Taste aversion. The idea of taste aversion says that if the feces does not taste well, the dogs will not eat it. You can spray the feces with products containing garlic, pepper, etc in the hopes that it will deter the dog from eating them. There are also pills available that will change the taste of your dog’s feces as well. If you have a multi-dog home, make sure all the dogs eat the pills.
What other steps can you take to curb coprophagia?
Make sure you are not keeping your dog confined to one area or small space. Your dog should have plenty of room to play, eat and live. This is especially true if you cannot or do not walk your dog daily.
If you leave your dog in our fenced in yard, it is crucial that you police the yard daily. Not only does this keep the dog from eating feces, it will keep your yard from smelling.
If your dog shares your home with cats, be sure to clean litter boxes. Litter boxes can provide a buffet for dogs.
Work on obedience training. Dogs love to please us. A well-trained dog is happy and secure because they have a focus and a direction. There are commands you can teach your dog so that they will “drop it” or “leave it”. These commands are important as they can be used for any dangerous situation your dog might become involved in as well.
You can also train your dog to come to you for treats. This sets up a great dynamic between you and your dog. It is also much more hygienic and healthier for your best friend.
Points to Remember
Dogs eat feces for a variety of reasons. The first step is to have your vet check your dog to rule out any medical reasons for their behavior.
If your dog is no longer a puppy, this behavior is no longer age appropriate. Make sure your dog has plenty of clean living space and nutritious food. Begin obedience training and make time for walks together. While you are working on these steps, a taste aversion pill can help by changing the taste of the feces.
Dogs are important parts of our lives. We want to be sure they are happy, healthy and stress free. Making sure your dog has a great home environment is crucial for curtailing any unfavorable behavior, such as coprophagia.
Dogs show us unconditional love and they deserve the same from us.