What Can I Do About My Dog’s Coprophagia (Poop Eating)?

19 01 2009

dog-poopAs I may have mentioned, I got a new dictionary for Christmas.  I have been spending a lot of time looking up words in it.  When I looked up “coprophagia,” it was not in my new Webster’s.  I am guessing that they did not include the word, because is refers to eating poop, and humans do not typically suffer from this malady. In fact, humans that do suffer from this are probably taken away very quickly, never to see poop again!

Unfortunately, the truth about this matter is that there is no clear cut reason as to why it happens.  It may be “dressed up” with fancy words, but it really does come down to eating poop.  This can be cat, horse, rabbit or even their own poop.

According to what I have read, fewer than one in ten dogs eat their own feces.  While it is nice that 90% of dogs are not affected, it is no consolation to those that love one who is part of the other 10%.

With this behavior, I suggest that your first action be a consultation with your vet.  It is important to establish that there are no medical conditions or vitamin/mineral deficiencies that could explain the behavior.  Once you get his “all clear” that there are no physical reasons for it, you must address the problem behaviorally as soon as possible.

There are a lot of nasty things in poop.  That’s why it’s poop!  Personally, I consider poop to be that stuff my body tried to use, but could find no use for it and so it became poop.  I think that most people would agree with my thoughts here.  If a dog eats the feces of another dog, he may be at risk for communicable canine diseases, like canine parvovirus.  He may also be ingesting some pretty disgusting parasites as well.

Feces from rabbits, horses, and other herbivores contain partially digested vegetable matter.  Some dogs will take their vegetables any way they can get them.  Cat feces, sometimes referred to as treats from the cat to the dog, is NOT a real treat.  Cat feces often contain a high level of protein, leading some to believe this may be appealing for dogs.  Some hunting dogs, or dogs that live near lakes, may take to eating wild bird poop.  Salmonella bacteria, as well as Giardia, are prevalent in the feces of wild birds, and anyone who has had salmonellosis can attest that it is severely unpleasant.

The prevailing theory about dogs that develop coprophagia is that they eat poop because they are bored and receive little exercise.  Dogs that are always tied up, especially in one particular area, are more likely to develop this disgusting habit.  For dogs, if our scenery never changes, we are going to to make it interesting somehow.  The worst part about this habit is that once a dog develops it, that behavior is very hard to break.

So far, we have discussed coprophagia and what a disgusting habit it is.  We have also discovered that there are multiple reasons as to why a dog would want to do such a thing, without a singular, clear reason for it.  Now, let’s talk about some things that you can do to break your dog of this behavior.

Over the years, I have heard some good stories about what people have tried.  One of those stories advocates the use of hot sauce, pepper or various other unhealthy chemicals as an additive to the feces.  The belief is that it will end the problem, because dogs do not like the taste of hot sauce or peppers.  Of course, the use of chemicals is definitely NOT a good idea, as it could do considerable damage, possibly resulting int the death of your dog.  As far as the hot sauce or peppers, I would not hold it as truth, because some dogs may like the flavor it adds, encouraging your dog’s behavior, which is certainly not the goal we had in mind.

I have also heard of people trying to add meat tenderizer to their dogs’ food, in hopes that it will change the texture of the feces, thereby making it undesirable.  Keep in mind that many meat tenderizers are made from pineapples and some dogs like to have fruit as a part of their diet.  I have seen products that claim to correct this condition as I roam the aisles at the local pet store, but I have not heard of any product or treatment that has a 100% success rate.

In my estimation, the most successful method is to remove all feces from the areas your dog has access to as soon as possible after they have been produced.  I would suggest coupling this with giving your dog a wonderful, tasty treat after he gets busy, and the dog will learn that pooping brings good treats from the human, rather seeking them on the ground.

I know that there will be times that you are unaware that there may be poop lurking around the corner or at the dog park.  Mom has one major rule about the time we spend outside, especially in areas over which we do not have complete control.  This rule addresses the unknown: never allow your dog so much lag on a leash that they are able to turn a corner and be out of your sight, even it it is for a second.  You do not know what is around the corner.  Whether it is poop, unfriendly strange dogs, mean cats, bad people or people that are afraid of dogs lurking around the corner, if your dog arrives first, you will not have time to take appropriate action.  As a PTD (Pretty Terrific Dog), I have an extensive vocabulary, so I do understand SUPERVISE, and I know that Mom is the SUPERVISOR!

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6 responses

20 01 2009
ARPhilo

One of my dogs loves to eat this stuff and does not discriminate between whose it is or what animal it comes from. Perhaps he is bored. His scenery unfortunately is pretty stable being that he doesn’t get out much past the yard (due to other behavioral issues he has). He’s apparently had the poop fetish since his shelter days. I’ll bring it up with his vet as well. Thanks for the article and I will try some of the stuff in it.

20 01 2009
Linda

believe me I know for a fact that vitimins and minerals is NOT why my dogs eat POOP. My 3 last labradors all eat dog poop from each other but not their own and do not believe the youngest dogs poops get eaten- I think this has dominence reasons behind it.
I know they learned this behavior from my first labrador. I feed TOP quality dog food , and extra vitimins ect…… I do pick up every day, but with 4 dogs it is really difficult to control. Boredom , no way they are all walked 2 miles a day and do dog agility and rally obedience training- are very active dogs. I am home most the time – so that idea is just out the window. I have learned not to get up too upset about it but the gas they get from it is the worst. Winter time this problem really becomes more trouble because snow covers it and I can’t find it to pick up! I do not believe anything I can feed them will stop it. I really think it’s a natural thing for them, but I do wonder is it has calories? would anyone know that answer.

21 01 2009
Kelly

My dog eats her stuff and loves it if she can get to it faster than me. It’s gross. I’ve read in the Shih Tzu books I have that its pretty common to that breed-maybe some breeds are more prone to it than others. My pup isn’t lacking anything, I do believe she just likes it.

Just goes to show you that though we treat them sometimes as babies, they’re not-they’re dogs. Love em-just don’t kiss em on the mouth.

7 03 2009
Salaxk

One obvious reason that answers and discussions on the internet never seem to have considered is the simple fact that small animals have short intestinal tracts. Therefore, smaller animals tend to eat poop. That is why cows and humans do not eat poop.

A smaller animal’s intestinal length is incapable of digesting plant material sufficiently, as well as unable to process its ingestions to allow bacteria to fully develop.

By eating another animal’s poop it is borrowing the intestinal tract of the other animal as part of its digestive process. By eating its own poop, it is doubling the length of its own digestive tract by double dipping. Therefore, smaller dogs tend to practice it more frequently.

It is apparently safer for a dog to ingest its own poop rather than that of another animal to avoid being infected by any possible unfriendly micro-organism.

It is therefore, unnatural and possibly diet-wise harmful to stop a dog from eating its own poop unless it is an obsession with the dog.

Perhaps, you should change the dog food you are feeding your dog to reduce the frequency of its double-dipping.

You should also consider slow-boiling carrot-potato-tomato soup with garlic till the vegetables become soft and dissolved and then mixing it into its dry dog food. You should try different vegetables like broccoli.

You should consider bringing your dog to a horse farm where the animals are certified disease free and let it enjoy a great chow day once a month.

By all means let your dog eat its own poop but not too frequently. It’s only natural.

7 03 2009
Spike

That’s certainly an interesting suggestion, Salaxk. Not one I endorse, but interesting.

7 03 2009
Linda

I have to say that SAYLAXK may be on to something! I have never heard that but it actually makes more sense to me. I still think dominence plays a roll at my home plus I think they just like it and it was a learned behavior by 2 of my dogs. I heard Ceasar Millan say it was from 2 things- #1 Mineral vitimin defeciency, or boredom. Sorry , i hear this over and over again but do not agree. I have to agree with kelly too, just love em but don’t kiss on the lips!! LOL. Linda

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