Coprophagia: The act of eating poo… EW!

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July 8, 2010
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I’ve worked with dogs who have a bad habit of eating feces. I’ve also known dogs who “clean” their own back yard. I don’t enjoy getting “kisses” from these dogs at all. I’m sure there are a bunch of us who have met or have dogs that do this and wonder why they think it’s something to eat and how to curb the behavior.

Why Do Dogs Eat Feces?
There are several proposed reasons why a dog may engage in this unhealthy habit:

1: Some dogs may think it just tastes good.

2: Some dogs who have been inappropriately punished for defecating in the house or other places may eat it to eliminate evidence and avoid punishment.

3: Parasites or starvation

4: Shelter dogs may eat their own feces in response to stress and anxiety.

5: Dogs may eat other animals’ feces if they can sense that it may be rich in vitamins, such as eating an herbivore’s fecal matter which could contain vitamin B. Or they may eat their own if they feel they need to replenish their system with nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.

6: Medical condition such as a disorder of the pancreas, intestinal system, or malnutrition.

7: Mothers may eat the feces of their puppies as a natural response to hide the scent of the litter from potential predators.

What Can You Do?
There are a few options that you can try that are low-cost, easy, and can make all the difference when trying to break your dog of this habit.

1. Check the food you’re feeding your dog. Make sure it’s a high quality and has meat, not meat by-products, and start adding dog vitamins to the diet.

2. When you walk your dog or take it out into the backyard, clean up the waste immediately.

3. You may want to try and teach your dog to go to the bathroom in one area of the yard. This way, cleanup will be easier and you’ll be able to better monitor your dog.

4. If your dog knows the command, “leave it” use it so (s)he doesn’t try to eat it before you have a chance to clean it up.

5. There are things you can toss on top of the waster that will make it unattractive to your dog such as hot sauce, the bitter apple spray, or pepper.

6. You can add deterrents such as Forbid to your dog’s food which will make the feces taste bad. Check with your vet.

7. Some dogs will stop naturally if they are fed 3 or 4 small meals as opposed to 2 large meals. This may help them always feel full and not want to eat anything else.

Once again, it’s best to always talk with your vet as each dog may have a unique reason for engaging in this behavior.

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