Dealing With Coprophagia
Why Do Dogs Eat Dog or Cat Poop?
Dog Coprophagia is most common in puppies up to a year old, but can occur at any stage in a dog’s life. While there are many crazy theories as to why dogs engage in this behavior, the truth is that there are quite a few animals and other mammals that exhibit the same behavior. The explanation that makes the most sense to me is that dogs increase the biodiversity of their gut microbiome by eating other dogs’ excrement.
Have you heard of fecal transplants in humans? This approach is currently used to treat all kinds of health issues in people and is a similar concept.
The young of elephants, giant pandas, koalas and hippos eat the feces of their mothers or other animals in the herd, in order to obtain the bacteria required to properly digest vegetation found in their ecosystems. When such animals are born, their intestines are sterile and do not contain these bacteria. Without doing this they would be unable to obtain any nutritional value from plants.
An important thing to remember for all dog owners who’s dogs eat poop, is to keep their dog’s vaccinations up to date, and they must be regularly wormed. The reason for this is that various diseases and internal parasites can be passed from dog to dog through Coprophagia.
One last thing – most dogs do grow out of their poop eating habit, just not fast enough for us owners!
Common Proposed Explanations for Dog Coprophagia
- It simply tastes good to your dog (disgusting I know!).
- Could be a symptom of anxiety or boredom.
- Puppies may have a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
- If a puppy is punished for eliminating (pooping) inside your house he may on future occasions eat his poop to “hide the evidence”. This could happen because your puppy is confused, he thinks that he was punished for pooping, rather than for pooping inside.
- Could be that your dog is cleaning up his living area. This of course should be the owners job.
- Sometimes dogs develop this habit because they are copying other dogs behavior.
- Bitches with a young litter of pups will often eat the puppies droppings. This is to keep the area clean and also to help conceal the litter from any predators.
- Could be the result of over feeding. If a dog is over fed he doesn’t properly digest his food, therefore his feces still smell and taste like his dinner!
- If you only feed once a day, some dogs can become very hungry and scavenge around for any food (including poop).
- Some dogs have been known to develop Coprophagia when on antibiotics.
- A dog may eat the poop of a sick dog. This behavior is an attempt to conceal or protect the sick dog from predators.
How To Stop Dogs Eating Dog Poop
The techniques below have helped some clients to stop dogs eating dog poop. You should try one method or combine a few until you break your dogs habit. Remember that punishing or getting angry with your dog does not work – for this or any other behavioral problem.
- Feed well balanced and nutritious meals. You can use this website to guide you.
- Try feeding twice a day instead of once. Make sure puppies are fed at LEAST every eight hours (so three times a day with eight hours in between each feeding).
- Always keep your dogs living area clean of feces.
- Be sure your dog gets enough physical and mental stimulation every day.
- Teach your dog the basic obedience command “Leave It”. Use this command if he goes near feces. Correct him if he doesn’t listen using an audible correction. Praise him if he does listen.
- A technique one client successfully used to stop her mother’s Shih Tzu from eating her poop was to put a tablespoon of pineapple in her food.
- Apparently pineapple tastes terrible when eaten in poop – can’t say I’ve tried it myself! Other people have used Pumpkin, Spinach, Pickles or Garlic for the same purpose.
- As soon as you see your dog pooping provide a distraction. Maybe run off on him or call him over to you straight away, you can then praise or reward him. This may be sufficient to break the habit but you must be consistent using this method.
- If you visit your local pet store you will find various products specifically designed for this problem. Forbid and Deter are a couple of products which have proven to be effective.
- Another method which you could adopt is to lace your dogs poop with tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper.