Dogs Behaving Badly: Dogs Who Eat Poop
Dogs can be gross creatures at times, and most of us have seen our beloved pets do something a little repulsive. If you have been unfortunate enough to catch your dog raiding the litter box, munching on bunny droppings in the yard, or even cleaning up after himself, you may have been horrified.
Your friendly veterinarians at Schertz Animal Hospital want you to know, though, that you are not alone. Dogs who eat poop aren’t that unusual, and you shouldn’t spend much time worrying.
The medical term for the ingestion of fecal matter is coprophagia. Dogs may ingest feces for a wide variety of reasons. In most cases the cause is behavioral, but medical reasons for the habit should be ruled out before chalking things up to a penchant for poop.
Some medical causes that potentially could increase the desire to ingest feces include:
- Malnutrition/vitamin or mineral deficiencies
- Malabsorption disorders
- Increased appetite due to another disease process
- Calorie restriction
Oftentimes, however, coprophagia is purely behavioral. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for why poop eating is such a common phenomenon, but there are a few theories out there that might explain things.
The first thought is that it is one way in which our pets explore the world. Dogs investigate with their mouths, and ingesting feces is a means of interacting with their surroundings. Dogs may also see other dogs engaging in this habit and copy the behavior.
Another theory is that some pets may begin to ingest feces out of boredom. Not to mention, when they munch on fecal matter, many times their owners shower them with attention, inadvertently rewarding the behavior. It is easy to forget that even negative attention is still attention.
There also appears to be an instinctual drive to “clean up” and groom other animals. Ingesting poop may be your dog’s version of housekeeping. Mother dogs often clean up after their pups, and there seems to be a strong drive for dogs to eat the stools of other pets, especially when a health issue is present.
The feces of other animals may also hold an appeal due to its unique taste. The odor, texture, taste, and even fiber content may prove to be attractive to our curious canines.
Dogs Who Eat Poop and What to Do
So what is a dog owner to do? Clearly, condoning poop eating isn’t really anyone’s idea of the right thing to do.
If your pet is a poop eater, it is important to have him or her examined in order to rule out any health issues. If there is an underlying cause, treating it is important not only to correct coprophagia, but also to treat the offending disease process.
If your dog’s dirty habit is deemed behavioral, all hope is not lost, though. Be sure to:
Stay vigilant – The most effective step is often the most work, but preventing access to fecal matter is very important in curbing coprophagia. Pay attention to when your pet is likely to defecate and clean up after him or her immediately. Accompany your animals outdoors to be sure that cleanup is prompt. It is also useful to teach your dog a “leave it” command in order to interrupt the behavior when needed.
Change it up – Sometimes a diet change is very helpful. Dogs who are on a diet may need more fiber in order to feel more full and less apt to dine on droppings.
Try additives – Sometimes a food additive can help prevent dogs from eating poop. Meat tenderizers sprinkled on the food can increase protein digestion and alter the taste of the feces. Other additives, such as papaya, pineapple, or yogurt, have also been purported to change the taste enough to deter some dogs. Unfortunately, none of these solutions work for all dogs.
While poop eating isn’t the most glamorous behavior, it is typically not harmful. Dogs will rarely eat enough stool that it prevents them from taking in adequate nutrition. There is also a concern for increased exposure to intestinal parasites, making frequent fecal examinations important.
If you have a dog who likes to eat poop, the first thing to do is give us a call so that we can check out the situation and rule out a medical reason for the behavior. No one wants a poop eating pet, and we are happy to help out in any way we can.