A poopular issue we hear from our customers is that their pet is eating feces... and usually their own... before they want to, of course, shower you with kisses! YUCK!!! So let's discuss a totally disgusting topic, coprophagia.
Coprophagia is a pleasant term for stool eating.
Although the idea of this activity is totally gross, there is actually one stage in a pet's life when coprophagia is expected... When mother dogs and cats have litters, they deliberately consume the feces of their puppies or kittens to hide their scent while the litter is vulnerable and sheltered in the den.
Beyond that, poop eating is just plain gross.
Coprophagia is mainly rooted in digestive issues, with the following three reasons needing the most pressing attention:
A healthy pancreas is vital to your pet's overall well-being because it produces enzymes that help them digest the nutrients from their food. When your pet lacks these enzymes, most of the nutrients will not be properly absorbed and will be simply eliminated through their poop.
Dogs have several digestive enzymes that they can produce on their own, but they need to get the rest from their diet. Over time, enzyme deficiency can cause your pets to starve, lose weight and eventually resort to eating their stools because they're trying to obtain those much-needed nutrients.
In other cases, dogs may eat the stool from healthier animals. Rabbit poop is one of the richest sources not only of digestive enzymes, but also B vitamins. Many dogs, if they stumble upon rabbit droppings, will scarf them right up.
Dogs with a deficiency will "recycle" by eating enzyme-rich poop. Gross, I know, but true.
Intestinal parasites can play a role in coprophagia.
To prevent the spread of disease among the young, the older members of a pack consume the feces instead. It may be an ancestral trait to help protect young pack members from ingesting parasites in their den.
We recommend dogs have their stools checked by their vet to make sure they're parasite-free, and a set de-worming protocol in important.
Healthy dogs can acquire intestinal parasites from eating feces, so a proper parasite control protocol is important for all dogs adn cats.
Dogs who are fed entirely processed, dry-food diets and eat no healthy foods at all will intentionally seek out other sources of digestive enzymes to make up for their own enzyme deficiency.
Cats with enzyme deficiencies, malabsorption, or who are fed poor-quality diets can provide litter box temptations for dogs in the family.
Many cheap dry foods contain ingredients that are not bioavailable, so ingredients are passed out in the stool undigested, providing scavenging dogs with the opportunity to "recycle."
Feeding your pet a diet containing high quality protein, probiotics and supplemental digestive enzymes can sometimes curb the urge to find gross sources of free enzymes around the yard or in the litter box.
In other cases, coprophagia can be caused by environmental and nurturing issues, such as:
•Cleanliness: A female dog may eat feces as a way to keep her surroundings clean for her puppies.
•Age: Puppies and kittens are very curious about their surroundings and it may get the better of them.
•Boredom: A bored pet may eat their poop simply because they have nothing to do.
•Avoiding punishment: If you reprimanded your dog from defecating in certain places before, they may resort to coprophagia to avoid being scolded again.
•Imitation: Your dog may emulate the mannerisms of other dogs in your neighborhood, including coprophagia.
Coprophagia Can Also Be a Behavioral Problem
Another cause for coprophagia in dogs is behavioral.
Some dogs, especially those in kennel situations, may eat feces because they are anxious and stressed.
Research also suggests dogs who are punished by their owners for inappropriate elimination develop the idea that pooping itself is bad. So they try to eliminate the evidence by consuming their feces.
Another theory that seems to hold some weight is that coprophagia is a trait noted in all canines — wolves, coyotes and domesticated dogs — and arises when food is in short supply.
Sadly, this is commom in puppy mill dogs. Puppies who go hungry, are weaned too young, have to fight for a place at a communal food dish, or are forced to sit for weeks in a tiny crate with nothing to do, are at high risk of developing habitual stool-eating behavior that becomes impossible to extinguish.
Coprophagic behavior can also be a learned behavior. Older dogs with the repulsive habit can teach it to younger dogs in the household.
Like a dysfunctional game of "monkey see, monkey do," one dog can teach the rest of the pack that this is what you do while wandering around the backyard.
Tips for Curbing Your Dog's Poop-Eating Habit
•First on the agenda is to pick up your dog's poop immediately, as soon after he eliminates as possible. Don't give him the opportunity to stumble across old feces in his potty spot.
•Next, if you have cats, get a self-cleaning litter box or place the box in a location in your home where your dog can't get to it.
•We also recommend you improve your pet's diet as much as possible, and add digestive enzymes and probiotics at meal time.
•Offer toys to your dog that challenge their brain and ease boredom.
•Sufficient exercise is also crucial in keeping your dog's body and mind stimulated. Bored dogs tend to develop far stranger, disturbing habits and behaviors than dogs that get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
•Lastly, consider trying one (or more than one) of the many over-the-counter coprophagia deterrent products. These are powders you either sprinkle on the stool itself or supplements you feed with meals to create an unpalatable stool.
Also, you may have heard you can add a meat tenderizer to your dog's food or stool to discourage poop eating, but most meat tenderizing products contain MSG. They should be avoided.
We recommend you look for a non-toxic deterrent than doesn't contain MSG. We have supplement chews in store that can help!
If your pet's coprophagic behavior seems to be going from bad to worse, make sure to talk to your vet about your concerns. You definitely want to rule out any underlying medical reason for this icky behavior problem!