Coping with Coprophagia in Your Dog

Coping with Coprophagia in Your Dog

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Coprophagia, or eating feces, can be an unsightly canine habit. Understand the behavioral and biological drive behind this disease here.

Coprophagia is simply defined as the act of eating feces by dogs. It may refer to dogs that eat their own feces, or the feces of another dog or species, commonly human or herbivore. There may be medical issues contributing to coprophagia in dogs, however, there are also theories based on living conditions, and other aspects of the dog’s life and history, that may explain the behavior. Coprophagia is common among nursing mother dogs, thought to be a way to keep the new puppies clean. This also maintains cleanliness in their direct environment, effectively providing additional protection against predators that might be attracted to the smell. Another theory comes from a nutritional standpoint. Dogs may tend to eat feces if they are not ingesting enough nutritious food, or have issues absorbing nutrients. Puppies also tend toward coprophagia, perhaps as a cleaning instinct, because they are mimicking their mother, or out of curiosity.

Coprophagia Causes

There are a number of medical problems that can cause or contribute to coprophagia, but most cases of coprophagia are behavioral. If the dog’s body does not break down food properly, the resulting stool may contain whole food particles. The dog may in turn relate the stool to its food, contributing to coprophagia. Poor diet, underfeeding, and parasites may cause poor absorption of nutrients and breakdown of food particles. Coprophagia is common among nursing mother dogs, because newborn puppies need help with the defecation reflex.

How to Prevent Coprophagia

The most logical answer to this is to keep the feces away from the dog. Keeping a clean feces-free environment will prevent the behavior. There are also supplements that, when added to the food of the animal whose stool is being consumed, make the stool taste terrible. A wire basket muzzle when taking dogs prone to coprophagia on walks, is a two-fold preventative, because providing your dog with exercise can help them to relax and be less compulsive.

Coprophagia Test Explained

Because coprophagia has only a minor physical impact, the best test for coprophagia is following the dog around to see if they eat poop. Sometimes breath will give it away also. Finding a physical cause of coprophagia may require digestive and stool tests.

Symptoms of Coprophagia

When a dog eats feces, there becomes an increased chance of that dog contracting worms from the larvae living inside. The most danger associated with coprophagia is when a dog eats cat poop in kitty litter. If the dog ingests the litter in any great quantities, it can cause serious damage to the digestive tract, resulting in diarrhea and vomiting, and may require risky surgery. Another symptom of coprophagia is not physical, but emotional. If a dog is experiencing a compulsive need to eat feces, and their human is constantly disgusted, the bond between human and pet can diminish. While a cruel excess, humans have been known to put down their coprophagic dog.

How to Treat Coprophagia

Depending on whether the motivation for coprophagia comes from a physical need or an emotional compulsion, treatment can either be diet related or training related.  If there is a deficiency in the dog’s diet, consult with your veterinarian to find the best diet to suit the digestive needs of your dog.  If the coprophagia seems to be compulsive, it may take intensive training to fix the problem.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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Coprophagia (Ingesting Feces)
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