A fairly common, if unpleasant, behavior in dogs is the act of eating feces, or coprophagia.
Seeing your dog eat poop is not a pleasant sight. Yet this behavior, known as coprophagia, is actually very common. Many dogs eat poop, and there is no general consensus as to what the root causes of coprophagia are. Despite this, coprophagia, in addition to being slightly repulsive, is not the healthiest trait for a dog to have. If you notice your pet eating poop, you should take him to the veterinarian in addition to taking measures to end this behavior.
Possible Causes of Coprophagia
Though there is no definitive cause of coprophagia, there are a number of reasons pet behaviorists think may make your dog eat poop. These cover a wide range of factors and should be thoroughly examined to determine if they may be contributing to your dog’s coprophagia.
- Medical Problems: One possible cause, the most serious, of coprophagia may be that your dog is suffering from a malnutritional disorder. These include pancreatic or intestinal disorders, as well as parasitic problems. You should take your dog to the veterinarian to determine whether this is the reason your dog is eating feces.
- Nursing Mother: One perfectly natural cause of coprophagia occurs when a dog becomes a mother. Natural maternal instincts will have your nursing dog eat the feces of its young, as a way to clean up after them as well as hide the poop from predators.
- Puppy Behavior: Puppies will often display coprophagia early in their life, possibly as a way to discover their surroundings. They will often outgrow this behavior.
- Stress: Nervous or stressed dogs will often eat poop. One reason for this is that their owners punish them for defecating, and they do it as a way to cover their evidence.
- Other Factors: There are other reasons that people believe dogs exhibit coprophagia. Some believe that it is a remnant of their ancestry and history as a domesticated animal or as a descendant of wolves. Others believe it is a learned behavior from other animals that naturally eat feces.
How to Deal with Coprophagia
While no one can be certain what the cause of coprophagia is in your dog, one thing is certain: it is not a desired trait. In addition to that, the eating of feces can be harmful to your dog, as it can spread parasites such as giardia, coccidian, roundworms, and whipworms. Here are some tips for stopping your dog from eating poop:
- Food additives : There are some food additives available that will make poop taste bad to dogs after it has been digested. Talk to your veterinarian about these, and remember to give them to the animal whose feces are being eaten.
- Tabasco® : Some people find that adding Tabasco® or chili powder to feces will make it taste bad to dogs.
- Provide alternatives : If you give your dog a toy or treat that he can play with, he may find that to be preferable to coprophagia.
- Act Fast : The quicker you act after your dog starts eating poop, the better chance of success you will have.
- Keep your yard or toilet area picked up. This will reduce your dog’s access to fecal matter.