Does Your Dog Eat Poop? Find Out Why.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Most of us have heard this phrase and it is true, even with our dogs. Most love ice cream. However, many dogs also will consume items that wouldn’t be considered even remotely palatable to us, such as their own feces or other’s feces. Yes, poop! While this seems extremely disgusting to us, some dogs seem to think lawn sausages may in fact be as good (if not better) as ice cream!

The condition is called coprophagia. Sometimes this might be called pica. But pica is more properly defined as the ingestion of non-food items. Regardless, I would consider feces a non-food item.

So why would a dog (sometimes our feline friends will do this as well) eat feces?

  • Most typically this is a behavioral problem, and not associated with a dietary deficiency, as I so often hear from owners.
  • It may stem from nesting behavior, where in the wild it is good to clean up your mess so a predator may not of known you were there.
  • It may also be because our four legged friends are trying to hide and “accident” so as to not get punished. Your pet may simply do this to seek additional attention.
  • It could simply be a compulsive disorder.
  • Rarely it is caused from a medical disorder, although some conditions may lead to eating abnormal materials that could include feces. Examples might include: pancreatic insufficiency, inflammatory bowel disease, parasitism, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, overt hunger, and neurologic to name a few.
  • Dogs who have little environmental stimulation/enrichment and are confined to barren back yards may predispose our canines to this gross habit.

Think about this the next time your dog wants to lick your face and his tongue inadvertently gets into your mouth. Second thoughts on canine kisses?

So what can you do if your dog is a poop eater?

Unfortunately, there is no one fail proof way to address this problem. At least it’s a problem in my mind.  The dog doesn’t seem to think so. You can simply decrease access to the feces by prompt cleaning the mess up, thus limiting availability to his morsels. When your dog defecates give him a yummy pet treat, which will divert his attention away from the steaming goodies.

Some advocate dietary additives such as meat tenderizers or possibly pancreatic enzymes as a “top coating” on your pet’s food. While this works, sometimes there is no data to support the efficacy of any of these remedies. There are commercially available powders to sprinkle onto your dog’s food to make the feces unattractive to eat and have yielded variable results. Taste aversion can be tested by treating the feces themselves with substances the will make your dog vomit after ingestion with the hopes that Fido will learn to hate his “stuff.” Rarely, administering psychoactive drugs may be used to modify behavior.

Hopefully your dog doesn’t think that when he goes to the dog park he is actually going to the buffet with so many delicious culinary delights! But if he does, keep him on a leash and limit access to what he may believe is something he just has to ingest. Realize this is also a way for dogs to get intestinal parasites as well. Some of these same parasites can be transmitted to people. Maybe there should be sessions for poop eaters anonymous. Can you imagine those confessions?

If your dog does exhibit the need to eat poop, talk to your veterinarian and make sure there is not an underlying medical condition first. If your dog checks out healthy than you can discuss behavioral modification options. Copraphagia gives a whole new meaning to dog breath.

I think I’ll skip that ice cream cone I was planning to have after dinner!

Editor’s Note: When you catch your dog in the act, stop this unwanted behavior with SENTRY Stop That! Noise and Pheromone Spray. Specific pheromones help stop unwanted behavior immediately and allows you to redirect your pet. Give this amazing product a try!

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