Dogs eating poop, scientifically known as coprophagia, is a behavior that puzzles and disgusts many dog owners. While it may seem repulsive to humans, it is a relatively common phenomenon among dogs and can be attributed to various causes, ranging from instinctual behaviors to underlying health issues . In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this peculiar habit, the potential health risks associated with it, and the various prevention and training methods that can help curb this behavior in your canine companion.
Causes of Dog Poop Eating
Dog poop eating, scientifically known as coprophagia, is a behavior that can be both puzzling and repulsive to dog owners. However, it’s a relatively common phenomenon in dogs and can be attributed to various factors, including parasites and health conditions, behavioral factors and anxiety, nutritional deficiencies and malabsorption, and prevention and training methods .
Parasites and Health Conditions
Parasites can cause dogs to eat poop. Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms “steal” nutrients from your dog’s diet, which can cause inflammation and malabsorption, leading to coprophagia .
Health conditions that cause increased appetite, such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or any gastrointestinal disease that causes malabsorption, can also lead to coprophagia . Diseases that can lead to pica (eating inappropriate things), such as liver disease and anemia, can result in coprophagia . Canine cognitive dysfunction (“doggie dementia”) can also contribute to this behavior .
Behavioral Factors and Anxiety
Behavioral factors and anxiety can also lead to coprophagia. Dogs who are kept alone in kennels or basements are more likely to eat poop than those dogs who live close to their people . Spending too much time confined in a small space can cause a dog to develop a poop-eating problem .
Anxiety, often a result of a person using punishment or harsh methods during house training, can also lead to coprophagia. According to this theory, dogs may eliminate and then eat their own poop to get rid of the evidence, but then they are punished more. It becomes a vicious cycle .
Nutritional Deficiencies and Malabsorption
A dog may eat poop because they are missing important nutrients in their own diet or they are not properly absorbing certain nutrients in their food during digestion (called malabsorption) . One study found that dogs whose diets were deficient in thiamine (vitamin B1) developed coprophagia .
Prevention and Training Methods
Prevention and training methods can help discourage poop-eating behavior. Veterinarians and dog owners have seen improvements in the behavior of a dog who eats poop by using a few strategies, including vitamin supplementation. There’s been a long-standing theory that dogs eat poop because they are missing something in their diets, so a dog multivitamin could be helpful. Vitamin-B deficiency, in particular, has been a prime suspect, and studies have backed this up .
Training methods such as positive reinforcement and redirection can also be effective. For example, consistently leashing your dog for bathroom breaks and redirecting his attention, practicing commands such as “leave it” or asking your dog to sit until you’ve had a chance to clean up, and rewarding appropriate behavior can help .
While coprophagia in dogs can be distressing for owners, understanding the underlying causes can help in managing and potentially eliminating this behavior. Always consult with a veterinarian if your dog exhibits this behavior, especially if it’s a new development, to rule out any potential health issues.
Health Risks of Dogs Eating Poop
While the act of dogs eating poop, known as coprophagia, may be repulsive to humans, it is essential to understand the potential health risks associated with this behavior. Consuming their own feces is generally not harmful to dogs, but eating the feces of other animals can expose them to various health issues . Some of the most relevant health risks of dogs eating poop include:
- Nausea and vomiting: Ingesting feces containing unfamiliar or harmful substances can cause nausea and vomiting in dogs .
- Lethargy: Dogs may experience tiredness as a result of consuming feces contaminated with parasites or harmful bacteria .
- Diarrhea: Eating feces can lead to gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea, especially if the feces contain harmful substances or pathogens .
- Disinterest in food: Dogs may lose their appetite after consuming feces, particularly if they are experiencing gastrointestinal issues or have ingested harmful substances .
- Intestinal worms or parasites: Consuming feces from other animals can expose dogs to intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms, which can cause various health problems .
To prevent your dog from experiencing these health risks, it is crucial to address the underlying causes of coprophagia and implement appropriate prevention and training methods. Consult with a veterinarian if your dog exhibits this behavior, especially if it’s a new development, to rule out any potential health issues .
Prevention and Training Methods
Addressing the issue of dogs eating poop, or coprophagia, involves a combination of prevention strategies and training methods. These approaches aim to manage the behavior, reduce the likelihood of its occurrence, and mitigate potential health risks. Here are some detailed strategies and methods:
Supervision and Cleanliness
One of the most effective prevention strategies is supervision during potty breaks. By closely monitoring your dog during these times, you can ensure they don’t have access to feces. This method requires consistency and vigilance on the part of the dog owner.
Maintaining a clean environment is also crucial. Promptly cleaning up after your dog eliminates the temptation to consume feces. This strategy is particularly effective for dogs that tend to eat their own poop.
Addressing Underlying Health Issues
It’s crucial to speak with a veterinarian if your dog’s coprophagia is the result of underlying health issues. Medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, or intestinal parasites can lead to coprophagia. By addressing these health issues, you can help curb your dog’s poop-eating habit.
Providing a balanced diet is another effective prevention strategy. Dogs may resort to consuming feces if their diet lacks certain essential nutrients. Ensuring your dog is receiving proper nutrition can reduce the likelihood of them seeking nutrients from feces. Consult with a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist to ensure your dog’s diet is well-balanced and complete.
Mental and Physical Stimulation
Increasing mental and physical stimulation can help manage coprophagia driven by boredom or anxiety. Engage your dog in interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and regular exercise to reduce these feelings. This strategy not only helps with coprophagia but also contributes to your dog’s overall well-being.
Training and Positive Reinforcement
Training your dog to respond to commands like “leave it” or “come” can be very effective in managing coprophagia. When your dog eliminates, command them to “leave it” or “come” away from the feces, and reward them with a treat for obeying. This method uses positive reinforcement to develop a healthy habit and discourage poop eating.
While coprophagia can be a distressing behavior for dog owners, implementing these prevention and training methods can help manage and potentially eliminate this behavior. Always consult with a veterinarian for guidance based on your dog’s individual needs and health considerations.
In conclusion, while dogs eating poop may be a disgusting habit, understanding the reasons behind it and implementing appropriate prevention and training methods can help curb this behavior. Always consult with a veterinarian for guidance based on your dog’s individual needs and health considerations.