Many dogs steal food from garbage cans and eat things that we find unpleasant or even disgusting. Among these things, there are poops. Poop from cats, dogs, and other animals often has an odor, texture, and taste appealing to them. Here we have listed the reasons and how to avoid for the question Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
How to prevent your dog from eating poop, you will need to properly clean the environment where it moves and supervise your dog when it is outdoors.
This habit is quite common in dogs due to behavioral reasons. However, it could also respond to an underlying medical problem, so it is advisable to go to the veterinarian.
What is coprophagia?
Coprophagia is the voluntary consumption of feces. In the case of dogs, this behavior can be behavioral or due to some medical problem. You must find out why your dog eats poop and act accordingly.
In the case of dogs, there are two main types of coprophagia :
These dogs consume only dog poop. Some eat their poop ( autocoprophagy ), while others ingest the poop of other dogs (coprophagy)
These dogs eat poop from other animals (cats, rabbits or even humans).
It is believed that a dog eating poop can be due to various factors, such as nutritional problems, the presence of an underlying disease, or behavioral causes.
Why does my dog eat poop?
Dogs often tend to eat the poop of other animals when they appear in their usual environment. Although few studies on coprophagia, many researchers say it is a behavior inherited from their wolf ancestors. It is believed that they do so to reduce exposure to poop-borne intestinal parasites.
The most common intestinal parasites in wolf poop take at least two days for the larvae to reach the stage where they become infectious. Therefore, if the dog did not eat the wastes, the eggs would hatch into larvae, which would develop into an infectious agent within a day or two.
This time can vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the type of parasite. However, if the wolf consumes the fresh feces, the larvae will not have had time to become infectious yet, so the risk to the pack is much lower. It seems that dogs have inherited this behavior.
My dog eats poop for medical reasons.
Your dog’s coprophagia could be due to a medical problem involving decreased nutrient absorption, causing gastrointestinal upset, or turning poop into an attractive “food” for your dog.
In this case, it is necessary to go to the veterinarian so that he can perform a physical examination of your dog, evaluate his diet and analyze the frequency and consistency of the stools, since these are important sources of information :
- In the poop, you can determine the presence or not of parasites.
- If the stools are too soft or poorly digested, further testing may be necessary as this may be due to parasites or diseases such as pancreatitis.
- Poor digestion of food and poor diet or medical conditions that decrease absorption, such as deficiencies of digestive enzymes or parasites, can lead to poor nutrition, with the consequent lack of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. This increases the dog’s appetite and can lead to the consumption of poop.
- Suppose the poop your dog finds have a lot of undigested food material. In that case, it’s also possible that your dog will consume it, especially if he has nutritional deficiencies in his diet.
- Conditions that involve increased appetite, such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, thyroid disease, or treatment with certain medications, such as steroids, can also cause increased stool intake.
- If a dog develops a taste for another dog’s faeces, it would be important to have the latter dog tested for any possible conditions involving poor digestion of food. Discuss it with the dog’s owner to consult his veterinarian.
My dog’s coprophagia is a behavioral problem.
The ingestion of poop is quite common in puppies and usually disappears in adulthood. This behavior could be due to several causes :
Puppies investigate, play and experiment with their environment. Therefore, they may consume poop if they are not supervised. Act calm if your puppy does this, as reacting too strongly can reinforce this behavior.
- In the case of the cubs, it could also be due to an act of imitation of their mother’s behavior since she cleans and ingests the cub’s droppings in the nest.
- If to punish your dog when he does his business at home, you use the technique of sticking his nose in the poop, you are acting incorrectly and could encourage coprophagia.
- Adult dogs groom and clean newborn puppies, instinctively eating their droppings. In addition, they often interact by sniffing and licking the secretions of their packmates, which could also explain their tendency to coprophagia.
- Dogs that spend a lot of time alone or isolated from family are more likely to eat poop. Also, spending too much time confined to a small space can cause this problem to appear. It is common in dogs rescued from shelters where there were too many dogs.
- Dogs that exhibit obsessive or compulsive behaviors may be more likely to develop coprophagia.
- If a dog lives with another elderly or sick dog, he may consume their poop. This seems to be related to the instinct to protect the herd from possible predators.
In the case of coprophagia due to behavioral reasons, it is important to intervene as soon as possible to prevent this behavior from becoming a habit. One way to do this is to interrupt the action with a command or a quick tug on the leash. Please don’t give him a treat right after, as you could make this behavior a habit. In addition, you should start training your dog to eliminate this behavior, going to a professional if necessary.
How can I prevent my dog from eating poop?
Change of diet
If the cause of your dog’s coprophagia is due to poor nutrition, your vet may recommend a more digestible diet or one with different sources of protein.
If your dog is on a calorie-restricted diet, you may be able to improve this situation by using high-fibre foods.
Always consult your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet and make this change gradually.
In some cases, a lack of B vitamins can be the cause of your dog eating poop, as microbial activity in the poop synthesizes thiamin (vitamin B1). poop also contain other nutrients that your dog may need.
In some cases, it may be interesting to add enzyme supplements to improve digestion or absorption of nutrients.
It is important to keep the dog’s area clean, including the patio, eliminating the poop that it may make.
If you have a cat, keep the litter box clean and out of the dog’s reach.
Supervise your dog on walks and quickly remove his poop. Also, prevent it from eating those of other dogs.
Continuously work the commands “leave it” or “spit” and “come” so that it obeys you in case it tries to approach the poop that may be on the ground.
My dog eats poop from other dogs during the walk.
To prevent your dog from eating other dogs’ poop without you realizing it, you can follow a series of steps:
- Walk your dog on a leash. As well as being mandatory in many places, it’s also safer for your dog. You will be able to control what he does with ease, and you will prevent him from running away if he gets scared or if he sees something that appeals to him.
- Pick up your dog’s poop immediately. Even if you have a yard or garden where you might pick up your dog’s poop later if your dog has a habit of eating it, go outside with him to monitor when he poops and pick it up right then and there.
- Teach your dog the “leave it ” command, so you can control it even when you’re far away.
- Do not punish him, as you could make the behavior worse.
Diagnosis of Coprophagia in Dogs
Your vet may ask about your dog’s current diet and how often you feed it. You’ll also want to know his daily activities to find out if he has enough time to play and walk or if he spends too much time at home or alone.
In addition, he will perform a physical exam to rule out medical problems. In addition to weight, temperature, pulse and blood pressure, your vet may do a blood test to check the status of his platelets and red and white blood cell, counts.
Your vet will determine if the dog suffers from anemia or bacterial infection. In addition, he will check the proper functioning of your organs and may request a urine and stool analysis to measure fecal fat and the presence of parasites.
Treatment of canine coprophagia
Treatment of canine coprophagia involves treating the underlying medical problem :
- If your dog suffers from pancreatitis, your vet may recommend replacing the digestive enzymes with freeze-dried pancreatic extracts from pigs and cattle sprinkled on the food 30 minutes before feeding. In addition, the dog will have to take some dietary supplements and vitamins.
- If your dog has parasites, you must eliminate them with the corresponding deworming treatment.
- If your diet is deficient in nutrients, you will have to buy better quality food. It is recommended that you always look for high-quality feed for your dog, as it will positively affect your health.
- Your dog may also need a vitamin or dietary supplement. For example, if your dog is anemic, he may need vitamin B12 injections.
- If the coprophagia is behavioral , the vet will recommend increasing playtime and walks. Avoid as much as possible that your dog is left alone.
- You probably have to start training to redirect your dog’s behavior.
How can I teach my dog the “leave it” command?
This is a handy command, so it is recommended that you teach it to your dog. Not only so it ignores any poop it comes across, but also so it doesn’t eat anything off the ground. Otherwise, you could eat a chicken bone, risking choking or getting a splinter, or maybe a piece of poisoned food. It is very important that your dog obeys you and does not eat anything you do not allow him to eat.
On occasion, your dog may pick something up off the floor before you give him the command to ignore it, so getting him to spit it out on base is a must. It is also important that your dog learns to have something tasty before his nose and not take it until you tell him to. This control could get your dog out of a lot of trouble.
First steps for your dog to ignore poop
- Put a treat in a fist and let your dog try to snatch it from you in any way, including pawing, licking, or muzzle pressure. Do not open your fist.
- When your dog stops trying to get it, mark the moment with a clicker or praise it. Immediately open your fist, tell him “take it”, and let him eat it.
- After several tries, your dog should begin to ignore the treat. At this point, he opens his fist and waits a few seconds before saying, “take it”. You can also say “wait” if the dog tries to eat it too early. At first, you will have to make a fist again and say “wait.” When he learns, you will be able to leave food in front of the dog without him taking it before you order it.
- Once this is achieved, start placing some treats on the ground with your hand on it. Let the dog try to get it. When he stops trying, mark with the clicker or with praise. But don’t let him eat the candy off the floor.
- Instead, offer him a different treat you have in your pocket or on hand, if possible, of higher value than the one on the ground. The goal is to learn that not picking up certain things from the ground has positive consequences.
Gradually repeat the exercise by withdrawing your hand, but be prepared to recap the treatment if necessary. Mark the moment when your dog ignores the treat and rewards with another of higher value.
- Repeat the exercise by tying your dog on a leash and standing up. Instead of covering the treat with your hand, do it with your foot. The leash is to prevent your dog from jumping on any treatment that you may drop or on which he is on the ground.
When your dog automatically puts his food down, he has learned to control his impulses. Now you can teach him the “leave it” command. When he ignores that food on command, mark the time and reward your dog.
Training for real situations
The next step is to mimic an actual situation where your dog will encounter a wide variety of “appetizing” things along the way.
- With your dog out of the room, place several treats in a row, far enough apart from each other.
- Put your dog on the leash and enter the room. When you walk past one treat, say “leave it” and move on to the next one. On each treat, mark and reward your dog for ignoring it. Cover it with your foot if he tries to eat any, and use the leash to keep him from getting to her.
- Once your dog starts ignoring each treat, say “leave it” and try to walk down the line. Reward your dog if he makes it through the entire line ignoring the treats, with a bone to chew on or something of high value to him.
- Repeat these exercises outside your home. Train your dog in several different places.
- If you repeat the exercise with toys and balls, your dog will learn that the command is not limited to food.
During walks, use the command if your dog is distracted by another dog, a cat, or someone passing by…
- Coprophagia, or consumption of poop, can be behavioral or due to a medical problem.
- There seems to be agreement that it could be a behavior inherited from their ancestors.
- Wolves eat the faeces around their den to avoid parasite infestations and the arrival of predators.
- If it is the answer to a medical problem, it will treat the underlying cause.
- See your vet if your dog regularly consumes poop.
- If it is a behavioral problem, you will have to train your dog to redirect his behavior.
- Go to a professional trainer if necessary.