Coprophagia is the medical term for when a dog eats its own or another animal’s feces. Yuck is the first word that comes to mind! Eating fecal matter is not only stomach turning, but it’s unhealthy for pets and their pet families.
A dog’s stomach and mouth have the ability to fight off a lot more bacteria than you can, but too much can still make them sick. Bacteria can spread quickly to you when your pooch goes from snacking on some backyard landmines to chewing on toys and licking hands and faces. Double yuck.
Knowing why your pet is doing this will help you put a stop to coprophagia quickly and effectively.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
In short, it’s in your dog’s nature. In the wild, animals often eat the feces of other animals, particularly herbivores like rabbits, as their feces has a high concentration of excess vitamins and minerals that dogs may feel are missing or deficient in their diet. This is a natural instinct for dogs; it is often taught to them by their mothers at a very young age. Moms often eat the feces of their young to ensure their pups are healthy.
Behavioural reasons for eating feces are often related to stress and anxiety. Major changes in your pet’s environment and routines create tension or even conditions such as separation anxiety. Just like children, animals are sensitive to change. Many destructive behaviours can be linked to anxiety.
Also like children, pets get into trouble when bored. If you’ve ruled out stress and anxiety, sheer boredom may be to blame for your pet’s unsavoury taste-testing.
Although coprophagia is almost always behaviorally based, there can be medical reasons that contribute to or spark the behaviour. If your pet is losing weight, they may have a nutrient malabsorption issue which may encourage them to eat feces.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?
There are many supplements on the market to stop your dog from eating poop.
Coprophagia deterrents includes a number of ingredients to prevent your dog from eating feces, one of which works by making your pet’s own feces taste bad. This may sound silly, but some dogs eat feces because they like the taste. Capsaicin, a natural chemical found in Capsicum fruit and vegetables such as bell and chili peppers, creates a burning sensation when ingested. Dogs are not used to this spicy reaction and find it really unpleasant. Naturvet Coprophagia Deterrent tablets also contain a number of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to boost the immune system, metabolism, and aid the digestive system in breaking down food and acquiring nutrients. Filling these nutritional gaps ensures your dog won’t attempt to find these necessary nutrients himself.
If you believe your pet’s coprophagia to be a result of stress, attempt to remove the source of anxiety or lessen it. Coprophagia treatments can still be effective for pets with anxiety, but treating the condition without treating the cause is usually not effective long-term. Consider a stress-reducing treatment alongside your dog’s coprophagia treatment to prevent your dog from falling back onto the same coping mechanism.
Farnam Comfort Zone Diffuser is a pheromone based anxiety relief system. This diffuser uses D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone), which is naturally released by nursing mother dogs to make their pups feel safe and calm.
Your dog may be eating poop because he is bored. If this is the case, treating him with coprophagia tablets alone may not alter his behaviour. Or, your dog may find another way to act out. Bored dogs need more mental and physical stimulation. Interactive toys, a change of environment, some extra attention, or a daily walk or two can often be enough to relieve boredom. Some working-type dogs may need more stimulation.
Coprophagia can be a natural response to nutritional deficiency. Take a good look at the ingredients in your dog’s food. Poor quality ingredients can leave dogs undernourished.
In the case of multi-pet homes, some dogs will only eat the feces of their other furry housemates. Coprophagia treatments can be given to whichever pet’s feces is being consumed. If you’re unsure which pet’s feces is the culprit, coprophagia treatments are safe to give to all dogs and cats.
Digging through litter boxes or taking a nibble of their sibling’s droppings is quite common. In puppies, this is often a sign of sibling rivalry and they usually outgrow the behaviour with time. If you catch your dog in the act, the "Leave It" command can be very helpful. Remember to always positively reinforce good behaviour.
Remember: yes, coprophagia is disgusting to us, but dogs are just doing what comes naturally to them. As when training any behavioural problem, be gentle and consistent, use what tools you have, and be patient. Your dog will come around.
Posted by Krystn Janisse
Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.