The baffling case of canine coprophagia
Because we don’t want to see an actual photo of a dog eating poop on our screens
Source: Spoiled Hounds
If you’re reading this article right now, chances are, you have a poop-eater on your hands. Not to worry – you’re on the same boat as many dog owners all over the world. Much to our disdain, poop eating in dogs is a surprisingly common and hard-to-kick habit, and here’s why:
The driving force
Said to be a behaviour that originated from dogs’ wolf ancestors, poop eating, also known as coprophagia, was supposedly linked to nutritional deficiencies and survival. It’s a second chance for an animal to extract nutrients from its diet, and dogs with puppies often eat their poop to keep the area clean and prevent predators from being drawn in by the scent.
In the process of learning the ways of the dog, puppies may pick up this habit from their mothers and then grow out of it when they are approximately 9 months old. This applies to domesticated dogs as well even if there aren’t any predators at home, because it’s simply primitive evolutionary behaviour – purely instinctual.
However, if your puppy doesn’t grow out of the habit or if he/she suddenly develops the liking for this “delicacy” as an adult, then there can only be either a medical or behavioural cause. Some health reasons for coprophagia in your furry pal includes:
- Diet deficiency
- Malabsorption syndrome
- Thyroid disease
- Other conditions that might cause an increase in appetite.
Once you’ve ruled out health problems with your local veterinarian, you might want to reflect on whether there have been any environmental stress or behavioural triggers, which includes:
- Spending too much time confined in small spaces
- Fear of being punished, which leads to them “eliminating evidence”
- Seeking attention from their owners
- Being fed too close to where they defecate, which causes them to automatically associate poop as food
- Living with a sick or elderly dog, which may trigger their instincts to consume stools in order to protect the weaker dog from predators.
Source: Top Dog Tips
If there’s a silver lining in this situation, it is this – for dogs who are in good health overall, eating their own stool will generally pose little to no danger to the dog! That said, bacteria and parasites, if any, can be transmitted from the stool to humans and other animals through contact with the dog’s mouth and saliva.
However, if your dog often chomps down on the stools of another animal, then he/she will definitely be at risk of ingesting harmful bacteria and the eggs of intestinal parasites. In this case, regular faecal analysis by your veterinarian should be scheduled.
Apart from that, another side effect of eating poop is foul breath, which can be mitigated with good oral hygiene and dental practices.
- While coprophagia is not easy to kick, some strategies recommended by veterinarians to aid in discouraging the habit include:
- Feed your dog vitamin supplements or high-quality food to eliminate nutrient deficiency
- Introducing taste-aversion products that contain monosodium glutamate, camomile, pepper-plant derivatives, etc.
- Keeping the dog’s living area clean
- Supervise your dog when he/she is about to use the toilet
- Use plenty of positive reinforcements for commands “leave it” and “come”.
Not to worry if your precious pooch’s acquired taste doesn’t seem to stem from any of the reasons given! Sometimes, your dog may genuinely enjoy the taste of stools and is simply helping itself to a piping hot treat every now and then. This is especially so if your furry friend is a huge foodie who lives to eat!