Dogs eating poop

April 12th, 2008

Dogs Life resident veterinarian Dr Michael Archinal regularly consults with dog owners about their dogs eating poop/faeces. After all, no dog-loving person wants to be greeted at the door with a foul-smelling kiss. Archinal says unless there is a medical reason causing the behaviour, eating faeces is normal, but there is potential for it to pose a problem. It all comes down to whether the faeces-eating dogs owner can stomach the episodes.

Medical reasons for coprophagia

Coprophagia is a form of pica behaviour, which is the eating of non-food items, such as rocks, toilet paper and candy wrappers. Although swallowing non-food particles can be dangerous to the health of your dog, Archinal says eating faeces isn’t except for certain parasites and gastric upsets.

However, he does point out the risk of unvaccinated dogs especially puppies contracting parasites like parvo through faeces. Parvo is a viral disease that attacks the lining of the digestive system and can lead to death.

Whether your dog eating faeces disturbs you or not, Archinal advises taking it to the vet for a check-up to look at possible medical conditions that could be causing the behaviour, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

Why do dogs eat poo?
Dogs Life resident animal behaviourist Dr Kersti Seksel says there is usually more than one cause to coprophagia:

  • It can be yummy for the dog
  • It’s a learned behaviour
  • To seek attention
  • Maternal behaviour
  • Feeding behaviour (dogs that are fed once a day use coprophagia to supplement their diet).

Treating coprophagia

If you would prefer the faeces-eating habit to stop, Seksel suggests ways to help prevent the behaviour. But remember, because all dogs are different, and the reasons why dogs engage in coprophagia are generally unknown, there is no guarantee these ideas will work a combination of treatments may be the answer for your pooch.

  • Put a muzzle on your dog
  • Add a deterrent to the dog’s food
  • Ignore the behaviour
  • Pick up faeces regularly, so there will be none to eat!
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