Many dogs start eating poop because their bodies are telling them to correct an insufficiency or imbalance in the digestive process. Perhaps the pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin or other enzymes, or maybe the balance of good-to-bad gut bacteria is out of whack, for example.
Some veterinary nutritionists suggest that dogs eat stool to replenish enzymes so that they are better prepared to digest their food. There is also evidence that dogs that aren’t getting enough of certain nutrients will resort to eating poop. A lack of vitamin B is often said to be a cause of coprophagia (the consumption of feces).
Most poop-eating dogs limit themselves to fresh feces (less than two days old), probably because in addition to digestive enzymes, it also contains high levels of microbes necessary to regenerate beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Some dogs, especially those in kennel situations, may eat poop because they’re feeling anxious or stressed. Research also suggests dogs who are punished for inappropriate elimination can convince themselves pooping itself is bad, so they hide the evidence by eating it.
Coprophagia is also a problem in puppy mills. Puppies who go hungry, are weaned too soon, have to fight with others for food or are forced to sit for weeks in a small crate with no physical or mental stimulation, are at high risk of becoming habitual stool eaters.
Coprophagia can also be a learned behaviour. Older dogs can actually role model poop-eating behaviour for younger dogs in the household.
Some dogs are feces connoisseurs who are quite selective about the poop they are willing to eat. Some favour only poopsicles (frozen poop); others will eat only the feces of a particular animal and some dogs only indulge their habit at certain times of the year.
Helpful Tips to Help Curb Your Dog’s Nasty Habit:
1. Feed a nutritionally balanced diet containing protein and supplement with probiotics and digestive enzymes to help curb your dog’s urge to find less appetizing sources of free enzymes around the yard, park or in the litterbox. Ask your vet for recommendations.
2. Pick up your dog’s feces immediately, as soon after they eliminate as possible.
3. If your dog favours litterbox snacks aka kitty poop, place the box in a location in your home where they can’t get to it or consider purchasing or making a dog-resistant litter box. It is strongly recommended that pet owners improve their kitty’s diet and add digestive enzymes and probiotics at meal time to make your cat’s poop less attractive to your dog.
4. Make sure they have toys that stimulate their brain and alleviate boredom. Also, ensure they’re well-exercised. Bored, sedentary dogs tend to develop far stranger behaviours and habits than dogs who get plenty of exercises and mental stimulation.
5. Consider experimenting with some of the over-the-counter coprophagia deterrent products. Make sure you look for a non-toxic product that doesn’t contain monosodium glutamate (MSG). Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
If despite your best efforts your dog’s poop-eating behaviour isn’t improving or is getting worse, it is strongly recommended to make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical reasons for the behaviour.
Written by Mclean Animal Hosptial