In the last blog Candy Store I touched on the very unpleasant practice known as coprophagy. Well, what is coprophagy? Why do dogs do it? Does this hurt the dog? How can I “meaning you” prevent this? We all love our pets, but sometimes even a loving bond can be strained, especially when its poop laced!
Coprophagy is when an animal consumes its own or another animal’s feces. Simple as that, yet it sounds a bit more sophisticated than poop mouth! Yes this practice is disgusting, but normal, although it can lead to potential health risks. Surprised to see its normal? Thought so, but we will dig into that here soon.
Dogs may have many possible reasons they consume poop. It is normal for some puppies to consume their own feces, yet most tend to move past the fascination of fecal feasting, although some dogs may continue the practice into adulthood. There is no “actual” or “agreed upon” single reason why ALL dogs that do eat poop do this, but there are many theories throughout the veterinary world. For example but not limited to:
Dogs could just really like the taste. Yep they love the poops! I mean look at cat poop. It comes in a box and is covered in crunchy sprinkles. SOLD!!! A higher protein diet may lead to a more appealing fecal deposit, meaning if your dog is eating protein like an Olympic Athlete, yet is as active as an online gamer, there is a good chance the poop they make tastes just as good “to them” a second time around. Think of it as a grocery store with free samples every few feet. Who can get enough free frozen pizza samples? Not me, plus the coupons, oh Lord the coupons!!!
Mother-puppy feces consumption is another odd yet normal practice. What a great way to bond with mom, sharing a poopsicle! It is very common for a mother to eat her liters feces. This may be a genetic trait that has passed down generation after generation. In the wild this is a way of hiding the brood from possible predators or competing packs. It’s kind of like picking up Legos before company shows up, only you don’t eat the Legos. Come to think of it stepping on a Lego may be worse than stepping in a pile. Matter of opinion I guess.
Inappropriate rewarding or discipline practices may also be a common cause. Let’s face it. Not all of us are certified trainers. Good news is they are just a phone call away! Wink. Rewarding and disciplining a pet and the resulting effect can become a learned behavioral trait this may actually be one of the simplest OR hardest reasons for poop eating to break. Baby it’s not you it’s me, better get help and figure this out. Your family Vet, friendly neighborhood dog sitter, or dog walker may offer up some much needed help, information, or direct you in the right path.
Stress, yes even dogs get stressed. They may not have a boss breathing down their backs with unrealistic deadlines, or massive amounts of other human self-induced panic, but our pets do stress. Many times the stress we bring into our homes also affects our pets. No child wants to see or hear mom and dad argue, our fur babies feel the same way. You have a down week and the light at the end of the tunnel gets dimmer and dimmer. You dig your way back to happiness one spoonful at a time through that Ben and Jerry’s. Do you feel better? Probably not but man those guys know what they are doing. Phish Food, Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia are you kidding me?!?! Your pup feels the same way, only you didn’t share that ice cream! So they head out in the yard or by the cat box and they take a few guilt laced bites to try and feel better about the day. Again this is something we can fix, may be easier said than done, but for the family sake it is worth it!
Improper diet goes hand in hand with the protein loading mentioned before. Your dog may be missing a crucial part of their mineral needs. Some animals, mainly herbivores practice coprophagy due to the makeup of their diets. Plant based materials may not break down quick enough in the digestive tract, therefore the animal may need to microwave yesterday’s dinner. This is very common in rabbits, rabbit’s digestive tract moves so fast they are unable to break down the plant material and need to recycle the pellets just to maintain a healthy diet. To determine whether or not your pet is lacking nutrients a stool sample may be needed. This would be something to discuss with your family Vet
General health problems may be of concern if you notice your pet changing weight, acting tired, not drinking, or just flat out not acting normal. The poop may have an odd color, poor consistency (yeah dogs can get the cha chas!), may be difficult to make (we know that’s painful), or could even have biological infestations (worms, etc.). Any of these indications would only be evident if we are active in poop cleanup and are observant in our dog’s rituals. If any you have any concern about what you see when you collect poop, or your hired professional makes you aware of something. It would be best to again contact your Vet, ask some questions, and collect a fresh fudgie.
Poop eating is obviously nasty. Ok very nasty! It can also be harmful to our pets. It may spread disease from animal to animal or from animal to you. Infestations such as roundworm, heartworm, or any other parasite can be easily transmitted from pile to palate. It is important to keep an eye on our dogs when we are out in public or nature so that they don’t snack on a strangers treat. Never take candy from strangers! Also it’s equally as important to practice good house-keeping and clean up after our dogs while we are out and about.
There are many products specifically made to deter poop eating. There are also home remedies that we may hear worked for a friend, or family member. It is always recommended to check with your Vet about what would work for you, and be safe for your pet.
The best way to deter poop eating is to eliminate the source. We can’t snack on chocolate all day if we don’t buy it, much is the same with dogs eating poop. Keep the cat box in a cat only location, or find a different type of cat box. Yard cleanup is crucial, not only for poop eating prevention, but the safety of children, your lawn, your barefoot strolls, but also identifying possible health issues that can be identified in the feces. Our pets are unable to tell us when they are sick, they just leave hints all around for us to discover. If you are unable to keep up with daily cleanup, try weekly, if that is still pushing it, try bi-weekly, or if you are still unable to keep up a professional pooper scooper is just a phone call away.
Just remember you are not alone in the fight against coprophagy. There are others, and united we can make a difference.