Among Oliver’s repertoire of odd behaviors, coprophagia deserves a spot of honor. Better known as stool eating, coprophagia is considered quite a common behavior in canines and is rather prevalent among puppies. While most puppies outgrow this temporary attraction to feces, some dogs continue eating stools even throughout adulthood. The causes for stool eating behavior in dogs are various and may range from behavioral to medical issues and sometimes the real underlying cause remains unknown.
What Are The Causes?
Whether dogs eat their own stools, the stools of other dogs or the stools of other animals, coprophagia ranks high among the lists of behaviors dog owners wish they could change. Sometimes, identifying an underlying cause for stool eating and addressing the issue, can help reduce the chances for this behavior. Following are some explanations for stool eating.
Underlying Nutritional Issues
Mimicking Mother’s Behavior
History of Punishment
Anxiety, Stress and Boredom
At times, coprophagia develops because of some underlying nutritional deficiency. If the dog isn’t eating enough food nor has a digestive issue such as exocrine pancreatic deficiency, he’ll be drawn to eating feces. Additionally, medical conditions known for increasing a dog’s appetite, such as diabetes or Cushing’s disease, may cause stools to become appealing. It’s always a good idea to have a stool eating dog see the vet so to rule out malnutrition, malabsorption or some other health disorder.
In puppies, stool eating may stem from simply watching mother dog. Indeed, when the puppies are very young, mother dog will instinctively ingest their stool so to keep the den area clean and not attract predators. Soon, puppies may want to mimic mom’s behavior and will develop a new interest in stools. Fortunately, early intervention can help prevent this behavior from becoming a future problem.
In some cases, puppies that have been punished for soiling around the home may develop a stool eating habit. For instance, if a puppy’s face is repeatedly pushed in a pile of poop or if a puppy is scolded in the presence of poop, the puppy may learn that “poop is bad,” and therefore, may feel compelled to eating it to hide its evidence. Soon a behavior pattern establishes.
Coprophagia is quite prevalent in dogs raised in kennels or in puppy mills. The lack of environmental enrichment may cause these dogs to feel bored and under stimulated which in turn makes poop eating an intriguing past time. On top of that, stress and anxiety may cause stool eating to become a habit.
Preventing Stool Eating Habits
Your dog’s coprophagia could pose a serious health threat to human because bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli and infectious parasites from the stool can easily be spread to family members. You can curb or reduce your dog’s coprophagia habit with the following method:
- Eliminating stools before the dog has a chance to eat them remains the most effective management method.
- Dietary improvements and the addition of enzymes and probiotics may reduce stool eating in dogs with nutritional deficiencies.
- Exercise and mental stimulation may help keep the mind of bored dogs off the stools.
- Last but not least, the use of coprophagia deterrent products may help make the taste of stools unappealing so that Oliver won’t feel tempted in eating them again; however, consider that most of these products contain monosodium glutamate which can cause reactions and side effects.
Tips: The “leave it” command can be very useful in stopping this behavior.
The Bottom Line
Resolving the revolting stool eating habit completely remains a challenging ordeal that some dogs may never be able to overcome. It’s advised to bring your dog to the veterinarian for general health check and parasites checks if your dog has a routine coprophagic behavior.