While dogs are undeniably loveable, cute and loyal, they sometimes exhibit strange and even disgusting behaviours that raise concerns.

Have you ever discovered your pet chowing down on something strange in the backyard? On closer inspection, you might realise that your dog or puppy is eating poo. As humans, the thought of eating poo is stomach churning. But, it’s not uncommon for dog owners to report pets eating their own poo and even the poo of other animals.

A somewhat repulsive and strange behaviour, learn more about why dogs eat poo and what you can do about it.

What is Coprophagia?

Dogs are some of the most curious animals. While some can be particular and finicky, others chew on anything and everything.

When it comes to eating poo, vets refer to the issue of faeces consumption as coprophagia. Often demonstrated in dogs, coprophagia can appear to be behavioural but can sometimes be caused by a number of medical problems. In order to understand why a dog has developed coprophagia, it’s important to rule out medical causes before a behavioural diagnosis is made. By ruling out possible medical concerns, your vet can formulate a behavioural strategy to effectively treat coprophagia.

Why is My Dog or Puppy Eating Poo?

This behaviour can be caused by a wide variety of issues. From medical problems to behavioural habits, dogs might start to eat their own poo or poo from other animals. Before you begin treating your dog for eating faeces, work with your vet to determine the most likely cause.

Medical Causes

Medical problems that result in a decrease in absorption of nutrients, cause gastrointestinal upset or increase the appeal of a dog’s stool can lead to developing coprophagia. Some possible medical causes include:

  • Underfeeding or eating a poorly digestible diet
  • Digestive enzyme deficiencies
  • Parasites
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies and malnutrition
  • Diabetes, Cushing’s disease or thyroid disease
  • Some medications containing steroids

In order to identify any medical causes of coprophagia, a dog should undergo a complete physical examination, a diet evaluation and testing of stool frequency and consistency. Parasite testing should be completed and stool or blood tests if required.

Behavioural Causes

Coprophagia can be a common behavioural problem for puppies that generally clears up by adulthood. While dogs of all ages may exhibit coprophagia behaviour, some common causes include:

  • Curiosity and playfulness: initial poo-eating behaviour may attract attention from owners, resulting in dogs or puppies continuing to exhibit the behaviour
  • Copying other dogs: as female dogs clean and ingest puppy poo while nesting, puppies may mimic the behaviour of their mother or other dogs who perform this behaviour
  • Incorrect training techniques: some owners attempt to toilet-train their dogs by sticking a dog’s nose in their stool when they have soiled inside the home, sometimes encouraging coprophagia
  • Innate behaviour: adult dogs may groom and clean newborn puppies and may also eat their faeces

With early intervention and consistent treatment, owners and vets can help to reduce the likelihood of behaviour becoming a long-term habit and correct behavioural issues that result in coprophagia.

Why Does My Dog Eat Cat Poo?

Have you noticed that your dog eats the poo of cats and other animals? Dogs may eat the faeces of other animals as scavenging behaviour. It’s not uncommon for dogs to steal food from humans, eat out of garbage bins or eat non-food items that we consider strange and unsanitary. Often, dogs are attracted to the smell, texture and taste of foods – regardless of whether we consider them to be appropriate or not.

Cat faeces and faeces from other animals sometimes have enough appealing attributes to attract dogs. As dogs interpret smells differently to humans, it’s important to remember that poo isn’t necessarily an unpleasant smell to a dog. In fact, poo is an odour that dogs are consistently attracted to when exploring their environment. In turn, if poo is attractive enough to your dog, you may find your dog eating it.

How Do I Stop My Dog from Eating Poo?

Coprophagia triggered by behaviour can be corrected by consistently enforcing a number of practices, including:

  • Limiting and preventing access to faeces as much as possible with thorough cleaning, constant supervision when your dog is outdoors and keeping cat litter out of reach
  • Interrupting or pulling on your dog’s leash as they sniff poo when out for a walk
  • Training your dog to come to you for a treat following elimination to distract and deter them

For coprophagia caused by medical problems, work with your vet to identify and correct the underlying cause. Some potential solutions include:

  • Changing their diet to a more digestible option
  • Switching your dog to a high bulk or high fibre formula
  • Adding enzyme supplements to improve digestion and absorption
  • Including home remedies that may impart a less pleasant taste and appeal of your dog’s own stool

Manage Coprophagia with Your Vet

If you have concerns over your dog exhibiting coprophagia, chat with the vets at Vetwest for expert advice and support. From behavioural concerns to medical problems, we help you identify and treat the cause of the behaviour for long-term success. Contact us for more on coprophagia advice and treatment.

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