You were just snuggling on the coach with your adorable furry companion accepting some gentle little kisses from them. Suddenly your pup gets down and gives you the signal that they need to go outside. You know what that means. You throw on your boots and head outside to accompany your dog while they “visit the facilities”. Next thing you know you spot your dog excitedly eating away, you go to look and realize it’s their poop. They are eating their own poop!! You think of the kiss on the chin you just accepted a few minutes ago. “Help my dog eats poop”.
Coprophagy or eating poop makes the skin crawl on most pet parents. At the Royal Pets Hotel and Spa we occasionally have a dog boarding guest who is a “poop eater”, but we treat every guest as a potential one. The most strict rule and diligent aspect of our cleaning is the swift and thorough removal of feces from the yards. When you have a dog boarding the last thing we want to facilitate is them eating their own poop, even if they did do so before. For that reason to ensure the health and safety of our guests as well as discourage bad habit formation we will always collect the feces immediately all around our dog boarding facility to prevent the opportunity to eat either their own or another dogs stool.
Eating feces is normal with many different wild animal species. With Domesticated dogs, it is not a normal or necessary part of their digestive process, but it is a normal behavior in mother dogs with pups when cleaning. Some dogs will continue or emulate this cleaning behaviour in a misguided attempt to clean either the yard or their crate. This can easily turn into a habit. We know that puppy store dogs tend to eat their own stool much more frequently than others. Dogs forced to eliminate in their own area (ie cage) will eat their stools rather than live amongst it.
Eating Feces (poop) Can Be a Sign of Illness
Not all coprophagy is habit based or harmless. Dogs who suffer from malabsorption syndromes, such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, will sometimes eat their own stool. They may be trying to recover the nutrients they can’t absorb in normal digestion.
Poor Quality Food
Malnourished and hungry dogs will eat anything, so would we for that matter. I’m not suggesting you are starving your dog, absolutely not. But there are unfortunately a number of kibble formulations that serve to give your dogs calories and the feeling of being full, with little else. If your dog is eating their own stool while being served volumes of a commercial dog food, verify the quality.
We obviously Value it by collecting and saving it!
We all do the “you know you want it” game. We pick up the toy and in an excited voice offer and then take away the favourite toy, to get them interested. Inadvertantly we sometimes do the same with poop. The first time you catch them doing a furtive little sniff and even lick, we yell excitedly and collect the poop and put it away. Now this is seen as a coveted item. The next time they are much quicker to grab and run before you take it away from them.
At the dog hotel we make sure there are no such things as “poop Sicles”, but we are often approached for advice on the subject of coprophagy in the spring. It is a fact that it is harder to stay on top of cleaning the yard of treasures in the snow than in the summer. Or at least it seems easier to leave it because that fresh snow covers the evidence. Ater a winter of finding frozen delicacies, a dog will continue to dine ater the thaw. Many dogs find the frozen variety utterly irresistible.
Is It Bad for Dogs to Eat Poop?
Disgusting as it is to us, coprophagy seems to do most healthy, vaccinated dogs little harm apart from occasional digestive upset and sometimes a parasite or two. This is assuming a lot of factors including; your dog isn’t on a raw food diet. Eating the feces of a dog on raw food is an extremely dangerous undertaking. It is also assuming that it is in a occasional thing, over indulgence can lead to severe illness and malnourishment. And finally it’s just the same as our mothers used to always yell at us. “Spit that out, you don’t know where it’s been?” Your dog occasionally dining on their own stool is far less dangerous than partaking in that of others.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Poop
Prevent Access to Poop
Clean the yard every day and ideally after each and every visit. Be diligent ! If they are diving for their own feces as soon as they have a bowel movement, keep them on a leash till they’re done Then lure away with something super tasty before they have a chance to start. Or gently pull if a lure doesn’t work. Try a play invitation to distract. If they are a lover of fetch, toss a ball and the second they begin to rise clean up during the chase.
If the poop eating habit isn’t well established, it may die away on its own, provided your dog has no further opportunities to practice it. Many puppies also seem to abandon stool-eating as they mature. If your puppy isn’t one of those then the need to establish a good obedient “leave it” routine becomes even more important.
What About Taste Deterrents?
There are two taste approaches to stopping the behavior. Flavour the food that creates the stool or flavour the stool after exit. The most common approach is to use either a commercial meat tenderizer or a veterinary prescribed product. You sprinkle these on your dogs food before they eat it. The purpose of these products are to give the stool a bitter flavor when eaten. In our experience of seeing guests at the dog hotel who arrive with them, it works for some, not others. It’s always worth trying though. Another approach that may work is to flavour the stool directly. Find the stool in the yard and cover it with a hot sauce, that will be uncomfortable to eat but cause no real damage. We’ve also heard of varying results with incorporating pineapple into the diet.
Whatever approach you take, there are a few things to remember. The more excited and agitated you get around the poop, and over the poop eating, the more confused your dog will get about the practice. Diligent removal of the feces, good quality diet, frequents opportunities to go to the toilet outside and a strong “leave it” discipline and response are the main keys to stopping coprophagy.