If you're a dog owner, you may have been baffled and slightly disgusted to witness your furry friend engaging in the behavior of eating poo. Yes, it's true — dogs are known to partake in this less-than-appetizing habit, leaving us wondering why on earth they would do such a thing.
But why do dogs eat poop? While it may seem undeniably gross to us humans, there are actually several reasons why dogs exhibit this behavior.
In this article, we'll explore the different types of coprophagia (the scientific term for poop-eating), the possible explanations behind why dogs eat poop, and what you can do to address and prevent this behavior.
So if you've been wondering why your pup has taken a liking to poop — read on for some answers.
Understanding Coprophagia: The Different Types
Believe it or not, there's more than just one type of coprophagy.
When a dog eats its own poop, it's referred to as autocoprophagia. Consuming the poop of other animals, such as cats, via the litter box is known as allocoprophagia. And finally, consuming the poop of humans is called anthropocoprophagia.
While dogs don't typically partake in anthropocoprophagia (thankfully!), they may engage in either autocoprophagia or allocoprophagia.
How Common Is Coprophagia in Dogs?
As strange as it may seem, coprophagia is actually quite common in the canine world! Studies show that about 16 percent of puppies and up to 30 percent of adult dogs have been known to eat poop at some point.
So don't be too worried if you catch your pup snacking on their own waste — they're certainly not alone.
Can Dogs Get Sick from Eating Poop?
While coprophagia may seem like an unpleasant habit, it's not just the ick factor that we should be concerned about. There are actually some health risks associated with dogs eating poop. As a responsible pet owner, it's essential to be aware of these risks and take steps to prevent and address coprophagia.
Here are a few of the potential health risks:
One of the immediate risks of coprophagia is gastrointestinal upset. Consuming feces can introduce bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens into the dog's digestive system.
This can lead to stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and overall digestive discomfort. In other words, eating poop does no good for pet health!
Spread of Diseases
Feces can carry various bacteria, viruses, and intestinal parasites that can be harmful to both dogs and humans. Some common diseases that can be transmitted through feces include parvovirus, salmonellosis, giardiasis, and roundworm infections. When a dog eats infected feces, they increase the risk of contracting and spreading these diseases.
In addition to bacteria and parasites, feces can contain toxic substances. Dogs who eat the feces of animals that have been treated with certain medications, such as dewormers or flea preventives, can be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals.
Additionally, if a dog ingests the feces of animals that have consumed toxic substances, such as household chemicals or certain plants, it can pose a risk to their health.
Reasons Behind Coprophagia
There are several explanations that could explain why your pup is dining on feces — here are some of them:
One possible explanation for coprophagia in dogs is nutritional deficiencies. Dogs with poor diets or inadequate nutrition may resort to eating feces in an attempt to fulfill their nutritional needs.
They may seek them in feces if their diet lacks essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, or enzymes. This is especially common in dogs fed low-quality or improperly balanced diets.
Coprophagia can also be traced back to the ancestral instincts of dogs. In the wild, canines would consume feces as a means of survival. This behavior allowed them to obtain essential nutrients not fully absorbed during the initial digestion process.
While our domesticated pups have easy access to wholesome nibbles, the instinct to scavenge for nutrients may still be present in some canines.
Coprophagia can sometimes be a result of behavioral issues. Dogs may eat poop due to boredom, stress, anxiety, or attention-seeking behavior. If a dog feels neglected or lacks mental stimulation, they may engage in coprophagia as a way to entertain themselves or gain attention from their owners.
Providing proper mental and physical stimulation, along with positive reinforcementdog training, can help address this type of coprophagia.
Certain medical conditions can contribute to coprophagia in dogs. For example, malabsorption disorders, thyroid disease, or pancreatic insufficiency may result in poor nutrient absorption, leading dogs to search for alternative sources of nutrition.
Additionally, conditions that cause increased appetite or changes in digestive enzymes can contribute to the behavior. If you suspect an underlying medical condition is to blame for your dog's coprophagia, consult your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation.
In some cases, maternal instincts play a role in coprophagia. A mother dog may eat the droppings of her puppies to keep their immediate environment clean and protect them from predators. This behavior usually subsides as the puppies grow and become capable of eliminating waste on their own.
How To Kick Your Pup's Stool-Eating Habit
If your pup's coprophagia has you stumped, fear not — there are things you can take to help break the habit. Here are some tips:
Keep the Environment Clean
One of the simplest ways to discourage coprophagia is to ensure your dog's environment is clean and poop-free. Promptly clean up after your pup in the yard and remove any feces they encounter during walks. Removing the temptation eliminates the opportunity for them to engage in this behavior.
Supervise and Distract
When spending time outdoors with your dog, keep a close eye on them. If you notice them showing interest in poop, immediately redirect their attention to a more engaging and positive activity. Offer them a pet-safe toy to play with or initiate a game of fetch to divert their focus away from the poop.
Provide Proper Nutrition
A dog's diet can often contribute to coprophagia. Poor-quality kibble can make a dog feel hungry, leading to poop eating, so ensure your dog is fed a nutritious diet that meets its nutritional needs.
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Add Supplements to Their Diet
In some cases, adding certain supplements to your dog's diet may help deter them from eating poop. For example, adding digestive enzymes or probiotics can aid in proper digestion and nutrient absorption, potentially reducing the appeal of feces as a food source.
Note: Always consult with your veterinarian before introducing any supplements to your dog's diet.
Train and Reinforce the "Leave It" Command
Training your pup to respond to the "Leave It" command can be a valuable tool in preventing coprophagia. Start by teaching them the command using treats or toys. Once they have a good handle of the command, apply it to situations where they show interest in poop.
When they listen and divert their attention away, reward them with praise and yummy treats to reinforce the desired behavior.
Increase Exercise and Mental Stimulation
As touched on previously, pups that are bored or under-stimulated may resort to coprophagia as a means of entertainment. Ensure that your dog receives plenty of daily exercise and mental stimulation.
Engage them in interactive play, provide puzzle toys, and consider obedience training or agility classes to keep their minds and bodies active.
Address Underlying Medical Issues
Since coprophagia can be linked to underlying medical issues, it's important to consult your veterinarian to rule out any potential health conditions that may contribute to this behavior. Your veterinarian can conduct a thorough examination, run necessary tests, and provide appropriate treatment if a medical issue is discovered.
Seek Professional Help if Needed
If you've tried various strategies and still struggle to curb your dog's coprophagia, don't hesitate to seek assistance from a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist. They can provide personalized guidance and develop a tailored training plan to address the specific needs of your dog.
A Final Word
Remember, breaking the habit of coprophagia may require time, patience, and consistency. Stay positive, be persistent in your training efforts, and reward your dog for desired behaviors. With the right approach, good nutrition, and loving guidance, you can help your dog overcome this behavior and enjoy a healthier and happier lifestyle.
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