Contributed by Angie Lewis
As disgusting as it is, dogs eating poop is fairly common. The scientific name for this is coprophagia, and it is disgusting, no matter what you call it. Studies have shown that there are very few similar characteristics among poop eating dogs- not diet, housetraining, age at weaning, or breed of dog. The other puzzling aspect of this is that most dogs do not like poop, which makes housetraining easier.
It has been determined that there are some consistent characteristics among poop eaters. These dogs are often:
-They tend to eat cat poop and dirt
-Many are older than four years of age
-They are part of a multi-dog household
Coprophagia is difficult to stop and commercial deterrents and behavior modification has not proven to be very successful. In fact, the best strategy is to clean up the poop as soon as possible. If your dog is off-leash in a dog park or on trails, carefully supervise him. There is some thought that eating poop may correct diet deficiencies. So, your dog is not eating poop because it tastes great, but rather because his body is missing something from his diet. The feces of other animals contain digestive enzymes, something that your dog might be lacking.
This behavior can be caused by stress, particularly with dogs in kennel situations. Puppy mill dogs are often underfed and forced to sit in small crates, with no mental stimulation and therefore can become habitual stool eaters. Sometimes, there is nothing else for them to eat.
Some dogs are selective about the type of poop that they enjoy. So that some dogs will only eat frozen poop, or the poop of a certain animal, or only eat poop a certain time of year.
So, what can you do about your poop eating critter? Experts suggest that you try to feed a nutritionally balanced diet, preferably with unprocessed protein. Use probiotics and digestive enzymes. As mentioned earlier, pick up any feces as soon as possible. If your dog eats litterbox “treats”, put the litterbox in a place that your cat has access to it, but your dog does not. Make your dog’s life fun and interesting with lots of exercise, walks, and other mental stimulation.
If none of these strategies work, make an appointment with your vet to rule out any other medical reason for this behavior. Above all, do not punish your dog for this poop eating behavior. Remember, it isn’t gross to him. Good luck.
Angie Lewis, President of Alaska Animal Advocates