What is Coprophagia?
If your dog is eating feces, it is a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian. The veterinarian will help determine if there are any medical conditions causing the dog to be excessively hungry. If coprophagia is a behavioral issue, the veterinarian may also make recommendations which may help stop your dog from eating feces.
Coprophagia is the scientific term for eating feces. Although coprophagia is upsetting and revolting to us; it is a common problem in dogs and puppies. There are physical, medical and behavioral reasons why dogs eat feces.
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Symptoms of Coprophagia in Dogs
- You see your dog eating feces in the backyard
- Dog is found eating cat feces from the litter box
- Eats poop he finds during his walks
- Dog vomits feces
- Dam eats her puppies feces
Causes of Coprophagia in Dogs
Medical and physical reasons for coprophagia in dogs:
- Intestinal parasites - The parasites are feeding on the dog’s nutrients
- Endocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) - Is a disorder where the pancreas is not producing digestive enzymes; the food being ingested is not broken down nor are the nutrients being absorbed (the dog is starving)
- Underfed - Not feeding the dog the right amount of food
- Poor quality diet - Malnourished
- Taste - Cat feces may taste good to a dog
- Dam will eat their puppies poop to clean the den; this is a normal behavior in dogs
- Prescription medications can make a dog very hungry
Behavioral reasons for coprophagia in dogs:
- Abused dog that was not being fed (got used to eating his own feces
- Puppy mill puppies that were neglected and overcrowded causing anxiety issues
- Seeking owner’s attention
- Boredom (no activities or playtime)
- Kenneled/isolated for extended amount of time
Diagnosis of Coprophagia in Dogs
The veterinarian will go over the patient’s medical history with you. Let him know your concerns regarding your dog eating feces. The veterinarian may want to discuss what your dog’s current diet is and how often is he fed. He may also want to know the dog’s daily activities and his regular schedule (playtime, walks, whether he is crated, socialized.).
The doctor will then perform a physical examination, which may include taking the patient’s weight, temperature, pulse and blood pressure. The veterinarian may want to run blood work such as a complete blood count (CBC) and a serum chemistry panel. The complete blood count can help evaluate platelets, red and white cell count. The CBC can also help determine if the dog is anemic or has a bacterial infection. A serum chemistry panel aids in determining organ function; how well the body’s organs are working. The veterinarian may also recommend a urinalysis, fecal fat test (measures fat in the stool sample), and a fecal exam (checks for parasites). These diagnostic tests can help narrow down the cause and may reveal underlying health issues.
Treatment of Coprophagia in Dogs
Endocrine pancreatic insufficiency is usually treated by replacing digestive enzymes using freeze dried pancreas extracts from pig and cattle. The extracts are sprinkled on the dog’s food usually 30 minutes before feeding. The patient will also be placed on dietary supplements and vitamins.
Parasites are treated with a de-wormer and your dog’s bedding, toys, and bowls will need to be washed in hot water. Flooring should be cleaned and disinfected to help eliminate any remaining eggs.
Dogs diagnosed with deficient diets will need to be fed a better quality commercial food. It is recommended that you read the ingredient label; the first ingredient should be a protein not a “by-product”. Dietary supplements and vitamins may also be prescribed. Patients that are anemic may need B-12 injections.
Dogs with no medical conditions may be eating feces due to behavioral reasons. The veterinarian may suggest more playtime and walks, and less alone time. Dogs that are exercised and played with tend to be more content. If your dog persists in eating feces the veterinarian may recommend a dog behaviorist.
Recovery of Coprophagia in Dogs
Patients that were diagnosed with a medical condition will need follow-up visits to monitor their progress. Dogs that were diagnosed with a behavior problem will need their owner to have patience and breaking the habit will require consistency. Dogs are pack animals and do not do well being isolated or confined. They require love, activities and attention. In addition, picking up feces from the yard, regularly cleaning the litter box, providing toys and teaching him the command “leave it” may also help him to stop eating feces. There are also deterrent soft chews made of natural ingredients which may help the dog not to eat his own feces.
Coprophagia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My little dog seems obsessed with my big dog. Both female, she always grooms her, pees where she pees and sometimes eats her poop. I try to separate as much as possible. Is it possible for a female dog to behave like a male and be territorial? Any suggestions on what to do?
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I have recently adopted a dog from another owner. I discovered that she eats her poop. She is in good health and I know her previous circumstance included long hours of being crated and little outside activity. Her potty area was a back deck. She now has a companion and access to outside and inside areas. She potties inside (a basement area, she doesn't potty in the living areas, so technically she is 'house trained')and eats her poop. She doesn't eat the other dogs poop so this appears to be a habit from her two years of isolation. Will the additive deterrents be effective in this situation. Unfortunately, it happens while I am at work and I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to address it behaviorally.
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If I cannot afford to have extensive testing done by veterinarian, is the better initial approach to treating coprophagia to administer something that will balance nutrients or Would the preferred method be a giving a deterrent that makes the stool taste bad?
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