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Canine Coprophagia (eating Stool)
Many dog owners complain about coprophagia which is defined
as the consumption of feces. It may indicate a medical
problem which can be accompanied with other symptoms as
well. If you are experiencing this problem, schedule a
thorough veterinary exam to rule out any medical or dietary
issues before implementing behavioral training or
modifications. Research indicates they may have a vitamin B
deficiency and their diet should be adjusted in terms of
schedule, amount, nutrient quality of protein, carbohydrate
and fat ratios. Their diet may need to be supplemented with
high fiber, “muscle or organ meat”, brewers yeast, or fish
oil for a period of time.
Three Types of Coprophagia
- Autocoprophagia deals
with a dog eating their own feces.
- Intraspecific coprophagia
deals with a dog eating feces from other animals within
its own species (dog eating other dog’s feces).
- Interspecific coprophagia
deals with a dog eating feces from another species (cat,
deer, rabbit, cattle, horse).
- Attention-seeking behavior:
Dogs may eat feces to get attention from their owners.
Many owners scold or reprimand them thus providing them
with negative reinforcement. From the dog’s perspective
any attention is good.
- Allelomimetic behavior:
Dogs observe their owners picking up the feces and learn
from them to do so as well.
- Learned behavior:
Dogs observe other dogs engaging in coprophagia and
mimic their activity.
- Maternal behavior: It
is normal behavior for a mother dog with puppies. The
mother attempts to clean her puppies and den or whelping
box to prevent their scent from attracting predators.
- Dominance behavior:
There are cases reported of submissive dogs consuming
the feces of one or more of the dominate dogs in the
- Reinforcement: Taste
plays a factor because it is appealing to the dog and
immediate gratification reinforces the behavior.
- Feeding behavior:
Dogs prefer to have more than one meal per day. If they
are fed only once, they eat feces in an attempt to
supplement their diet...
- Meat Tenderizer- When
added to a dog’s food, the enzyme helps to break down
the nutrients in their diet to increase digestibility.
- Coproban- Is a soft
chew supplement that your dog can eat to make the feces
taste bad in order to repel the dog that wants to
- Scolding/Punishment –
Some owners use punishment to stop unwanted behaviors.
Dogs try anything to get attention from their owners.
Scolding (negative reinforcement) actually leads to more
coprophagia. Rewarding the appropriate behaviors with
positive reinforcement is more effective.
- Ignoring – It is
better to ignore a negative behavior and praise or
reinforce the positive or appropriate behavior.
- Muzzle – When
unsupervised, a muzzle is a practical solution if the
dog engages in consuming fresh feces.
- Positive Reinforcement
– Positive reinforcement builds a dog’s self esteem.
When the dog looks at the feces, the owner should
command “Come, Sit, or Leave it”. It is helpful to
distract the dog long enough to pick it up.
- To break this cycle,
many owners constantly pick up the feces
to prevent their dogs from eating them.
is a disgusting habit that can also cause health issues in
dogs. When they ingest the feces of strange dogs or wild
life, they may be exposed to internal parasites. It is
important to prevent this, because the parasites can be
passed to you or your other pets. Cat feces can transfer
Toxoplasma gondii which is an organism that causes CNS
problems for dogs. We recommend routine fecal checks twice
yearly and deworming when necessary. Read our website
articles about the importance of
fecal checks and the
types of parasites that your pet may get exposed to. Also,
when dog feces sit too long they may become infested with
fly larvae, foreign bacteria, or fungus which can also
create health issues if ingested. Other diseases that can
also be transmitted through the feces are hepatitis and