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Cannon Falls, MN 55009

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651-222-0885 Twin Cities

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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).

Behavioral Explanations

  • 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 household.
  • 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...

Treatment Options

  • 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 consume it.
  • 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.

Health Concerns

Coprophagia 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 canine parvovirus.


 

 
 

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