Behavioral and Medical Causes of Dog Coprophagia

Dog coprophagia is an unpleasant problem that many dog owners must face. There can be several reasons why a dog would eat his own feces or the feces of another animal and owners must address these issues to stop the problem.

Behavioral Causes of Dog Coprophagia

One example of coprophagia that is considered normal and natural is when a nursing mother eats the feces of her puppies. Pet experts believe this is done to keep the nest clean in the first three weeks after birth. Other instances of a dog eating poop are usually an indication of a wider problem.

Dogs often eat their own feces due to stress after a sudden change in their environment or lifestyle. Anxious dogs are more likely to eat canine feces in response to stress and certain breeds that tend to be anxious, like retrievers, are more likely to exhibit symptoms of coprophagia.

A dog that eats his own poop may also be trying to avoid punishment for a bowel movement. This behavior is often seen in puppies that are being house-trained; they will eat their own poop to prevent punishment if they have been scolded or harmed in the past for an accident in the house.

Dogs kept in unsanitary living conditions with little stimulation are also likely to eat canine feces. The dogs may be looking for attention from their owners or responding to the stressful environment. In these dirty surroundings the dog poop isn't cleaned up frequently, there will be more for the dog to ingest and the habit will continue.

Medical Causes for Pets Eating Canine Feces

Dog coprophagia may also be a symptom of a medical problem. If you catch your dog eating his own poop or the feces of another animal more than once than a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary. Owners should tell the vet about the coprophagia behavior, your dog's dietary habits and any other physical symptoms of illness.

Medical causes may include:

  • Internal parasites
  • Intestinal infections
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Pancreatitis
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Food allergies
  • Diabetes

Preventing Dog Coprophagia

One of the simplest ways to stop a dog from eating his own poop is to keep your yard clean by picking up after your dog and other pets every day. If your dog ingests his feces before it is possible to clean it up then a muzzle can stop him from eating while doing his business. It can help to bring your dog outside or go for a walk on a leash and then immediately bring him into the house after he defecates.

Veterinarians also recommend putting meat tenderizer or crushed mints in your dog's food or putting Tabasco on the feces to stop the dog from eating his own poop. A well-trained dog should also respond to a command like "Leave it". Increasing your interaction and supervision of the dog can also prevent dog coprophagia.

If a medical problem is causing the behavior than a veterinary exam will be necessary. If obsessive compulsiveness is causing the dog to eat his own poop than anti-depressants may be diagnosed to relieve anxiety and obsessive behavior.