Coprophagia in Dogs

If you have ever seen your dog eat their own stool or that of another dog's, then you have seen coprophagia in dogs firsthand. While it may not be a delightful scene, it is normal in some cases. In others, it is a condition that needs to be treated. Because feces are a huge place for bacteria to nest, the condition needs to be treated to help your dog stop your dog from eating their own stool.

What Causes Coprophagia in Dogs?

In a more natural sense, mothers are known to eat their puppies stool. This is not a situation that should be treated or reprimanded. It is natural for a mother to want to keep bacteria and infection away from her babies. By eating their stool, it is possibly her way of protecting them.

On the other hand, any other type of dog that likes to eat stool could be experiencing a nutritional deficiency. By eating their own stool or that of another dog's, they are instinctively trying to fill the nutritional requirements they are lacking in their own food.

In other cases, underlying medical conditions can contribute to the behavior of coprophagia in dogs. If your dog has a medical condition, such as thyroid disease, that is limiting his ability to digest and store his food properly, he will be lacking the nutrients and the satiating feeling of fullness. This in turn can cause him to eat his own stool, still feeling hungry and thinking that he can replace his nutritional requirements with his stool.

Sometimes coprophagia is purely a behavioral issue. If your dog feels that he is lacking affection, or possibly the only time he gets affection is when you enter his cage to clean up his mess, this can reinforce the behavior of coprophagia.  

Diagnosis of Coprophagia in Dogs

There is no diagnostic test that will accurately diagnose coprophagia. The diagnosis is made more from the symptoms that you notice in your dog. Eating his own stool, eating another dog's stool and eating a cat's stool can all be strong identifiers to determine whether the problem stems from a behavioral issue, an underlying condition or the need for a more nutrient substantiated diet.

However, a stool sample will always be taken and tested for any type of worms or parasites that could be present in your dog. While the behavior of eating stool is gross to look at, it is also very unhealthy for a dog because they are re-ingesting any parasites or bacteria that live in their feces. A stool sample can be used to determine if they are any underlying conditions that are causing this behavior. If underlying conditions are ruled out, the condition is likely behavioral or due to a nutrient deficiency.

Dog Coprophagia Treatment

Although there is no medication available to treat this condition, there are a variety of methods that you can try to stop the behavior.

There are some supplements available that are known for creating a poor taste in the stool when eaten. Some of those supplements include:

  • Drs. Foster & Smith Dis-Taste
  • For-Bid

If you are not in favor of feeding supplements, or would like to try a home remedy, here are some additional things that you can do:

  • Try using hot sauce on the feces. This will not taste good to your dog and may possibly distract the behavior.
  • Try adding a meat tenderizer to your dog's diet. This can aide in the nutrients that your dog needs and possibly eliminate your dog's need to eat his own feces.
  • Try cleaning the mess up immediately. If your dog can't get to the feces, there is no way that he can eat it.