Coprophagia or when a dog eats its stool
Is your dog eating its own stools—a habit you obviously find disgusting? What can you do? Dr. Stéphanie Surveyer from the Lac St-Louis Veterinary Clinic answers your questions.
Key points for busy people
- My dog eats its own stools: is that normal? No, although it is fairly common.
- Why does my dog do that? Because your pet is still hungry, looking to fill a dietary gap or finds its feces appetizing.
- Do you have tips to prevent this? Either scoop up quickly after your pet or add a product that will alter the taste of stools.
- Can I train my dog not to do that? Yes, through positive reinforcement, like giving rewards.
- Is it dangerous? It could be, if stool is contaminated with bacteria or parasites, which is often the case in puppies.
With spring thaw, all the stools left in my yard by dogs over the winter are now resurfacing, and my dog eats them. Is that normal?
In veterinary medicine, this is called coprophagy. While it’s fairly common, we can all agree that it’s gross!
The first thing to do is to look for potential health issues. For example, is your dog getting a complete and balanced diet in appropriate quantities? A nutritional deficit can sometimes explain this type of behaviour with dogs trying to close dietary gaps by eating stools.
Sometimes, dogs with digestive problems or having trouble assimilating nutriments will try to remedy those deficiencies through this habit. At the other end of the spectrum, if dogs are overfed or given too much food, they will not be able to digest everything, which means that they will still taste their food in stools, making it look like an extra meal.
Yet some other dogs do it because they like the taste, out of boredom, or simply out of habit.
Are there things I can do to prevent this behaviour?
Fortunately, in many cases, the habit will just pass, especially in puppies and young dogs. In the meantime, the simplest solution is to make sure your dog does not have access to stools as much as possible. This involves a great deal of vigilance on your part: you need to follow your dog when outside and scoop up after it right away.
A basket muzzle can also be considered in some cases when the pet is just too quick and you don’t have the time to scoop before your dog feasts.
To alter the taste of stool and reduce the frequency of coprophagy, you can also add certain types of product or food to your dog’s diet (for example: fresh pineapple), use special powders as recommended by your veterinarian, or simply consider a change in diet.
The most important trick to remember is to scoop up stools regularly to avoid contaminating the environment, especially in public spaces. Moreover, it’s never fun for anyone to step on dog poop…
If you don’t have the time or inclination to do that, did you know that there are pooper-scooper businesses? Those companies can even clean your yard on a regular basis or on demand. A quick Google search should direct you to several of them.
Can I train my dog not to eat stools?
Yes, there are several tips that can help you. A dog’s brain is fairly simple: when rewarded for something, a dog will repeat the behaviour.
So, when your dog does its business, call it away with the help of a toy or treat, or lead it away with its leash. Once you’re far enough, give your dog the treat, which will give you the time to scoop up the stools. This way, dogs come to understand that by walking away and going to their master after they do their business, they will get something far tastier than poop in return!
You can also manage your dog’s pooping schedule by feeding it 2 to 3 times a day, at set times. Generally, dogs will need to poop about 30 to 60 minutes after eating. By following a regular feeding schedule, it will be easier to plan for scooping duties.
Is it dangerous for my dog to eat its or other dogs feces?
By eating contaminated stools, your dog can contract parasites, bacteria, or viruses. That’s why regular deworming is crucial for dogs exhibiting this bad habit.
This is especially true for puppies, with the majority of dogs being born with intestinal parasites called “ascarids” or roundworms. These are maternally acquired during gestation or through their mother’s milk. In pregnant dogs, dormant larvae are reactivated and contaminate the fetus. Therefore, puppies are born carrying those worms that look like spaghettis.
That’s why it’s important to deworm puppies because otherwise, their stools will contaminate the environment and can infect other pets or even children.
Do you have more questions?
Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Passionimo veterinary clinic nearest to you.