Eating poop, why do dogs do it? How can we stop it? Penaran Higgs from Pet Shrink has given us her top tips on curbing this behaviour.
Coprophagia is the scientific term for eating poop - the unpleasant habit that dogs of all ages can have. They can eat their own poop, other dogs’ poop, poop from other species such as cows horses or cats, or even the most revolting of all – human poop! Yuk!
Texture, smell and taste appear to be significant factors in whether they find it appealing, with firm or frozen stools apparently more attractive to them than soft or poorly formed ones and interestingly, un-neutered female dogs and neutered males are the most likely culprits.
Is it dangerous?
It isn’t a huge risk for a dog to eat their own faeces, but it can in large amounts lead to vomiting and diarrhoea and eating the faeces or other dogs can lead to increased risk of parasitic infection.
Why do they do it?
There are many causes: Puppies can do it as an investigative behaviour, dogs who are bored or in a barren environment too. Anxiety issues are linked to some forms of poop eating, but only in dogs who eat other dogs’ poop, not other types. Some scientists have found it is linked to a gastric upset or imbalance that needs to be addressed, which results in the stools becoming more palatable. Other medical conditions causing excessive hunger can also mean that dogs become partial to poop.
How can we prevent it?
Most commonly people suggest getting a dog to wear a muzzle however, this doesn’t prevent the behaviour and even worse, the muzzle acts as a poop scoop - not ideal. The first thing to do is to seek veterinary advice, especially if the stools are unusual in appearance, or the behaviour has a sudden onset.
In addition we should make sure that our dogs receive a dog quality balanced diet, spaced out over several small meals to eliminate hungry exploratory behaviour or coprophagia caused by a deficiency of nutrients. Dogs who are underfed can be hungry and dogs who are overfed may have higher amounts of undigested food remaining in their faeces, which makes them more palatable - some food for thought there! In particular dogs who are deficient in protein may find cats’ faeces particularly tasty, so cat litter trays should be placed well away from dogs. Another thing to note is there are supplements that are said to help, which contain digestive enzymes – these enzymes are also found in raw pineapple.
On walks, care should be taken to make sure we entertaining our dogs so they don’t feel the need to supplement their walk with poop. It should also be noted that poop should be picked up immediately after the dog has eliminated and of course, teaching a kind and reliable “leave”, “recall” cue always helps.Now we've chatted about bad poop eating habits, perhaps we should talk about good eating habits - which of course is a bowl of Butternut - Build your first Butternut Box today!