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Coprophagia: A Guide To Your Fur Friend’s Poop-Eating Habits

What is Coprophagia? 

Have you ever caught your fuzzy friend eating their own poop? Well, there’s a scientific term for that and it’s called Coprophagia. As weird or as gross that may sound, there are really dogs that eat their own poop. And there is more to it than just dogs being dogs and doing some weird and unexplainable things. 

According to WebMd, Coprophagia is your four-legged best friend’s habit of eating poop and there are a variety of reasons why they do that. Some are normal while others can be a sign of an underlying issue. 

A 2018 study entitled “The paradox of canine conspecific coprophagy” by Hart et al. showed that of over 1,500, 23% of dogs were seen eating poop at least once in their lifetime, with 16% of dogs being described as ‘frequent stool eaters’.

Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop?

  • Mother dogs usually eat their pup’s poop in order to keep their den safe from predators who might be attracted to the smell of poop. 
  • For puppies, seeing their mom do it would instinctively make them copy their mom’s behavior. 
  • Your fur friend may be doing it to get your attention. Dogs will go the extra mile just to get a reaction from their humans. 
  • Boredom strikes and they have nothing else to do so they just eat whatever’s in front of them, and in some cases, it’s poop. 
  • It may be a sign of stress. If your fur friend is stressed, eating poop may help soothe them. 
  • They might be doing it as a coping mechanism for anxiety. If your is dog already eating poop, punishing them can make them anxious and make the bad habit even worse. 
  • Dogs who are fed closely to their poop may make a connection between the odors of food and those of the poop and will eventually be unable to tell the difference.
  • Your furry friend might be sick. In some cases, Coprophagia can be associated with diseases of the intestinal tract and other parts of the body such as the pancreas, liver, or brain. 

 

Facts About Coprophagia

  • Nursing female dogs often eat the poop of their young to keep their den clean.
  • With that, female dogs are said to be more likely to eat poop, and intact males were least likely. 
  • According to a 2018 survey published in Veterinary Medicine and Science, it was hypothesized that dogs eat poop as a behavior inherited from their descendents, the wolves. 
  • 92% of poop eaters want fresh poop, only one to two days old
  • Greedy eaters—dogs who steal food off tables—tend to be poop eaters.
  • Dogs will rarely eat soft, poorly formed feces or diarrhea. They appear to be attracted mainly to hard stools.
  • It is more common in multi-dog households. In single-dog homes, only 20% of dogs had the habit of eating poop, while in homes with three dogs, that rose to 33%

 

What Would Happen If My Dog Eat Their Poop? Should I Be Worried?

Eating their poop is relatively harmless and not a reason to be worried about. Ingesting their feces is a ritual passed down from their wolf ancestors and even the mother doggo to their pup. It is also unlikely that this icky habit will lead to health issues, not unless the ingested poop from other dogs contain parasites, bacteria, or virus. 

Once your furry friend ingested the infected poop, they may show symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, disinterest in food, diarrhea, or intestinal worms or parasites. 

How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Their Poop?

 

  • Consult your vet – The first best thing to do is to have your fur baby checked by a veterinarian. This is just so your vet can rule out any underlying problems causing the behavior. 
  • Keep their area clean – Limit their access to poop as much as possible. Your dog most likely prefers fresh feces, so before they can even get a sniff on these fresh poop, you just have to dispose of it immediately. 
  • Proper training – Try using positive reinforcement with the use of treats. You can try teaching them commands like “leave it” so they can slowly break the bad habit. 
  • Give them a reward – If you see them ignore a poop, you can give them a reward.
  • Increase the number of feeds – Make sure that your dog is never hungry so they never have to search for other “treats”.
  • Increase mental enrichment – Your four-legged friend might be showing signs of stress and boredom. Try giving them fun activities like licking, chewing and sniffing.
  • Try supplements – There are a lot of vitamin and enzyme supplements that are available on the market which are said to be helpful in dealing with Coprophagia. According to the American Kennel Club, there’s been a long-standing theory that dogs eat their poop because they are missing something in their diet. Therefore, giving vitamin supplements can help  with their vitamin deficiency. Enzyme supplements, on the other hand, are said to make your dog’s poop taste less appealing. 

**Note: Consult with your vet before trying out new supplements for your pets. 

If your furry companion starts eating poop, it’s important that you don’t shout at them cause this can cause more stress and behavioral issues. It might be a difficult habit to break, but remember to be patient, try to understand your pup, and help them eliminate the behavior slowly. 

By the way, you might consider postponing getting kisses from them (just until they get the poop-eating behavior under control)!

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