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Help! My dog eats poo - what can I do?

on December 10, 2020

Why does my dog eat poo and how can I stop it?

As much as we love our canine companions, they can have some habits that we find pretty disgusting. One of those is eating poo (or coprophagia). If you are one of the owners embarrassed to admit your dog does this, be assured that some studies found that 49% of all dogs have done this at some point or another and nearly a third currently eat poo. There are many different theories about why dogs eat poo. Bitches that have a litter of puppies will sometimes eat the puppy poo to keep their “nest” clean.  Puppies may copy their mother or simply give it a try as part of their natural curious behaviour.  But what can you do if your pup does grow out of this habit? 

 

As ever, we’ve asked our Vet Know-how team at our in-house Vet’s Klinic to help us understand this not-so-pleasant pastime for some handy hints and advice.

 

Which poo suits you?

Astonishingly there are different types of coprophgia!  Some dogs will only eat their own poo, or those of the other dogs they live with, some dogs eat other dogs’ poo and some dogs will eat cat poo or herbivore poo, such as droppings from rabbits...who knew?

 

What is it about cat poo?

Apparently, most dogs will eat cat poo given the chance.  Cats’ diets are naturally high in meat and protein it is this that makes their stools pretty irresistible to dogs.  

 

Vet Know-how Tip

Cat faeces can contain bacteria and parasites that can pass to dogs, so if you suspect your dog is snacking on cat’s poop regular worming is important.

 

What about herbivore poo?

It is common for dogs to eat rabbit, sheep, cow and horse poo.  Again, there are different theories surrounding this habit, some say they like the fibre and other sources suggest that it is just part of a dog’s normal scavenging behaviour.  Farm animal faeces may contain bacteria, parasites or medication that is harmful to your dog.  However, the risk is low so if they do snack on a bit while your back is turned, don’t panic.

 

There are other reasons believed to trigger this common, yet less than desirable, pastime:

Behavioural reasons

Medical reasons

Dietary reasons

Attention seeking

Pancreatic insufficiency

Underfeeding

Boredom

Malabsorption

Poorly digestible diet

Anxiety

Diabetes

Dietary deficiency (rare unless caused by a medical condition)

Curiosity

 

 

Cushing’s disease

https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/pet-health-hub/conditions/cushing-s-disease-in-dogs

 

 

Thyroid conditions

 

 

Parasites

 

 

Some medications

 

 

Vet Know-how Tip

It is often suggested that dogs eat poo because they are lacking in some nutrition.  This, however, is very rarely the case.   Speak to your vet just in case there is a medical or behavioural trigger, especially if your dog has never eaten dog poo before and then suddenly starts.

 

What can you do?

  1. Get Help. Speak to your vet to rule out any medical reasons and for help regarding behaviour.
  2. Stay Calm. Do not punish your dog. Studies have shown that this can make poo eating worse. Some dogs will eat poo because they have previously been chastised for pooping indoors/in an inappropriate place.
  3. Speedy Scooping. If your dog eats his own or other household dogs’ poop (coprophagia is more common in multidog households) try to restrict access by removing any faeces from the garden as soon as possible.
  4. If your dog is showing interest in poo, try to distract them with a toy or something else instead. Reward them for leaving the poo alone.
  5. Train a ‘leave it’ command, so that on walks you can supervise them and ask them to ‘leave it’. Make sure you reward good behaviour at Vet’s Kitchen™ we have a delicious range of treats that can be broken into smaller fragments so perfect for training. https://www.vetknowhow.co.uk/pet-shop?utf8=%E2%9C%93&keywords=treats
  6. Muzzle training. If you have tried other options, you may wish to consider muzzle training. It is very important that your dog learns to wear a muzzle in a positive way. Muzzles should not be used as a punishment. Here is a good article on preparing your dog to wear a muzzle: https://www.apbc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/APBC-Advice-7-Dogs-and-Muzzles.pdf
  7. Change the feeding regime. Smaller more frequent meals may help if your dog is a hungrier breed or if they have any other digestive issues.
  8. There are also commercially available supplements and powders that claim to reduce coprophagia. However, reviews from owners seem to be somewhat hit and miss.
  9. Diet Change. It is a fallacy that dogs on a certain type of diet will not eat poo. Dogs have been known to eat poo on dry, wet, home-prepared and raw food diets. Theories about adding things to your dog’s diet like pineapple, chilli powder or pepper to make the poo less tasty have not been shown to have any long-term success and are not recommended.  Whatever, you decide to feed, it should be the best quality you can afford and easy to digest.

 

Vet Know-how Tip

The best way to determine how digestible it is, is to see how much poo your dog produces. Dogs on a highly digestible diet should produce small amounts of stools.

 

At Vet’s Kitchen™ we’re passionate about keeping your pets healthy.  We combine the expertise of our in-house veterinary practice, Vet’s Klinic™, with the highest quality ingredients to create a range of naturally nutritious and tasty food.   With Vet’s Kitchen™ you can trust that you’re caring from the inside out. 

 

If your dog is coprophagic and you would like any Vet Know-how advice on possible dietary changes, please don’t hesitate to contact us: contact@vetskitchen.co.uk

References

Boze B. (2008) A comparison of common treatments for coprophagy in Canis familiarisJournal of Applied Companion Animal 2, 22–28

Hart, B. L., Hart, L. A., Thigpen, A. P., Tran, A., & Bain, M. J. (2018). The paradox of canine conspecific coprophagy. Veterinary medicine and science4(2), 106–114.

Yin, S (2012) The Scoop on Poop Eating in Dogs. https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/coprophagia-the-scoop-on-poop-eating-in-dogs/ cited 12.05.2020.

 

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