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© By Martine Lavallée BAA, TSA

Do you know about coprophagia or scatophagia? It is the consumption of feces. Many insects, fish and mammals do it including dogs. This feeding practice may be more normal for many animals, but in the dog, nothing is more certain. Dogs may be tempted to eat their excrement and those of other animals. After observing our dog eat stools, we are much less tempted to offer him a kiss on truffle… Very few studies have been done on canine coprophagia and several theories exist on the subject.

Should we worry?

In principle, our dog will not die if he eats faeces in limited quantity. On the other hand, he can do very bad indigestion if he eats in large quantities. In addition, the dog that eats the excrement of other animals (fauna, cat, etc.) is exposed to the ingestion of parasites that can cause health problems. A dewormer given at regular intervals will solve this problem.

Causes

In theory, because research is not advanced enough in this area, dogs eat their excrement for psychological, behavioural and/or food reasons.

  • Reprimanding
    Every dog has a learning period to become "clean" in the house. If, however, a puppy has been repeatedly punished during this time, he may confuse what he has to do and understand instead that he must eat his excrement to avoid punishment.
  • Undernourishment
    Who says undernourishment says malnutrition. This is summed up by a lack of essential nutrients to the body creating a feeling of persistent hunger. Puppies from factories are often underfed to try to keep them as small as possible. Malnutrition can also occur when we reduce the daily portion of our dog's food to make him lose weight, without giving him a richer food of high-quality protein to counter his feeling of hunger. The dog will believe that by eating his stool he will be less hungry.
  • Overeating
    Some also mention that feeding too much to your dog may cause him to eat his stool because it would still contain a significant amount of undigested food. This theory remains to be proved.
  • Good Taste
    Still a theory that remains to be proved. But it seems that for some dogs, these artificial flavours added in the croquettes of some brands can persist even in the stool and encourage the dogs to eat them.
  • Enzyme deficits
    Because many enzyme deficiencies promote the excretion of undigested elements in the stool and some of these conditions also increase appetite, dogs may be tempted to ingest their stool.
  • Intestinal parasites
    Intestinal parasites (worms) could cause several foods swallowed by our dog to be less well absorbed. The annual visit to a veterinarian as well as deworming treatments are recommended.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    According to Dr. Joel Dehasse, canine behavioural veterinarian, OCD brings compulsive behaviours where dogs are subjected to a strong internal and intrinsic motivation to cause them to compulsively swallow their stools.
  • Boredom
    An under-stimulated dog, tied all day in the yard and having nothing to do, might want to eat his excrement to get bored.

Solutions

First of all, managing our dog's environment is really essential. So, to supervise our dog when it is outside it means to always go out with him, sometimes to keep him on a leash even if he is in a court yard. Thus, we will be able to intervene better when we must prevent it from eating its excrement and those of others. Also, use positive reinforcement; so when your dog is having a bowel movement, remind him / her of an enthusiastic voice and give him a treat. One would be tempted to pull on the leash to prevent it from feeling or eating stool, but pulling on the leash will only create a negative reinforcement. This is a method to proscribe. Third, after drawing our dog's attention, we quickly pick up the excrement and keep our yard clean. Fourth, after riding, we can encourage our dog to pick up his ball or encourage him to pick up a toy to distract him.

On the other hand, if our dog has a health problem as mentioned earlier in this text, the four methods will probably have no effect on him. It is recommended to have your dog examined by your veterinarian.

In the case of poor digestion, it is also possible to add supplements to our dog's food to help him better absorb nutrients from his usual food. Ask Zanimo for this type of dietary supplement. In addition, there is another food supplement, however chemical, monosodium glutamate, which would give bad taste to the saddle of your dog so that it does not find it interesting.

Conclusion

The older the dog is, the more difficult this behaviour is to modify. Patience, consistency and perseverance are the qualities required to overcome coprophagia. Keep hope because you can overcome this unpleasant behaviour!

Sources :
Joel Dehasse, Changer le comportement de mon chien en 7 jours
Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medecine for dog and cat, Dre Karen L. Overall
Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat, G. Landsberg, W. Hunthausen, L. Ackerman

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