Monday, November 1, 2010

The Scoop on Poop (Eating)

We recently encountered a puppy that would turn around and eat her own feces as soon as it left her body. The scientific term for this behavior is coprophagy – from the Greek, copro (feces) and phagy (to eat). Some dogs will eat the feces of other species-rabbits, cats, horses. This behavior is pretty gross to us humans and can present a health risk from parasites to the dog.

The cause of coprophagy is not certain. In rare cases, a medical problem may be the cause: intestinal or pancreatic disorders, parasitic worm infestation, or starvation. If any of these are suspected, prompt medical attention for your dog is required.

Some speculate that coprophagy is a remnant of the dog's origin from the wolf. Wild wolves and coyotes will eat the feces of herbivores like rabbits to replenish certain vitamins or ward off starvation. Others think that stress and punishment, especially around bathroom behaviors, can trigger this problem. Coprophagy could also be a learned behavior from other puppies and dogs, or most simply, they think the poop tastes delicious.

There are a few methods for dealing with this problem:

First, the elimination area for the dog should be kept as free of feces as possible. Reduce your dog's chances of finding a snack.
After your dog eliminates, or as you see him heading to eat feces, distract him with a fun reward like a treat or playtime.
Products are available that can be sprinkled on the dog (or cat's) food that make the resulting feces unpalatable.
In more extreme cases, a muzzle may be needed wherever feces may be present. Never leave a muzzle on an unatended dog!

Whatever method you choose, it is important to nip this behavior in the bud as soon as you notice it.

Your Friends at WSD

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