Coprophagia in dogs: what is the cause?


Have you observed that your dog eats his own poop and you do not understand why? In this post we are going to know everything about coprophagia so you can know what happens to your best friend.

What is coprophagia?

It is called coprophagia, the consumption of excrements (of other animals, or their own) of a dog. (Although this behavior can occur in other animals such as the wolf or the fox)

It is quite common to hear many dog ​​owners complain that theirs suffers from this mania.

It usually occurs in puppies since, by not controlling their sphincters, and with the concern that their owners will punish them for it, they try to make the excrement deposited in inappropriate places disappear quickly, so they eat them.

Although it can also occur in adult dogs for various reasons, such as psychological problems (anxiety or stress) or health problems .

This attitude can be detrimental to our little friend, as he can contract intestinal parasites . These can bring the animal problems such as diarrhea , weight loss, intestinal bleeding, skin conditions, etc. as they live at the expense of the dog (they ingest blood, or even intestinal mucosa).

Why does coprophagia occur?

In this situation, it is important that the owners know why it happens, and act if it begins to appear.

One thing that often happens is that in houses where cats and dogs coexist, the dog eats the cat’s feces. Why? It is a simple reason. Dogs have such a developed sense of smell that they can identify the remains of food left in the cat’s droppings. If they like their feed, or the cat’s cans, they will eat them.

Another reason why coprophagia may exist, be it from a cat, another dog, or your own, is out of curiosity and imitation . It usually occurs in puppies and young dogs, when they see their mother doing it, or they simply smell it and eat them to explore. This will generally go away over time.

It also occurs in bitches that have been mothers (maternal coprophagia) . A behavior inherited from wolves, in which the bitch eats the feces and urine of her puppies to promote hygiene, thus avoiding parasites and infections and, in addition, eliminating odors that other predators could use to locate them.

Coprophagia could also occur in bored dogs that do not exercise. These will invent their own hobby. Even if they live in a large garden, where they can jump and jump, every dog ​​needs attention, exercise and play. If they do not have it, and to get out of that state of apathy, the dog will invent his hobby, which could be digging holes, trying to escape or biting things, hopefully his toys, but it could be slippers, controls, or … feces.

It may also be due to a lack of nutrients . If the dog has a deficiency or a problem assimilating a nutrient, it will not be uncommon for him to try to supplement it with the intake of excrement.

Some dogs also do it as a wake-up call . By doing so, they know that their owners will scold them and sometimes for them, that is enough. On other occasions, the dog has been scolded incorrectly or excessively, when they have done their business inside the house, and this will cause the dog to associate that the presence of feces with its owner are incompatible, with which, it eats them to avoid harsh punishment .

Imitation can be another very common cause. If a dog sees another doing it, it is not surprising that the first one ends up eating the excrement as well.

It could even be to enhance olfactory communication. With the sense of smell, our friends communicate, and in the feces, powerful pheromones are found. It could be the case that a dog eats them, to get to know another dog more.

It is also said that in some cases, dogs that are more submissive have been seen to eat the feces of stronger dogs.

Another factor that could lead to coprophagia is that the dog is in closed areas where feces accumulate, for example a chenille or cage. If the dog spends a lot of time there, he may feel compelled to clean the site .

Other times, certain excrements, such as those of humans, or some herbivorous animals (such as cows) are usually palatable to some dogs, and they find a high protein content.

What can coprophagia lead to?

s you can see, there are many factors that can influence coprophagia that, apart from disturbing the owners and giving themselves the possibility of ingesting internal parasites, (which can be avoided by frequently deworming your pet) could also be transmitted other organisms such as Toxoplasma (present in cat droppings), which can cause the dog a variety of problems.

Another possibility is that if the excrement has been in one place for a long time, it can be infested with fly larvae, fungi, bacteria

Some important viral diseases, such as hepatitis or parvovirus , could be transmitted in this way.

How to avoid coprophagia

To avoid this, the first thing we should do is go to the vet to rule out possible physiological problems, which is one of the possible causes.

Once these problems have been ruled out, it is recommended to feed the dog with a good quality feed, quickly clean the stool, provide it with games and mental stimuli …

The dog can be walked on a leash and a basket muzzle (making it positive beforehand so that it is not a punishment) thus preventing it from being eaten (although it will not be a solution, but an avoidance method).

You will have to have a rigid schedule of outings and not leave food available to the dog at all times, making it possible for him to eat when he wants.

Another method is that, when the dog is going to eat an excrement, he is told a resounding “no”, and then ordered to sit or lie down, then rewarding another behavior.

It could be changed for a piece of banana, which has a similar texture and they tend to like the flavor.

There are also products indicated for this situation, which are applied on the stool, and due to its taste, it causes aversion to them.

Another factor to avoid is not leaving the dog alone for long periods of time.

There are also some foods that will later turn into disgusting colored and tasting droppings like pumpkin or spinach, but you will need to consult your vet.

With maturity, some dogs suddenly stop ingesting feces, but this will only occur if they have started to ingest them as puppies out of curiosity. But if the dog maintains an inadequate diet, they will continue eating excrement, as a food supplement, until their diet is changed.

The best thing to do is prevent and give your friend a good quality diet, physical and mental exercise, and keep his space very clean.


Divyesh Patel