|Faeces Eating (Coprophagia)|
Dogs eating their own faeces can be purely behavioural yet a number of medical conditions can trigger this type of behaviour. By ruling out possible medical causes attention can then be focused on the behavioural problem.
Medical problems that cause a reduction in absorption rates for nutrients, vitamins and minerals could initiate an increase in hunger and the onset of coprophagia. Digestive enzyme deficiencies or the appearance of parasites could be a possible cause.
Feeding your dog an insufficient diet or a poorly digestible one can also trigger coprophagia. This can be identified by examining your dog’s faeces, if there are large quantities of undigested food then it can be assumed that your dog will still be hungry.
Diabetes, thyroid disease, cushing’s disease, and drugs such as steroids can all increase the appetite of your dog and so could initiate faeces eating.
If a change of diet has occurred that is highly restricted or poorly balanced then this too could trigger the behaviour.
Finally be aware that if your dog develops a taste for another dog’s faeces then that dog should be tested as it may be likely that it is suffering from poor digestion, and therefore placing undigested food in the faeces.
Puppies’ eating their own faeces is quite common and in most cases is a behaviour that they will grow out of with maturity.
Explanations for this behaviour include copying their mother. A mother’s necessity to keep her nest clean means that she may eat the faeces of her puppies. A second explanation can be put down to investigative play. As your puppy grows he is flooded with new stimuli that he will want to smell, taste and possibly eat.
Faeces scent is something that dogs are constantly monitoring when investigating their environment. It should therefore come as no surprise to believe that dogs view any animals’ faeces differently to their owners. As long as the texture, scent and taste are appealing then they will find it more than acceptable to eat.
Coprophagia - prevention
Preventing access to faeces by rapid cleaning and constant outdoor supervision can prevent coprophagia.
If you can monitor your dogs toilet habit it will mean that once he has relieved himself you can call him towards you with a food treat. With repetition your dog can be trained so that this behaviour becomes the norm.
Investigative sniffing of faeces is natural and therefore should be allowed yet as soon as your dog opens his mouth in an attempt to eat the faeces should you intervene.
If your dog is on a lead then gently guide him away from the faeces so that he focus’s on you. This method of training is very demanding for the owner yet consistent application should see far better results than punishment or simply yanking the lead. Plus it will help prevent secret coprophagia developing.
When a dog is not on a lead you will need a remote noise (that is unconnected to the owner) to stop your dog from eating the faeces. As he goes down to eat let off the noise. While he has stops because of the interruption the owner should call him away from the suspect area and reward him for this behaviour.
Coprophagia - Diet
Changing your dog’s diet to one that is more digestible could help prevent the disorder. Enzyme supplements can also be added to help improve nutrient digestion.
Coprophagia – palatability
Some unproven theories believe that decreasing the palatability of the faeces is one way of putting the dog from eating the stool. The additions of pineapple, courgette or iron tablets have all been touted as being successful. For the best effects it may be necessary to moisten dry dog food and let the substance sit for 15 minutes.
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