Pet Info

Coprophagia

Young and growing dogs have a high requirement for energy, and it has been shown that they can obtain useful additional nutrition from eating their own or other dog’s faeces during this critical phase.

However, after growth has been completed and with more attractive alternative food available, faeces eating usually stops. However, a few individuals, especially of "greedy" breeds such as Beagles and Labradors, may continue with this unpleasant habit.
 
Coprophagia (as faeces-eating is technically known) does not necessarily occur because the dog is ill (e.g. has a worm infestation) or fed on an inappropriate or imbalanced diet. However, such conditions can in a few individuals be the reason that dogs eat their own faeces, and when corrected (i.e. wormed and put on a balanced diet) the habit ceases.
 
Research has shown that dogs eating their own faeces are not a health risk either to themselves, or necessarily to humans whose faces and hands they may lick. For instance, in relation to roundworm infection between dogs and man, this is always rare and does require that the worm eggs he "aged" some three weeks outside the dogs body before becoming infective. Nevertheless, coprophagia is an emotionally repulsive activity, and is probably best curbed.

Treatment

Meal Frequency

Since coprophagic dogs are usually hungry dogs, it is best to spread their food ration across 3-4 meals per day.

Fibre

A physically full stomach gives a feeling of satiety, and high fibre diets are thus superior to refined food. Accordingly, bulk the fibre content of the diet, either by feeding an existing high fibre complete dry diet, or alternatively adding fibre to the existing diet. Convenient sources of fibre are bran (scalded), shredded paper tissue, refined wood pulp or ground alfalfa meal. Addition of high-fibre vegetables such as cabbage, carrots etc. will, if eaten, also be useful.

Training

To defecate on command, at a place which then becomes inaccessible to the dog. Simply take your dog regularly and especially at times associated with defecation (e.g. early morning, and after meals) and wait until he defecates. Say a special word (e.g. "busy "or "hurry") and then reward with a titbit for successful defecation. Pick up the faeces and dispose. This will motivate him to only defecate in your presence.

Lifestyle

There is ample evidence that bored dogs in kennels are more likely to be or to become coprophagic. Accordingly, ensure there is plenty of action in your dogs life, with access to toys, frequent walks etc.

Repulsion

A number of preparations are available for incorporation into the diet, some based on amino acids, others simply iron tablets of the sort taken by women during pregnancy. One such brand is Fursamal, which seems to decrease the palatability of faeces subsequently passed.

Punishment

No amount of scolding seems to break the habit, the dog only waiting until the owner is absent before eating faeces. Punishment must be remote and seemingly related to the faeces rather than the owner. Accordingly, throw a light object (e.g. choke chain) which can be an effective discouragement for sensitive dogs.

Problem avoidance

Coprophagia is usually a passing phase in puppies, but is made more likely if puppies are denied sufficient and easy access to food. Thus an ad lib or generous feeding regime of an appropriate diet should prevent the problem occurring. Your dogs lick can then be a source of pleasure!