Do you ever look at your beloved pet doing something utterly disgusting and wonder why on earth they do it? A prominent example is when dogs gnaw on their own feces. Far from enjoyable, it can be quite uncomfortable for the owner, not to mention concerns about the health of your furry companion. In this article titled “Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Poop”, we’re going to demystify this perplexing canine behavior and tackle some reasons behind it, along with prevention strategies you can apply for your pup’s welfare.
Understanding The Phenomenon: Coprophagia
You’ve probably heard of it, or maybe you’ve even witnessed it in your own dog, but the phenomenon of coprophagia—dogs consuming their own or another animal’s feces—can seem confusing, disgusting, and worrisome all at once. Though it’s not a topic for polite dinner conversation, understanding why some dogs indulge in this behavior can help us build a better relationship with our beloved pets and solve or avoid potential health problems.
What is Coprophagia?
Coprophagia, in the simplest terms, is the act of eating feces. In dogs, this disturbing behavior can take many forms. Some dogs may exclusively consume their own faeces, others may fancy the feces of other dogs, and some may even have a preference for the droppings of other species. It might shock you, even repulse you, but for your dog, it can simply be a part of their regular behavior unless it signals an underlying health concern.
History and Origin of Coprophagia in Dogs
Understanding coprophagia in dogs requires delving into their history. Dogs are descendants of wolves and scavenger canines that survived, in part, by consuming feces and other waste material when food was scarce. It’s thought that, in a domestic setting, remnants of these survival instincts may trigger this behavior in certain conditions.
Instincts And Dog Behavior
Natural Instincts of Dogs
Instincts play a huge role in shaping dogs’ behavior, and coprophagia is no exception. For mother dogs, for instance, eating the feces of their puppies is an instinctual behavior intended to keep the den clean and prevent the scent from attracting predators. It’s instinctively nurturing, protective behavior.
How Behavior Affects Eating Habits
Behavior also factors into coprophagia. Simply put, it’s a learned behavior. If a dog sees another dog doing it, they might try it themselves. They may also be “rewarded” for this behavior if it routinely elicits a strong reaction from their owners, reinforcing the action in the dog’s mind and potentially leading to more instances of coprophagia.
Nutritional Causes of Coprophagia
Lack of Nutrients in Dog’s Diet
Some dogs may resort to eating feces if their regular diet does not provide all the essential nutrients they need. A diet deficient in certain vitamins and minerals can trigger feces consumption as dogs try to compensate for nutritional imbalances.
Digestion Issues and Coprophagia
Digestive issues, such as malabsorption syndromes or pancreatic disorders, can lead to increased feces eating. This is because the dog’s body may not be fully absorbing the nutrients from food, leading them to look elsewhere for these essential nutrients.
Link between Dog Food and Coprophagia
The quality and type of dog food can significantly impact a dog’s inclination towards coprophagia. Low-quality dog food might not be properly digested, resulting in feces that still retain many of the food’s original scents and possibly even nutritional content, which could attract dogs back to it.
Medical Reasons for Poop Eating
Parasites and Poop Eating
Parasites can rob a dog of vital nutrients, which may trigger coprophagia as the dog attempts to replenish these losses.
Conditions Leading to Increased Appetite
Certain conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and Cushings, increase a dog’s appetite and can lead to coprophagia due to increased hunger or poor absorption of nutrients.
Pancreatic Insufficiency and Coprophagia
Disease conditions like pancreatic insufficiency can cause malabsorption of nutrients, leading a dog to eat feces as they try to compensate for the loss.
Steroid Therapies and Coprophagia
Steroid therapies often increase the appetite of dogs. If a dog is on long-term steroids, increased hunger and changes in behavior, including coprophagia, may occur.
Psychological Reasons for Poop Eating in Dogs
Anxiety and Coprophagia
Just as in humans, anxiety can lead to unusual behaviors in dogs. Eating feces can be a response to stress, anxiety, or fear.
Boredom and Coprophagia
Boredom can also lead to poop eating. Dogs need mental stimulation. If they’re left alone or unoccupied for long periods, they might occupy themselves with behaviors like coprophagia.
Dogs love attention, even if it’s negative. When dogs eat poop and their owners respond with attention, it might encourage them to repeat the behavior.
Environmental Influence on Coprophagia
Litter Size and Poop Eating
Dogs from larger litters may be more likely to engage in coprophagia. This could be due to increased competition for resources and food during the crucial early months of development.
Living Conditions and Coprophagia
A dog’s living conditions can also influence this behavior. Limited space or dirty living conditions can increase the likelihood of poop eating.
Influence of Owner’s Behavior
Even your behavior can affect your dog’s inclination towards coprophagia. Punishment or extreme reactions can reinforce the behavior, leading to increased instances of feces eating.
Prevention and Treatment of Coprophagia
Changes in Diet
Improving your dog’s diet is a significant first step. If dogs get all the nutrients they need from their regular meals, they’ll be less likely to supplement their diet with feces.
Medicines and Supplements
Pills and food additives can make the dog’s feces taste unpleasant, deterring them from eating it. There are also other medicinal and natural remedies available that can help discourage coprophagia.
Training to Prevent Coprophagia
Training can play a pivotal role in curbing this behavior. Teach your furry friend to come away from feces on command can reduce instances of coprophagia.
Can Eating Poop Harm Your Dog?
Potential Health Risks
Yes, eating feces can put a dog’s health at risk. Feces can carry harmful bacteria and parasites which can lead to various health issues.
Transmission of Diseases
If a dog consumes feces from another animal that’s sick or carrying parasites, they can become infected themselves, leading to various diseases.
Effect on Dog’s Oral Health
Consuming feces can cause dental problems and bad breath. The bacteria in feces can harm the gums and teeth, leading to oral health issues.
When to Consult a Vet
Signs of Health Problems Due to Coprophagia
If your dog experiences symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or any unusual behavior after eating feces, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.
Medical Treatment Options
Vets can recommend different treatment options for coprophagia, such as specific diets, medications, or supplements that can reduce this behavior.
The Importance of Regular Health Check-ups
Regular health check-ups are crucial. They enable your vet to catch early signs of diseases or medical conditions that may trigger coprophagia.
Dog Breeds More Prone to Eating Poop
Breed and Genetic Predisposition to Coprophagia
Certain breeds have a predisposition to coprophagia. Some studies have found the behavior is more common in some breeds than others.
Observations in Specific Dog Breeds
Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, and other hunting dogs, for instance, have been observed to have a higher likelihood of engaging in this behavior.
Influence of Breed Size and Temperament
Size and temperament also seem to play roles in the frequency of coprophagia. Smaller breeds and more anxious or high-energy dogs may exhibit the behavior more frequently.
In the end, understanding and addressing coprophagia is part of caring for our furry friends. While it can seem unpleasant, remember: you’re not alone, and there are plenty of resources and professionals ready to help you handle it effectively. Always remember, a healthy dog is a happy dog.