Coprophagia
The Scoop on POOP-eaters!

          Don’t you all sometimes wonder “how” I come up with my article topics!  Especially this month’s topic!  For the most part, they are based on medical dramas that I have encountered over the years with my Golden Retrievers.  However, this month’s article started formulating in my mind after attending a recent kennel club meeting.  Some of us got into a discussion on the trials and tribulations of living with “fecal gourmets” (formally referred to as “feces eating dogs”) and thus…The Scoop on Poop-eaters article came about!

          So while this “issue” may truly be more of a “behavioral” issue than medical issue, my research on Coprophagia did find the following “beliefs” as to why dogs partake in this nasty habit:

·       Nutritional deficiency (Vitamin B & Vitamin K)

·       Instinct (Mother’s eat their puppies feces)

·       Boredom and/or anxiety

·       Natural protection-removing their scent so predators can’t find them

·       It simply “tastes” good (??)

·       Some dogs learn that eating stools is a way to get your attention, even though the attention often consists of scolding. As difficult as it may be, ignore your pet if you catch it in the act, and concentrate instead on preventing it the next time

·       Merck's Veterinary Manual (7 ed.) notes that the habit is usually first observed in pups 4-9 months old. The habit tends to decrease in intensity after the dog is 1 year old. Clinical causes include: pancreatic deficiency, malabsorption, heavy parasite loads and starvation. Undigested food in the feces may be acceptable to the animal for simple ingestive needs.

While humans find the practice totally disgusting, in talking with friends and other dog owners, it is quite prevalent!  There have been a few studies conducted on “feces eating” but no definitive answers were found.  Most of my dog friends with multiple dogs have at least one “fecal gourmet” living with them! In fact, one of my friends has two dogs that are “munchers”.  Actually, in that canine family, the older dog sister is teaching the new puppy about the tasty morsels left in the yard!  Another friend has a dog that only eats frozen poopsicles during the winter months!  Myself, I have an occasional “muncher”!  Can’t really put my finger on when (season) or what (supplement/food eaten) tempts his palate!  But this is the dog that will eat just about everything in his line of vision.

I found in my research that the “remedies” suggested consist of:

·       Vitamin B added to the diet

·       Forbid® - a product available in pet stores and online catalogs

·       Accent® - meat tenderizer sprinkled on the dog’s food

·       Rabbit pellets (amounts needed seem to vary but 5 to 6 per meal has been said to sometimes work)

·       A good quality diet

·       Vegetable oil added to the diet

·       Adding Probiotics/Enzymes to the diet

·       One teaspoon of canned spinach to each meal

·       Teaching the dog to defecate on command

·       Aversion therapy – While on lead, let your dog approach the stool and if he “sniffs”, give him a quick and strong leash check.

·       Booby trapping the stool – Take sample of stool, cut it in half lengthwise, and put some Tabasco type sauce on the inside of the stool.  Then put it back together so that the dog is not aware of the hot sauce until he eats the stool.  (This was seriously suggested in one of the articles I read!)

·       Cleaning up immediately after your dog

Personally, I think the last “remedy” is probably the best way to go.  I go on a several daily “poop patrols”.  In addition, because of my exercise area set and my schedule, I also know pretty well “when” a poop patrol is warranted!  Yes, I do entertain the neighbors and one of my dear friends calls me the “Poop Princess!”  Additional information does suggest that if you can do this “clean up” for at least a month, you may be able to break the cycle.

In any event, if you are blessed with a poop eater and haven’t tried one or two of the “remedies” suggested above, you have nothing to lose….except perhaps a dog with “bad breath”!?