When your dog eats poop . . . Print E-mail
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Saturday, 23 July 2022 06:57
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Dr Liesel van der Merwe

Dogs are scavengers and omnivores. Anything is possibly food to them. This does unfortunately include cat poop and sometimes human excrement if you are walking off leash in the veld. Although disgusting, it is not abnormal behaviour.

Cat poop
Cat poop especially has high protein due to cats being carnivorous and cats eating food with a higher protein content. My own dogs think cat poop is a delicacy and will climb over trellises and fences, destroying my garden, to reach my cats’ favourite toileting locations.

Dogs are dogs. Cat poop tastes nice. They will do this and you will just have to limit opportunity. It does not help shouting at them or punishing them. It would be like leaving sweets all over the garden and then disciplining your children for finding and eating them.

Their own
However, when dogs eat their own faeces or that of other dogs, it is not considered as normal behaviour.

It is not common, though. Less than about 16% of people in a survey, which was published, reported that they had seen this in their pets. I believe the true incidence is actually less, as people whose dogs aren’t coprophagic (‘coprophagia’ means eating faeces) would probably not have completed the survey.

In my experience coprophagia, where a dog eats another dog’s or its own faeces, is a relatively uncommon occurrence and certainly doesn’t occur in one out of ten of my clients’ pets.


Reason
There is no defined reason as to why some dogs start eating their own or other dogs’ faeces. With all the questions asked of owners with dogs who displayed coprophagia, the variable most correlated was dogs described as greedy eaters.

Dogs which had previously been reported to eat soil or cat faeces were also more prevalent in the group of coprophagic animals as were breeds in the terrier and hound groups.

No link could be found with age of separation from the mother (early versus late) or diet type. It is also not a normal juvenile behaviour, as it is generally reported in adult dogs. Neither is coprophagia associated with other behavioural problems or dogs displaying obsessive compulsive behaviour disorders.

Finding
An important finding in this survey was that the coprophagia appears not to have been changed by either behaviour modification and/or management techniques attempted by owners.

In descending order of frequency of use, the various procedures were: chase away from stools (n = 1048); reward the successful command of ‘leave it alone’ (n = 424); lace stools with pepper (n = 295); and punish by electronic or sound-emitting collar (n = 56). The reported success rate was one to two percent, except for ‘leave it alone’ which was slightly higher at four percent.

Diseases
Certain diseases affecting the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients by the intestine may result in the production of faeces which contain much “undigested’ food and thus be more like softened dog biscuits than actual faeces. This can explain why dogs may sometimes eat this type of faeces.

So, if your dog is eating cat poop, sorry – disgusting as this is – it’s pretty normal behaviour. If your dog is eating dog poop, you can consider using deterrents, which are fed to your dogs with their food and cause the faeces produced to have a foul taste.

Copronat® is one such product. Owners must treat all dogs whose faeces are being eaten. In a multi-dog household, this can be difficult to determine and all dogs should thus be “treated”.

Always also speak to your veterinarian, as in some situations there is a medical problem.

 
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