A preference for feces in your dog’s diet is not only disturbing to view, it is also not the best source of vitamins and nutrients. Do not fret though, you are not alone. A preference for eating feces is also known as coprophagia and is best dealt with as soon as you discover it, as it may be a symptom to a bigger problem like a nutritional or anxiety issue.
Why Dogs Eat Feces
This is a question that is actually common among dog owners. Surprisingly, there are several reasons why dogs will develop a taste for their feces. The two most common reasons are that the dog is simply hungry or is trying to clean their area. Other reasons could include an anxious habit or an attempt to copy you when you clear the yard. Each of these situations can be solved, but it is important you address them quickly, because more than the social concerns are the health issues associated with this habit.
Dogs that eat poop may have worms or other parasites and to resolve these you will need medication.
Addressing This Problem
The most important thing you should do is treat this matter seriously. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to have them assess your dog to determine if he or she is healthy and has no physical or medical problems that may be contributing to this habit. If your dog has recently begun this behavior, it is likely that there is a trigger, and one possibility could be worms. Your vet will advise if this is the case and provide you with a worm treatment if needed. To prevent your dog from getting worms or parasites, it is a good idea to ask your vet to recommend a good ongoing prevention treatment.
After your veterinarian has certified your dog is healthy, you will have narrowed down the list of possible causes of this problem. It is more likely that your dog is eating feces because of either a poor diet, boredom, or in some cases, a combination of both. Implementing improvements in both of these areas can be done at the same time and is recommended to help ensure the greatest success.
Dogs need a good balanced diet, so the most important thing to do is make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need. To provide a nutritional and complete diet, feed your dog a mix of both high quality dry and wet foods. If you are unsure of what makes a good brand, ask your veterinarian for recommendations on the brand and proper amounts to feed your dog. Not all the brands at your local grocery store are nutritious or provide a balanced diet for your dog. The second thing you can do is make sure your dog’s feeding area is kept clean and tidy, including the immediate area surrounding this space.
The third thing you can do is make sure you remove feces from the yard each and every day, to help reduce the temptation for your dog to continue eating the feces. Like any similar habit, it will help reduce interest in the object of the temptation if it not available.
If you have visited your veterinarian and addressed the issues of both diet and cleanliness and your dog is continuing to eat feces, you will have to increase your intervention. Below are three other ways you can try to assist in distracting your dog from this habit:
1. Put a spoon full of pumpkin puree in their food. Dogs do not mind pumpkin, but when digested it may make their feces seem less appealing.
2. Take a water spray bottle to the park or on walks. If your dog starts to eat dog poop give the dog a good spray while saying “no” in a loud clear voice.
3. Use basic commands with your dog. If your dog is well trained in other ways you can try getting your dog to sit and then spray the feces with either bitter apple or cayenne pepper. These will make the poop less attractive, but your dog will also start to learn that when he goes to eat feces, you are effectively showing him that this is unacceptable behavior, without physically harming him or having to get physical with him (such as forcibly dragging him away from the feces).
As with all dog training, it will take time for your dog to learn to associate the action with the punishment, but it will work if you are consistent, patient and most importantly loving during this training. The best advice is to keep a clean yard. If feces aren’t available, your dog will not be able to eat it.