You’ve just gone for a walk with your best guard dog, and while you’ve just finished praising his behavior to your neighbor, he’s starting to eat dog feces. Yuck! What is he doing?
Coprophagia (a technical term for the act of eating feces) is unpleasant but is not an unusual behavior in dogs. The good news is that in general, this is not dangerous for your dog. The bad thing you already know is that it’s disgusting, dirty, and it gives your dog the worst breath imaginable. There is also the risk that your dog will catch parasites if he eats the stool of other animals.
Nobody is really sure of the reasons for this behavior, but many are possible. They may just like it. Dogs communicate with the world through their mouths.
They love to carry sticks and they love to chew toys or bones. Dogs also like things that smell and feces are obviously in this category. Strange as it may seem, your dog probably eats droppings to examine something that interests him.
Sometimes puppies eat their own droppings when they learn to clean. This happens because they are still unsure where to defecate or not. Afraid of having made a mistake, puppies will “destroy all evidence”.
This kind of behavior can also happen with adult dogs that stay locked inside. Bitches often eat the stools of their puppies by cleaning them at a young age. This may be a basic instinct. In the wild, eating the droppings of the young would have been less likely to attract the attention of a predator on its range.
One of the most common theories about this behavior is that dogs compensate for certain nutritional deficiencies in their diet. Feces of herbivores may contain vitamins that do not fit into your dog’s usual diet.
Cat food is rich in protein. So cat litter can attract your dog. You must imperatively and quickly discourage this behavior because cat litter can be toxic to your dog.
By far the best solution to this problem lies in your cat’s litter box. A dog proof cat litter box will keep them out for good. You can also simply pick up your dog’s stool right after he has had it. Some people suggest sprinkling pepper, Tabasco or paraffin on the stool to give them “worse taste”.
There are also additives for your dog’s food that taste good when ingested but become bitter once digested so that the feces become inedible. Unfortunately, these methods are not effective for all dogs.
In general, coprophagia is best managed by being gentle but firm in discouraging this behavior. Above all, be consistent in your discipline.
Do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian who will be able to detect the possible additional nutritional needs of your dog.