My dog sometimes eats his own feces. Is this harmful, and is there a way to stop this?

April 13, 2012

The dog’s excessive barking will be very annoying especially when you are trying to get some sleep. You certainly would freak out if the pet made mince meat of your Persian rug or if it has decided to hide its bone on your landscaped lawn. We are a race of dog lovers but let’s face it – there are times when the pet would test our patience to the limits with its annoying habits. When it comes to unwanted habits of dogs, a lot of owners would agree with me that eating feces is on top of the list.

Coprophagia or the habit of eating feces is common in dogs. To the consternation of an owner that provides the pet with premium quality (of course expensive) dog food, the pet would still eat feces every chance it could get. Dogs are pampered and well loved pets. These animals are not dubbed as man’s best friends for nothing. Dogs are affectionate and loyal. The pet would not hesitate to put its life on the line if necessary to save the human friend. It is therefore not surprising if the dog is not only considered as a family member but also the baby of the family. As such, the pet is allowed to sleep with the family. The pet is cuddled and kissed. The pet is allowed to kiss humans as well. A dog that eats feces is therefore very off putting.

Dogs eat feces not for want of food. Unlike dogs in the wild that have to hunt to survive, modern day dogs are regularly provided with food. The poop eating habit is believed to be a carryover trait from the dog’s ancestors. Wolves, the dog’s ancestors would eat feces if food is scarce because poop may have undigested particles of the food the wolves have eaten. Dogs in the wild have to hide from predators. The smell of excrements is a telltale sign of the dog’s whereabouts. Eating the poop of puppies is the mother dog’s way of removing traces of their presence from predators. Eating poop is also attributed to filling up minerals or nutrient deficiencies from the diet.

A dog that eats other dog’s feces can infect himself with parasites. Naturally, this will not be a concern if the dog eats his own feces. Eating his own feces would not be harmful as the pet will not be infected by anything that it did not already have. Nevertheless, the habit of eating feces must be curbed. First off is to remove the feces as soon as they are excreted by the dog. This measure though can be difficult for a busy owner that does not have the time to follow the dog around. Another trick is to train the dog to not like the taste of poop. This can be achieved by liberally dousing the poop with Tabasco or with cayenne pepper. The taste should make the dog hate poop. Products that would give the feces a horrible taste can be added to the food of the pet.

The habit of the pet to eat its own poop can be an attention-getting technique of the dog. This may be a sign that the pet is not getting sufficient amount of food. As mentioned this habit can be due to a nutrient deficiency. You may want to consider changing the diet of the pet. When was the last time you played and bonded with the pet? Being social animals, dogs would crave interaction with humans. The disgusting habit of eating its own feces can be the dog’s way saying “Hey, you seem to have forgotten that you have a pet that needs more than food and water”.

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