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Coprophagia

We love our dogs, but let's all be a little honest. Sometimes, they're gross. While many dogs go through life without this issue, lots of owners are suffering through the most nasty of dog habits: The poop eating.




WHY? Just why.

While it may seem impossible for us to understand what is so appealing about lawn treats, there are a few things to consider as to why our furry family members are indulging in this dirty action.


Coprophagia is actually a normal behaviour in the animal world. The behaviour — which is also found in rodents, elephants and primates, to name just a few is generally viewed as a second chance for an animal to get nutrients from its diet. Domestic dogs have also been found to turn to poop eating due to nutritional deficiencies in their diets.


BUT - If you are dealing with a poop eater, don't suddenly panic because you now think they are missing something in their diet. The majority of the time, poop eating becomes a rewarding and repeat behaviour and has nothing to do with nutrition.


Puppies actually learn this behavior from their mothers, who lick their babies when they are very young to encourage elimination and to clean them up afterward. Most dogs tend to grow out of this puppy poop-eating stage by the time they are 9 months old.


Dogs may also eat poop for other behavioural reasons such as stress, attention seeking and pure boredom. If you get into the habit of punishing your dog for having accidents in the house, etc they may feel the need to "clean up" the evidence in order to avoid punishment.


To manage behavioural coprophagia you will need to change a few things in your routine


  • Get back on a strict potty training schedule. Take things back to basics and start from scratch. Take your dog outside frequently and reward them as soon as they go. You should do this for a minimum of 2 weeks to give your dog some feeling of structure.

  • Clean up all feces immediately and keep your dog on leash in the yard to avoid any slip ups.

  • Teach a proper "Leave It" cue. On leash, let your dog approach the poop, when he looks ar it, say "leave it" and guide them away with slight leash pressure. As they turn away, give a reward jackpot and heavily praise for leaving it. Do multiple sessions a day of this for practice.

  • If you can't keep your dog close and on leash during training, you may want to consider conditioning them to a muzzle for the time being.


If after retaining and you are still dealing with this issue, we need to look at how they are doing nutritionally. Are they missing something in their diet? Do they need some extra help digesting their food?


Nutritional coprophagia is influenced by a few factors:


  • There could be an enzyme deficiency. Digestive enzymes help ensure your dog is able to properly absorb his food. If he doesn’t have the enzymes required, the food will pass through undigested which makes poop more appealing to eat.

  • They may have Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency which is a genetic condition and dogs with EPI aren’t able to create many if any digestive enzymes in the pancreas. If your dog has EPI they’ll need to be supplemented with enzymes as they can slowly starve from not being able to digest nutrients.

  • Risk of parasites. If your dog has parasites, they are stealing nutrients leaving your dog lacking in what he needs.

  • They are hungry. If you are feeding an unbalanced diet or not enough quantity, your dog could simply be hungry and seeking more food through any means they can.

  • Lastly, we can introduce products that work as a stool eating deterrent.


We can help manage nutritional coprophagia through both behaviour management and supplements:


  • Get your dog on a balanced diet. Contact a nutritional professional or nutrition trained veterinarian to audit your current diet and see where it is lacking.

  • Add a pre and probiotic daily to ensure a happy microbiome and gut environment. I recommend the Adored Beast line.

  • We can add natural digestive enzymes to the diet in order to optimist their digestion and nutrient absorption with Papaya, Melon, Raw honey/Bee pollen, Raw dairy products, Kefir, Coconut water, Fermented vegetables, Pineapple and Parsley.

  • You can add an enzyme supplement. I recommend the Adored Beast product here

  • As a final resort, we can add products designed to make poop less appealing to dogs, such as NaturVet and FORBID.


And finally, don't forget to look at the whole picture when approaching any problem with your dog. Are all their needs being met? Physically, mentally, emotionally AND nutritionally? Proper mental stimulation and physical exercise always must be included in any behaviour management plan. Always ensure your dog is getting proper amounts of healthy mental and physical exercise each and every day. A mentally and psychically fulfilled dog is significantly less likely to indulge in problem behaviours! The good news is that for most dogs coprophagia is a modifiable behavior. As with all canine behavior problems, implementing a careful and well crafted treatment plan will likely lead to diminishing or even ending this behavior. Consistency and a long-term approach applied with patience and planning are all you need!



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