Coprophagia in Dogs and What to Do About It

Coprophagia is one of the more unpleasant behavior issues your dog might exhibit—it’s when a dog consumes their own or other animals’ fecal matter. Below, a Carmel vet answers your most common questions about this behavior.

Why is My Dog Eating Feces?

Believe it or not, coprophagia is considered normal behavior in dogs and other animal species. In most cases, the behavior won’t hurt your dog, even if it is rather disgusting. Possible reasons for coprophagia include evolutionary history, nutrient-seeking habits, or remnant maternal instinct—mother dogs keeping their nests clean. In many cases, experts simply don’t know why dogs eat their own or others’ feces; they just do it.

Are there Medical Reasons Why My Dog Eats Feces?

Yes. Malnutrition and starvation are possible health concerns that might cause a dog to consume fecal matter. If a dog doesn’t receive the proper nutrition from his diet, he may resort to other materials to try and find it—plants, grass, feces, and anything else included! Some dogs even have digestion issues that prevent them from properly absorbing nutrients.

Take your dog to the vet to have malnutrition or malabsorption problems ruled out. Then, you can go about correcting the behavior yourself.

How to Prevent Coprophagia

The easiest way to prevent your dog from eating feces is to clean up any feces in your yard or wherever your dog typically eats it. Monitor him when he goes outside. Another option is to train your dog to respond to a “No!” or “Leave it!” command, so that whenever he approaches fecal matter, he’ll back away at your word.

For more serious cases, you may try taste deterrents. Spray the product on the feces, and your dog won’t want to suffer the consequences of consuming it. Ask your vet for more information on this.

How NOT to Respond to Coprophagia

Some dog owners’ first instinct might be to punish their dog for this unsightly behavior. However, punishment may only backfire, creating fear in your dog that leads to aggressive behavior. This is a whole other problem you’ll need to deal with, so punishment isn’t wise. Don’t rub your dog’s nose in the feces or spank him.

Consult your Carmel veterinarian for more advice on counteracting coprophagia, as well as more information on why dogs exhibit this unappealing behavior.

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