We’ve often wondered if dogs think in terms of “bad” and “good” when they smell or eat things. It often seems that dogs find the smelliest things the most appealing. If we had to guess, we would say that dogs think more in terms of “interesting” and “uninteresting” when they are investigating the world around them. When it comes to sniffing and eating feces doing the unthinkable is quite common in the canine world. Still, coprophagia, or the eating of feces, is not a behavior we should ignore or accept. It is not only unpleasant but is also quite unhealthy for the dogs and the household.
Dogs Like It
As crazy as it sounds dogs might enjoy the taste of poop. This may go back to their wolf ancestors who were known to eat feces left in the den. Scientists speculate this behavior arose from a need to keep parasites from spreading to other pack members. Wolves also ingest the feces and urine of their young offspring. This has a two-fold purpose. The mother licks the genital area of her pups to stimulate the area for bowel and bladder elimination. Cleaning up after her pups will also minimize dangers from predators who have a keen sense of smell.
Another reason why dogs might develop a liking for feces is because some poorly made dog foods might taste similar. A poor diet or vitamin and mineral deficiency might have something to do with the coprophagia but this is difficult to discern as a cause. More likely there are a few reasons why coprophagia becomes a more attractive option.
Behavior and Emotional Issues
Anxiety and stress often cause an onset of coprophagia. What causes anxiety and stress? Usually neglect and a lack of attention and affection will either bring on or exacerbate and anxious condition. Eating feces might either be a way for dogs to gain attention or to cope with their nervous condition. A dog who is not kept occupied with toys or engaged with people is more prone to coprophagia. Once this behavior starts it is difficult to get rid of – as many people can attest. Additionally, dogs will follow the behavior of other dogs in the household. One dog exhibiting this behavior will possibly lead the other dogs in the same house to do the same.
How to Stop Coprophagia
Visit your vet to make sure nothing is physically wrong with your dog. Feces harbor harmful bacteria and parasites. It’s best to make sure your dog hasn’t been harmed by the behavior. He can also get a blood test to make sure he has overall good health and to eliminate any conditions that might be the root cause.
Of course, we all know that vet care is expensive. If you can’t pay for a vet, start with their food. Buy better, tastier brands with high-quality ingredients devoid of cheap fillers. If you must, try cooking some of your dog’s meals. The more pleasing you make their food the less likely they are to resort to eating their feces.
Look at their environment. Dogs are like perpetual kids. They love to play and be entertained. Are their surroundings spartan – without toys to divert them? Buy them bully sticks or things to chew on. Get them squeaky toys or the Kong rubber knick-knacks that can be filled with peanut butter.
If none of these proposed solutions work, you may just have to monitor your dog when he goes to the bathroom. Clean up after him immediately when he has a bowel movement in the yard. Try to keep him on a strict feeding schedule so that you know when he will have a bowel movement.
Yes, a little money and time will need to be invested. But what is the alternative? Giving up your dog or kicking him out of the house is not an option. Living with a dog who always has poop-breath seems unbearable, too! So, spend a little cash to get your dog back to his normal, sweet smelling self!
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.