Eat feces It is a relatively common habit in dogs that, to the disdain of their owners, carry it out even with some enthusiasm, but what prompts them to do it? The patterns of the canines that do this have been investigated and it turns out that not just any stool will do them. For puppies seeking feces, fecal freshness is an important factor.
This predilection could be a behavior that originated in the ancestors of the dog, the wolf, and is linked to the prevention of parasites, according to new studies. Also known as coprophagia, the consumption of excrement is widely distributed in the family tree of mammals.
The behavior, which is also found in rodents, rabbits, beavers, elephants, and non-human primates, to name just a few, is generally regarded as a second chance for an animal to extract nutrients from its diet. Domestic dogs have been known to eat the stools of others due to nutritional deficiencies in their diets caused by starvation or illness, according to some research.
Scientists discovered another unsatisfactory conclusion for dog owners: dog poop eating habits are hard to change. Dogs are not easy to deter, and regardless of the method owners tried as food additives, punishment for eating them, or rewards for not doing it, their success rate was 0 to 4%.
Why do they do it?
Although, as we have mentioned, the most widespread reason is usually dietary deficiencies (of nutrients and calories), there are others for which your dog can eat feces:
- Malabsorption syndromes.
- Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, thyroid disease, and other conditions that could cause an increased appetite.
- Medications, such as steroids.
In other cases, dogs begin to eat stools due to some type of environmental stress or behavioral triggers, including:
- Isolation: Studies have shown that dogs that are kept alone in kennels or basements are more likely to carry out this practice than those that live close to their people.
- Restrictive confinement– Spending too much time confined in a small space can cause the problem. It is not unusual to see coprophagia in dogs rescued from crowded shelters.
- Anxiety– Often the result of a person using harsh punishment or methods during home training. According to this theory, dogs can evacuate and then eat their own droppings to get rid of the evidence, which becomes a vicious cycle.
- Attention seeking: Dogs eat they do it to get a reaction from their humans. So if you see your dog doing this, don’t overreact.
- Inappropriate association with real foods– Dogs that feed near their feces can make a connection between the smells of food and those of feces and will not be able to tell the difference.
- Confused by the care of their mothers– In some cases, puppies are confused by smelling fecal odors on their mother’s breath after cleaning. Also, mothers can sometimes regurgitate food that mixes with the puppy’s fecal matter. This is called «appetitive inoculation,» which can cause a puppy to develop this bad habit.
- Living with a sick or elderly dog– Sometimes a healthy dog consumes excrement from a weaker canine member of the family, especially in cases of fecal incontinence. Scientists hypothesize that this may be related to the instinct to protect the herd from predators.
How to stop this behavior
Veterinarians and dog trainers have seen improvements with a few strategies, including:
- Vitamin supplements– Vitamin B deficiency, in particular, is a prime suspect, and studies have backed it up. In 1981, scientists showed that fecal microbial activity synthesized thiamine, a B vitamin. Other research found other nutrients missing.
- Enzyme supplementThe modern canine diet is higher in carbohydrates and lower in meat-based protein and fat than the ancestral diet. Some people have had success with a meat tenderizer that contains papain, an enzyme.
- Taste aversion productsThe theory is that certain tastes and smells are just as unpleasant to dogs as the idea of eating feces is to us and that spraying certain substances on them will make it less attractive. Many of these products contain monosodium glutamate, chamomile, derived from the pepper plant, cassava, garlic, and parsley.
Perhaps the best way to stop the problem is through training and environmental management methods, including:
- Keeping your dog’s living room clean, including the patio, so there is no excrement for you to pick up.
- Cat owners should keep that clean litter box or out of the dog’s reach.
- Supervise your dog on walks, and remove it immediately if it gets close to stools.