Coprophagia: Why Do Dogs Eat their Stool?
Although my dogs never displayed coprophagia (eating their poop), I had to start dealing with this ‘dirty’ problem about 10 months ago with my oldest Border Collie. She is now 14.5 years old and was diagnosed 1 year ago with Kidney Failure.
I’m not sure if that has something to do with it, but that is around the time we have ‘caught’ her eating her own feces as she randomly now soils in the house, even with meds. However, we have also caught her doing this outside with not just her own, but also other dogs poop right after she defecates.
Now we have to go back and treat her like a puppy again. Taking her out often and supervise her, so she doesn’t turn around and eat her poop or any other dogs poop.
We had also noticed her licking up her urine, which she has never done prior to this. So I’m wondering if his has something to do with instincts of keeping her ‘den’ clean. Who really knows but it made me look back and read up on some research about coprophagia and found some interesting facts posted by veterinarians:
Did you know that up to 16% of dogs eat poop…a lot!
Yes, according to a study presented at the annual ACVB/AVSAB Behavior Symposium 16% of dogs are serious stool eaters. That means they have been seen doing it 5 times and 24% have been caught in the act at least once.
For those of you who are set on making sure you never get a dog with this despicable and stinky trait, the survey revealed some important factors you may want to know. For instance, Hart found, “The more dogs you have the more likely your dog will eat poop. The smallest percent (19%) of poop eaters were in single dog homes whereas 24% lived with two dogs and 30% lived in a three-dog household.”
Why would that be? It could have to do with the fact that while 15% of the stool-eaters ate their own poop, 85% ate the feces of other dogs. So more dogs probably equals more opportunity to eat another dog’s digested food. Yuck! Why is that somehow grosser than dogs eating their own?
People might read that the dog must be lacking nutrients in his diet. “We found that diet of the dog had no effect,” says Hart. They did however find that gender and sexual status mattered somewhat. “Intact males were the least likely to eat stool. Neutered males were more likely, and spayed females the most likely at 19%.” says Hart.
There were also some breed dispositions: 38% of border collies (I have two of them!) had a history of eating poop and 40% of shelties did. Hart stresses there weren’t enough dogs to tell, but he points out, “None of the poodles in the study ate their stool”. Lucky for all poodle owners!
Do Commercial Products for Poop-Eating Dogs Work?
First off, don’t waste your time with the commercial anti-coprophagia agents. Of the 12 on the market at the time— For-Bid©, Nasty-habit©, Copraban©, Deter©, etc., none of them worked in more than 2% of dogs. Many didn’t work in any dogs at all. But, does this really come as a surprise? Clearly, dogs that eat poop don’t care about bad taste. You should also avoid wasting your breath and energy using punishment. Yelling or chasing the dog away, electronic collars, and telling dogs to leave-it didn’t work either and only makes the dog afraid of you but not change this nasty habit.
So What To Do About It?
Realizing that dogs evolved over the last 10,000 + years as scavengers feeding off human trash. So it’s not that surprising that many are non-discerning about what they eat. Also, realize that mother dogs stimulate their puppies to poop by licking their butts and then clean up after them by eating the excrement. So poop eating is virtually in a dog’s DNA.
The best thing is to keep an eye on your dogs when they eliminate and clean up after them promptly. Also, if you have a stool eating dog, make sure to be careful about letting your dog cuddle up to you and give you a wet kiss!
But at least now you don’t have to worry that your dog is a freak and all he does is sharing this dirty habit with many of his friends.