Coprophagia is an often incomprehensible behavior. What is coprophagia? Why does your dog coprophage? How to prevent it?
What is COPROPHAGIA in dogs ?
Coprophagia is the eating of feces or one’s own feces, the word comes from the ancient Greek κόπρος (kopros) meaning “excrement” and phage (phagein) meaning “to eat”.
Some dogs eat all types of excrement: their own, those of their fellow dogs but often also those of other species, such as rabbit droppings, cat droppings, horse dung, etc….
What is the difference between COPROPHAGIA and PICA in dogs ?
Pica is the ingestion of non-edible materials, objects or non-nutritious substances: earth (geophagy), plaster, sand, paper, wood (xylophagy), plastic objects, fabrics …
Why does my dog eat feces ?
For a bitch who has just given birth, it is quite normal to eat her puppies’ excrements.
Indeed, from birth until the age of three weeks, the mother stimulates the excretion of feces and urine by licking the different orifices concerned, then she swallows what comes out, so that the “nest” remains clean.
From the age of three weeks, the puppy is able to move around and can eliminate at a good distance from where he sleeps. However, during the following weeks, the puppies sometimes ingest their feces as well as other objects, and this habit gradually disappears with age.
The other causes of coprophagia in dogs are of three types:
Dietary, medical or behavioral.
- Among the dietary causes, we find dogs suffering from poor digestion (pancreatic insufficiency decreasing the digestion of fats, maldigestion and/or malabsorption, enzymatic disorder on the digestion of starch in particular), infestations by digestive worms or fed with a poor quality ration (too much starch for example) which do not digest food correctly.
Their stools then contain nutrients that are not digested or not digested enough, which can appear very appetizing to them or their fellow creatures.
- Medical concerns are, for example, digestive parasitic diseases leading to coprophagia in the affected dog, which then ingests its own feces. Dietary deficiencies, especially protein or vitamin deficiencies, but also aging accompanied by brain tumors are also mentioned as possible causes of coprophagia in dogs.
Digestive disorders such as gastritis are sometimes suspected. Inflammation of the gastric mucosa may cause your dog to want to eat anything he can to try to relieve the discomfort in his stomach, including feces.
- Some behavioral disorders, such as boredom, are wrongly blamed for promoting coprophagia. On the other hand, dogs that stool at home and have been scolded upon discovery of the mess sometimes try to make it go away before their owners return by swallowing the feces to avoid further punishment.
Potty traininǵ should therefore not involve punishment after the fact when your dog has beeń unclean, or else he will continue his coprophagia. In the same way, the aging dog may suffer from involution depression: in a way he “falls back into childhood” and resumes a puppy behavior that may include coprophagia.
What are the consequences of COPROPHAGIA for your dog?
The main risks are the transmission of parasites, viruses or bacteria present in the ingested stools.
Giardiasis, for example, is a parasitic digestive disease caused by a protozoan, Giardia duodenalis, which affects dogs but also other mammals (cats and humans). Dogs become infected by swallowing cysts shed by affected animals. This disease is extremely contagious, especially for young dogs, who are the most likely to swallow the feces of their fellow dogs.
Parvovirosis, due to ” Canine Parvovirus ” or CPV2, a virus of the family of the canine Parvoviruses known as of type 2, affects specifically the dogs. It is a serious viral disease also transmitted by the means of the droppings…
Your dog can also have very bad breath after swallowing feces…
How can we make COPROPHAGIA disappear in our dog?
Making your dog’s coprophagia disappear starts with removing the cause. In the case of parasitic diseases, these must be treated.
It is also possible to use certain dietary supplements that are opposed to coprophagia and that make it possible to modify the taste of the stools by making them less appetizing when they are added to the dog’s food ration. Of course, these supplements are only effective if your dog eats its own feces.
Among these food supplements we find for example :
COPRONAT: This treatment in the form of a spray is based on Yucca schidigera extracts that significantly modify the aromatic character of stools and reduce their palatability for your dog. Indeed, among the active ingredients contained in this plant, there are saponins and polyphenols that have the ability to reduce the production of odors (such as sulfides) thus reducing the palatability of feces for the animal and making the atmosphere more breathable when you are confined with your dog … The recommended effective dose is 2.5 ml sprayed on the food, per 10 kg of weight, for thirty days. It showed an effectiveness of COPRONAT in 90% of the cases.
COPROVET from the VetExpert Laboratory is a treatment that can minimize your dog’s coprophagia at a rate of 1 capsule (dog weighing less than 10 kg) to 2 capsules (dog weighing more than 10 kg). Indeed, bromelain (dry pineapple extract) associated with Yucca schidigera extract, probiotics (Lactobacillius rhamnosus, Enterococcus faecium) and prebiotics (Fructo-oligosaccharides = FOS) contributes to a better digestive function, and allows to transform the stool scents by making them less attractive for your dog. The recommended treatment period is also 1 month.
Complementary measures consist of removing your dog’s stools as soon as he emits them, before he has time to swallow them; and taking the precaution of not cleaning in front of him if he is a puppy so that he does not associate your crouching posture with a new game.
How to prevent my dog from eating the cat’s poop ?
Preventing cat poop from being eaten in a litter box is a challenge. Their scent is irresistible to your dog, just like rabbit or horse droppings. So it’s not really unusual for him to throw himself on it.
The only way to prevent this is to put the litter box out of reach of your dog, for example in a room with a closed door in which you install a cat flap. The cat flap can be electronic (only the registered pet will be able to pass) to let only the cat through if your dog is small.