Dog Eating Poop (Coprophagia)
What Can Be Done to Stop Dogs from Eating Poop?
It is important for owners to know that coprophagia is not an abnormality in the canine world. Many dogs eat their own stool and/or the stool of other animals in the wild. Domesticated dogs have no idea that this behavior is considered to be somewhat revolting by most people. Trying to communicate to a dog that eating poop is inappropriate is almost impossible. Owners of dogs with this habit should have their pets thoroughly evaluated by a veterinarian. Internal parasites and some other medical conditions can cause or contribute to coprophagia. If an underlying medical condition can be identified and corrected, the problem may go away.
If there is no identifiable medical reason for the dog's behavior, the most effective way to discourage it from eating its own stool or that of other animals is to remove all fecal matter from the dog's environment as quickly as possible. It is best if the dog can be closely supervised while out in the yard or on walks. Any poop in the yard should be scooped up and securely disposed of well out of the dog's reach. Keeping dogs away from kitty litter boxes is also important, if they have a propensity to rummage around in and eat the contents of those containers. Keeping the immediate environment free of feces not only removes the source of the problem, but it also may help the dog forget about eating fecal matter and instead focus its attention on other, more acceptable diversions. Providing plenty of exercise, attention, toys, treats, bones, chewies and other diversions can distract a dog from eating stool simply to occupy time and relieve boredom. Some authorities suggest that feeding wet/canned food as part of a dog's diet may simulate the texture of stool and thereby reduce the dog's desire to eat fecal matter.
Obviously, many owners are away from home during the day (or at night), whether for work or for any number of other reasons. It is not practical for them to promptly "scoop the poop" every time it is deposited. An owner may or may not have some degree of success in stopping his dog from eating its own stool by using food additives to render its feces distasteful. A number of dietary supplements have been reported anecdotally to either improve a dog's digestion or make its stool unpalatable. Some of these are crushed pineapple, sauerkraut, canned pumpkin, sulfur, meat tenderizers, B-complex vitamins, glutamic acid and monosodium glutamate. No reproducible scientific studies have yet established the efficacy of these various additives to prevent or correct copraphagia.
There are a number of products on the market that were developed specifically to stop a dog from eating poop. They usually come in a powder form that is designed to be mixed with the dog's regular food on a daily basis. These products are marketed as being harmless to dogs and as having the effect of making the dog's stool particularly unappetizing. According to marketing materials, owners should only need to use these products for a relatively short period of time. A similar strategy used by some owners is to apply an emetic agent to fecal matter just before the dog eats it. Emetic agents are substances that induce vomiting. The rationale for this "treatment" method is that the dog hopefully will develop a negative association between eating poop and vomiting, which in turn will prevent or at least reduce its desire to ingest fecal matter.
No dietary supplements, additives or emetic agents have been proven to be reliably effective in stopping a dog from eating poop. However, anecdotal reports suggest that many of these techniques may help in some situations. Of course, the first step is to get the dog to eat the additive, which in the case of items like sauerkraut and canned pineapple may be difficult, at best. Moreover, dogs with the habit of eating other animals' stool will not be helped by adding distasteful supplements to their own food.
In extreme cases, dogs may actually stimulate themselves to defecate more frequently than normal (by licking), and then will eat their stool directly as it comes out of their rectum. This is rare and is probably related to some sort of anxiety disorder or condition. Dogs that are so driven to eat their own feces may need to be muzzled to prevent the behavior. Finally, drug therapy may help dogs with a propensity to eat stool. Owners should discuss any dietary additives or other treatment techniques with their veterinarian, to be sure that they are appropriate and safe.