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Coprophagia in Dogs

It might be one of the most unpleasant things to talk about, but it’s necessary nonetheless: many dogs exhibit coprophagia, or the process of consuming their own or other animals’ feces. Here, a Livonia veterinarian discusses this behavior issue in more detail.

Why Do Dogs Eat Feces?

In actuality, coprophagia is often considered normal dog behavior. Veterinarians and animal experts have several theories on why dogs have developed the unsightly habit, including evolutionary instinct, nutrient-seeking behavior, and maternal instincts, i.e. keeping the “nest” clean of detritus. In many cases, though, the behavior won’t actually harm your dog. Of course, it’s rather gross so most dog owners want to put a stop to it as soon as possible.

Are There Possible Medical Reasons?

Yes, medical issues could be the underlying cause of your dog’s behavior. Malnutrition is one—if a dog doesn’t receive the proper nutrients from his normal diet, he may resort to seeking them in fecal matter. Malabsorption is another; this is when a dog’s digestive system isn’t properly absorbing the nutrients that he is receiving, leading to him seeking them in feces.

For these reasons, it’s important to take your dog to your veterinary clinic if you see him exhibiting coprophagia excessively. You’ll want to have any medical issues ruled out before you can go about curbing his behavior.

How Can I Prevent or Eliminate this Behavior?

Never punish your dog physically to try and get him to stop eating feces. It’s easiest to prevent the problem in the first place by properly cleaning up after your dog—if there isn’t any fecal matter around, he can’t eat any! You can also teach your dog a reliable recall command, like “Here!” or “Stay!” in order to bring your dog back to you when you see him getting ready to eat fecal matter.

Taste deterrents can also work if used properly. These are often pepper flavored or have some other flavor that dogs will want to avoid. Spray it on the fecal matter so your dog loses interest.

Talk to your Livonia veterinarian for more information on coprophagia and why your dog may be doing it. With veterinary help and patience, you can counteract your dog’s most unappealing of habits!

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