That’s Poop Eating for the Unscientific
“Oh, by the way, Doc…” This statement, when it comes at the end of an appointment, often with a big friendly Labrador or Pitt Bull, strikes a bit of fear in my heart. “He eats his own poop, is there anything we can do for that?” Yuck, you mean THIS dog, this one that just spent this entire appointment trying to lick my tonsils?? THIS dog??
People seem to think they have the only pet that does this. Let me assure you, you are NOT ALONE! Truly, I’m thinking of starting a coprophagia support group. I just need a catchy name, and I’m open to suggestions.
WHY?? WHY, Fifi, Why? No one knows for sure. Cats are way too dignified to do this, but those who live with dogs provide a never-ending source of kitty fudge for the poop eaters. My dogs think of my cats as little furry Pez dispensers—they lift their tail and a yummy treat falls out. Again, yuck. I have a business idea for dogs that are difficult to give medications to—a cat turd pill pocket. Again, I need a name. And maybe some investors. I have plenty of cat poop.
Some people will insist that dogs that eat feces (their own, their dog housemate’s, the cats’, wildlife) must have a nutritional deficiency. Studies have not been able to prove this to be true. Do they need more roughage? Less? Is rabbit poop preferred over deer poop? Enquiring minds want to….no, never mind, we don’t. But we sure would like them to stop.
SO, what do we do to stop them? There are two approaches, neither one of which works very well, to be honest. One—keep them from getting to it. If it’s cat poop, make the box inaccessible to them (but NOT to the cat, or we might find that the cat won’t use the box, and that’s a topic for another day!). Pick up the poop in the yard every day. Walk the dog on a short leash and give a gentle correction away from the feces and reward them when they walk away. Try to fence out the wildlife.
The second approach, for dogs who eat their own or their housemate dog’s, is to make the feces taste bad. I always feel a bit ridiculous saying that, by the way. There are products for adding to the food of dogs that will make their feces unattractive. Forbid is one, Deter is another. There are others. Additionally, some people swear by using Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer, pineapple, or anise sprinkled on every meal. You must be religious about putting it in every meal of every dog in the house, usually for a few weeks, but sometimes for a life time. It doesn’t work with all dogs. Another approach is to sneak around the yard coating feces with really spicy hot sauce, and then letting the dog encounter these little bombs and hopefully decide to give it up. Aside from making your neighbors wonder what you’re up to, this approach doesn’t work well unless you find every single pile. And even then, some dogs seem to like condiments on their feces.
Bottom line (get it, bottom?) is that this is a problem that may not be resolvable in all dogs. It makes it ever more important that we check a fresh fecal sample every year on your pet, to rule out intestinal parasites that they may be picking up and recycling with this behavior. The trick will be getting that sample before your dog eats it. Let us know if you need help with that. Oh, and while we’re at it, we can show you how to brush those teeth.