Methods to Prevent Coprophagia in Dogs

Sharing life with a lovable canine companion is a source of joy, yet certain behaviors they exhibit might catch owners off guard. One noteworthy and rather serious concern for dog owners is the phenomenon known as “coprophagia.”

Despite attempts at correction or training, certain dogs persist in this behavior…

Whether an individual has recently acquired a dog and is grappling with this issue or is a seasoned owner feeling disheartened by an ongoing problem, it’s important to explore the underlying reasons and approaches for addressing this aspect of a beloved dog’s behavior.

Things to Know About Dogs Eating Feces “Coprophagia”

When encountering the shocking situation of witnessing one’s beloved dog consuming freshly produced excrement for the first time, it’s not uncommon for the owner to involuntarily scream in surprise. Questions such as “Is this abnormal behavior?”, “Could it be an illness?”, or “Will it upset their stomach?” start to linger since that moment, causing worries to accompany the owner.


Key Information About Your Dog’s Coprophagia Behavior

Firstly, it’s important to note that coprophagia, or the consumption of feces, is not an unusual behavior in the animal kingdom.

While this behavior is something pet owners generally want to discourage in their dogs, it’s worth recognizing that it’s a relatively common habit across various species.

For instance, animals like rabbits and hamsters, often kept as pets, also exhibit coprophagic tendencies, which might be familiar to some individuals.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that immediately after elimination, feces do not harbor significant bacterial growth. In fact, for the dog’s well-being, consuming their own feces at this stage is considered relatively healthy.

However, as time passes post-excretion, there’s a heightened risk of bacterial and parasitic proliferation. Hence, if your cherished dog displays coprophagia tendencies, it’s recommended to promptly clean up after them.

It’s essential to recognize that the potential risks associated with this behavior are primarily concerning the owners.

Apart from the potential psychological distress it might cause, there’s also a risk of bacterial transfer when dogs lick wounds or faces. This can lead to zoonotic infections, underscoring the importance of addressing coprophagia. While tackling this behavior, it’s prudent to keep soap, disinfectants, and initiate training to discourage face licking. These measures contribute to effective prevention strategies.

When Will the Dog’s Feces-Eating Behavior Cease?

The behavior of consuming feces, known as coprophagia, is commonly noticed in puppies, and it can also occur in adult dogs.

Puppies often outgrow the habit of eating feces as they mature. Nevertheless, if an adult dog persists in this behavior, it indicates an underlying cause that needs attention from the owner. Taking appropriate measures is essential in such cases.

What Causes Coprophagia in Dogs? Let’s Explore the Underlying Factors

Just like humans, dogs of the same breed exhibit distinct personalities, leading to varying causes for coprophagy.

View this as a chance to comprehend your cherished canine companion better, and allocate time to thoughtfully reflect on their emotions.


The Behavior of Eating Feces Is a Vestige of the Natural World

As briefly mentioned earlier, coprophagy has been observed in various animals within their natural habitats.

The motivations for this behavior are wide-ranging and include purposes such as asserting territory, evading predators, maintaining hygiene within their environment, and acquiring nutrients.

Even though dogs have been human companions for an extended period, they retain vestiges of their ancestral instincts.

Due to the fact that coprophagy was a common practice among their forebears, it is not an unusual behavior for dogs, who possess stronger primal instincts compared to humans.

During their puppyhood, dogs often partake in activities like visual exploration, object manipulation, and olfactory investigation to comprehend their surroundings. Coprophagy is among these investigative behaviors and is considered a plausible aspect of normal behavior.

Feeding Behavior for Nutrient Intake

Certain dog owners might find it perplexing when their dogs, even after being fed nutritionally balanced dog food, engage in coprophagy, which is the act of consuming feces. This behavior is particularly observed in young puppies due to their immature digestive systems, which can lead to incomplete digestion.

When a young puppy encounters feces that haven’t been fully digested despite having consumed dog food, they instinctively feel that there’s a chance for additional nutrient absorption. This can prompt them to engage in re-consumption as a way to address potential nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies in specific nutrients like Vitamin B, Vitamin K, and digestive enzymes have been suggested to contribute to coprophagy.

It’s important to note that feces themselves are not considered to be palatable to mature dogs with well-developed taste senses. Therefore, in cases where a high-nutrient diet is consistently provided, it’s probable that this coprophagic behavior will decrease as the dog matures and its digestive system becomes more efficient.

Sometimes, When Hungry, There Are Instances Where One Might Engage in Coprophagy

In certain situations of hunger, dogs might exhibit coprophagy, a behavior where they consume their own feces. This behavior resembles the natural nutrient intake process observed in puppies. However, there are instances where the initial amount of food provided is insufficient.

Even if dogs have consumed dog food, if they don’t experience a sense of fullness, they may resort to consuming their feces as a way to alleviate their hunger and ensure their survival.

If an owner observes that their dog appears thin, or if the dog’s long fur makes it challenging to assess their body condition visually, the owner can determine the dog’s body condition by tactile examination. If the dog’s body mass feels inadequate compared to other dogs, it could be beneficial to reevaluate the quantity of food being provided.

Dogs Might Engage in the Behavior of Consuming Feces as a Means to Attract Their Owner’s Attention

Some dogs not only consume feces but also ingest urine.

Pet owners might have encountered the surprising sight of their beloved canine consuming feces or urine, prompting reactions of surprise or alarm.

However, it’s crucial to note that dogs don’t comprehend human language, so the act of shouting or yelling in response to the feces-eating behavior might not convey the intended message. Instead, dogs might perceive the raised voice as a form of excitement or playfulness, particularly because higher-pitched voices, often found in women, can come across as joyful even when expressing anger.

If dogs associate the act of “eating feces” with “pleasing the owner,” they could adopt this behavior in an attempt to satisfy their owner. Thus, cautious handling of such situations is advisable.


Coprophagia as a Behavioral Response to Stress and Boredom

When a dog experiences limited walks, playtime, and extended periods of isolation, it can accumulate excess energy and experience prolonged boredom. During these times, when the owner’s attention is minimal, the dog might exhibit coprophagia – the consumption of feces – as a way to cope with stress and alleviate boredom.

It’s important to note that the dog’s intention behind coprophagia is not a desire to consume feces, but rather a manifestation of stress relief. As a result, remnants of the dog’s playful behavior might be observed in the feces, indicating a connection between the behavior and the need for engagement.

Dog owners should recognize their significance in their pet’s life and ensure to provide ample affection and stimulation to prevent such behaviors.

If a Dog Experiences Repeated Scolding after Toilet Accidents, It May Start Associating Defecation with Something Negative

If a dog experiences repeated difficulty in using the toilet and receives consistent scolding, it might start associating the act of defecation with something negative. Consequently, the dog might develop a behavior of hiding its feces from the owner’s view and even engage in coprophagia.

To prevent this situation, when an owner notices their dog reluctantly consuming feces as a result of fear from previous scolding, it’s important to adopt a different approach. Instead of scolding, the owner can choose to ignore the accidents and promptly clean up any toilet mishaps. Additionally, praising the dog immediately after successful toilet use can help alleviate the anxiety that arises from previous negative experiences. This approach focuses on positive reinforcement rather than punishment, ultimately creating a more positive toilet-training experience for the dog.

If an Elderly Dog Begins Consuming Feces, It Could Be Indicative of Dementia

Elderly canines might display coprophagia, a behavior where they consume feces, which could potentially indicate the presence of cognitive dysfunction.

It’s advisable to assess recent behavior alongside any other concerns.

Typically, dogs are categorized as senior when they reach approximately 7 years of age. If a dog has unexpectedly begun consuming feces without alterations in its routine, it’s feasible that it’s in the initial phases of cognitive decline.

In cases of coprophagia linked to cognitive dysfunction, the behavior often stems from the dog confusing feces with food, as opposed to being driven by stress or nutritional deficiencies. Timely elimination of feces can help prevent this behavior.

Moreover, as the dog’s ability to differentiate between edible and non-edible items diminishes, there’s a potential risk of accidental ingestion of non-food substances. To mitigate this risk, it’s important to keep small objects such as strings or toys out of the dog’s accessible area.

Methods to Prevent Dogs from Eating Feces Based on Causes

Have you considered potential reasons behind your dog’s consumption of feces?

Although there is no miraculous remedy such as medication or spells to completely halt coprophagy, there exist a variety of strategies to explore.

The rationales behind coprophagy differ among dogs, underscoring the significance of identifying the most fitting approach for your canine companion.

Outlined below are prevention techniques categorized by distinct causes of coprophagy. If any possible contributing factors arise, attempting these methods could enhance the effectiveness of your efforts to prevent coprophagy.

Undernourishment and Insufficient Food Intake Are the Causes

If the cause of coprophagia is primarily related to diet and digestion, what kind of measures would be suitable?


Try Changing the Quality, Quantity, and Types of Dog Food

For puppies, considering a higher quality dog food that enhances digestion and absorption is advisable. When utilizing plant-based protein as the primary component in dog food, there is potential for strain on the digestive system, impeding proper nutrient absorption due to indigestion. This may result in coprophagia. To mitigate this, transitioning to dog food with animal-based protein as the primary ingredient is recommended.

Similar to variations in appetite and internal processes among adult humans, dogs also exhibit individual differences. While consulting references such as books or dog food packaging for recommended portions is important, it’s equally critical to assess whether these quantities are genuinely suitable for the individual dog.

Moreover, during the growth phase, it’s essential to modify the portion size to align with the dog’s developmental needs.

For dogs that have acquired the coprophagia habit, considering the use of anti-coprophagia pet products available at pet shops could be beneficial.

Is Heated Cabbage Effective?

There exists a theory that suggests cabbage might contribute to the mitigation of coprophagia in dogs.

The underlying rationale is that cabbage facilitates the efficient absorption of water and dietary fiber, leading to a more balanced gut environment. This theory holds some merit.

Additionally, the consistent availability of cabbage throughout the year likely contributes to its selection over other vegetables.

When administering cabbage to dogs, it’s advisable to utilize it as a supplementary element for comprehensive nutrition or as an addition to therapeutic dog food, rather than as a primary constituent.

Given that raw cabbage can pose digestion challenges, thorough cooking is recommended, and it should be offered without any seasonings.

Furthermore, for dogs with pre-existing conditions like thyroid irregularities or urinary stones, cabbage consumption could potentially exacerbate symptoms. Consulting the regular veterinarian before introducing cabbage into the dog’s diet is prudent.

Is Pineapple Effective?

Similar to cabbage, there exists a theory suggesting that the consumption of pineapple can potentially deter coprophagia in dogs.

The rationale behind this theory is that feeding pineapple alters the pH of the feces, rendering it unpalatable to dogs. However, the validity of this claim lacks specific empirical evidence and is disputed by certain veterinarians, thus diminishing its credibility.

Nonetheless, when administered with caution, pineapple can be considered a beneficial dietary component. It boasts a significant content of vitamins and dietary fiber, thereby offering potential health advantages. It may be worthwhile to approach this tactic with an open-minded perspective, acknowledging that success is not guaranteed.

Excessive pineapple consumption may result in digestive issues stemming from an overabundance of dietary fiber. Additionally, an elevated risk of obesity due to increased carbohydrate intake is plausible. Consequently, only minute quantities of pineapple should be provided.

It is advisable to opt for unprocessed pineapple, as canned and dried variants often harbor excessive sugar levels that are unsuitable for dogs.

The Cause Is That Stress Has Built Up

If a beloved dog is engaging in coprophagia due to experiencing significant stress, what kind of measures would be appropriate?


I Will Try Going for a Walk Longer than Usual

Currently, there is circulating information online suggesting that “small dogs do not require walks.” However, it is important to note that exercise holds a crucial role in the well-being of dogs.

Certain individuals may hold the belief that owning a spacious yard is sufficient for their dogs’ activity needs. Nonetheless, dog walks serve a purpose beyond mere physical exercise, thus making it imperative to include them in a dog’s routine.

Dogs actively seek sensory stimulation during their daily lives by engaging with the scents of other dogs, animals, plants, and more. This activity aids in their understanding of their environment. As such, confinement within the boundaries of a house or yard is insufficient to fulfill their psychological and emotional needs.

In instances where dog owners find themselves with limited time for walks or irregular walk schedules, it is important to recognize that their dogs might experience elevated stress levels. In such scenarios, extending the duration of walks, exploring different routes, or varying the walking times can significantly contribute to providing the necessary exercise and mental stimulation.

Implementing such measures can potentially lead to the amelioration of behaviors like coprophagia (eating feces), making it a strategy well worth attempting.

Reviewing My Beloved Dog’s Living Space

Dogs possess a natural instinct to maintain the cleanliness of their sleeping area, resulting in their aversion to a cluttered or unclean living space.

If the circumstance persists where their waste remains unattended for an extended period following defecation, it is not uncommon for them to personally engage in feces disposal to uphold a sanitary sleeping environment.

It is advisable to consistently uphold a neat and hygienic living area for your canine companion. In cases of a soiled toileting area, prompt cleaning is recommended.

Furthermore, elements such as confinement within a small area during absence, loud noises, and unpleasant odors can also induce stress that might contribute to coprophagia. It is advisable to thoroughly assess the living environment of your cherished dog.

Allocating Time to Spend with Beloved Dog

If a pet owner frequently leaves the house, leaving the dog alone for extended periods, the dog might engage in coprophagia, consuming feces as a way to pass time, play, and alleviate stress.

When stress builds up due to isolation, increasing the quality of time spent with the dog can address the source of stress and potentially improve coprophagic behavior.

If finding time for the dog is challenging and prolonged absences are inevitable, alternative options such as entrusting the dog to family or friends nearby or introducing a second dog could be considered. Creating an environment that prevents feelings of loneliness in the dog is important.

However, introducing the dog to new people, dogs, or cats during these times might not be successful if compatibility is lacking. It’s essential to assess compatibility in advance to prevent further stress.

The Owner’s Attitude and Behavior Are the Cause

If the cause of coprophagia is primarily the owner’s behavior and actions, what kind of measures would be suitable?


Praise Success Without Getting Angry about Failures

If an individual reprimands their cherished canine companion upon discovering an accident in an inappropriate place, and instead of reacting impulsively to coprophagy, it’s crucial to promptly clean the area while disregarding the dog’s conduct. Subsequently, offering substantial commendation and rewards upon successful execution is vital.

By instilling the understanding that “elimination is a natural behavior,” dogs are less likely to resort to coprophagy as a means to conceal their waste.

In the past, scolding was deemed effective in dog training, particularly in Japan up until about a decade ago. Nevertheless, contemporary approaches to training advocate for positive reinforcement and enjoyable education methods rather than punitive measures to address inappropriate behaviors.

Similar to humans, dogs can undergo considerable stress and, in severe instances, might develop neuroses or depression.

Additionally, instances where the “owner’s displeasure is inexplicable” carry the risk of generating fresh behavioral issues. Hence, transitioning to a training approach that prioritizes praise and the reinforcement of desirable conduct upon achievement is advisable.

Even If Surprised, Handle It Calmly Without Making a Fuss

In some cases, dogs may interpret the distressed sounds resulting from witnessing coprophagy as pleasurable signals. Consequently, the dog might willingly engage in coprophagy to seek attention from their owner and observe the owner’s contented demeanor.

In this scenario, managing the situation is akin to addressing instances involving reprimands. It is crucial to consistently disregard the dog’s behavior and promptly address the situation. If the dog successfully avoids coprophagy, rewarding and commending them serves as a method of positive reinforcement.

Additionally, instances of coprophagy like this often arise when an owner is preoccupied and unable to offer adequate attention to their dog. Therefore, it is imperative to strive to create enjoyable interactions with the dog on a routine basis, particularly in situations where frequent attention might be unfeasible.

Finding Oneself Perplexed Is Not Uncommon When Contemplating the Phenomenon of Coprophagy in Dogs

Despite diligent consideration of its root causes, one may struggle to generate plausible explanations or effective strategies to address this behavior. This scenario might leave certain pet owners feeling utterly defeated by the challenge.

In such instances, it is conceivable that the behavior could be attributed to lingering primal instincts from the wild. When conventional efforts to ameliorate the situation yield no discernible results and the behavior appears to be driven primarily by instinct, determining suitable courses of action can prove to be an intricate endeavor.


Avoid Worrying Too Much about the Situation

If the cause remains elusive, it might be linked to a dog’s innate tendency to consume feces.

There appears to be no significant health concern regarding a dog ingesting recently excreted feces. If this behavior doesn’t trouble the owner, it might be advisable to simply let go of the issue.

Although preventing coprophagia is preferred, persistent stress caused by a dog’s feces consumption could lead to the owner reacting harshly, potentially damaging the relationship and affecting both parties negatively.

Hence, it could be a reasonable decision for both sides to accept this as an idiosyncrasy of the individual dog, prioritizing mutual well-being.

Nevertheless, if preventing the dog from eating feces proves challenging, it’s crucial to train them to avoid licking the owner’s face.

Considering that a dog’s mouth already harbors numerous bacteria, the idea of being licked by a tongue that has consumed feces is understandably unsettling.

Discard the notion that it’s acceptable for a beloved dog to get a little dirty and begin recognizing the potential risks.

When a dog licks, it’s considered a “calming signal.” While some might believe that training a dog not to lick is impossible due to it being an emotional expression, with a well-established owner-dog relationship, such training can be accomplished.

After the Dog Has Relieved Itself, It’s Advisable to Establish a Consistent Reward System

If one spends a substantial amount of time at home and shares quality time with their canine companion, implementing certain guidelines can be beneficial.

One effective approach involves promptly rewarding the dog after it has completed its bathroom activities (through verbal praise, playtime, or a small treat). Consistently practicing this procedure reinforces the behavior. Over time, the dog will learn to communicate its need to relieve itself.

When the dog voluntarily signals its accomplishment, promptly clean up the excrement. Since the dog values the rewards provided by the owner, it becomes less likely to engage in feces consumption.

Additionally, if the dog doesn’t show its usual enthusiasm for reporting its bathroom activities, it could serve as an early indication of potential discomfort. This might prompt the owner to consider factors such as incomplete elimination or stomach issues. Regularly monitoring the quantity and quality of the excrement could also aid in keeping track of the dog’s overall health.

Consulting an Animal Expert

For individuals seeking a solution to their dog’s coprophagia (feces-eating) habit, consulting an animal professional is recommended if efforts to address the issue are unsuccessful.

Relevant experts include dependable dog trainers, veterinarians associated with a regular animal hospital, veterinarians specializing in animal behavior, and veterinarians affiliated with specialized animal hospitals, particularly if there are suspicions of underlying illnesses.

Even if attempts at personal training have proven ineffective, a skilled behavior therapist with professional training may offer effective solutions.

Furthermore, even when offering high-quality dog food and supplements, dogs might experience deficiencies due to their inherent constitution or underlying health conditions, affecting their digestive system.

Engaging an expert’s assistance can unveil unforeseen factors contributing to the behavior. Therefore, seeking timely guidance from a professional is advisable to prevent owner stress and fatigue.

Dealing with Dogs Engaging in Coprophagy

Various factors contribute to coprophagy in dogs. Implementing the right approach for your dog’s well-being can be challenging, requiring patience for effective results. Training is a gradual process that demands patience.

It’s understandable to feel frustrated if your dog continues coprophagy despite efforts and time spent on training. Remember that this behavior is partly inherent to dogs and might persist. Maintaining a calm demeanor and patiently guiding your dog is crucial.

Although coprophagy is an undesirable behavior, it doesn’t necessarily indicate imminent danger or an action that must be completely eradicated.

When seeking guidance from animal professionals, consider incorporating the strategies outlined in this article as references for potential solutions.