Does this coprophagia disgust you or worry you that your dog is sick? In this article, we will try to understand the reasons why your dog eats his own feces or those of other animals and we will suggest simple solutions to implement.
Definition of coprophagia in dogs
Coprophagia is a behavior that consists of consuming fecal matter, whether it is one's own or that of other animals. In dogs, this behavior can be observed for a variety of reasons, ranging from natural and instinctive causes to health or behavioral problems. While coprophagia can be repulsive to pet owners, understanding the reasons behind this behavior is essential to addressing it appropriately and ensuring the well-being of your pet.
A dog that eats its own feces: normal or not?
It is quite common to observe dogs consuming feces, which is particularly distasteful to owners. To determine whether or not a dog's coprophagia is normal, one must examine the situation in which it occurs.
In some situations, coprophagia is perfectly normal. For example, a bitch who has just given birth will lick the hindquarters of her puppies and consume their feces and urine for the first three weeks of life. This is because the puppies are not yet able to control their sphincters at birth, and it is the mother's licking that causes the excrement to be eliminated. An exemplary dedication, isn't it?
Coprophagia is also normal in puppies who start to explore their environment at about 3 to 4 weeks of age. For them, it starts as an innocent game that, just like children, leads them to touch everything and put it in their mouths. There is also talk of a possible behavior linked to the observation of the mother and therefore an ingestion of excrement by imitation. In any case, without the owner's concern, the puppy's coprophagia should disappear on its own and become only occasional in adulthood.
Among adults, the occasional ingestion of large herbivore feces (cow dung, horse dung, etc.) is also considered normal. This can be explained by the palatability of these excrements which stimulates the appetite of our faithful companions, but we can also consider an instinctive behavior, because dogs, in the wild state and as carnivores, hunted, among others, herbivores whose intestines they devoured.
When is a dog's coprophagia abnormal?
In fact, if the behavior is repetitive, a dog that eats its own feces or those of another dog is not normal, unless it is occasional and it consumes the feces of another dog that contains food residue. We will explain why in the next section on possible causes of abnormal coprophagia.
Dogs don't just eat feces! They also like to roll in it!
What should I do if my dog eats his own or other animals' feces?
The first step is to consult your veterinarian to determine if there is a dietary or digestive problem. If the problem is behavioral, it can be corrected in most cases by retraining your dog. The following tips will require a willingness and patience to apply:
What not to do!
Do not be rough, yell, scream or put repellents on the droppings, as this does not solve the problem and may even make the situation worse.
Solutions to adopt!
Distract your dog's walking behavior by using a long leash and distracting him with a treat when he approaches feces. Praise him with a treat when he relieves himself without consuming the feces. It is important to positively reinforce good behavior rather than punish bad behavior.
Train your dog to respond to basic commands, such as "leash" or "no". Use these commands to teach your dog to ignore feces that he encounters.
Clean up the yard or living area regularly to prevent your dog from being tempted to eat the droppings.
Make sure your dog's diet is balanced and of good quality, as poor nutrition can contribute to the problem.
Consider using specific products sold in pet stores or recommended by your veterinarian to discourage your dog from eating its feces. These products are usually added to the food and make the feces less appetizing to your dog.
If, despite all these measures, your dog continues to eat feces, it may be helpful to consult a dog behaviorist for a personalized rehabilitation plan.
In summary, it is important to understand that coprophagia in dogs is not necessarily a sign of a serious problem. It is essential to consult your veterinarian and implement solutions to prevent this behavior in order to protect your pet's health and improve your cohabitation.