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July-August 2006

The 411 on Number 2 (Coprophagia)


I adore my dogs – they bring me peace at the end of a stressful day, they love me when I’m at my best and even better - when I’m at my worst (like at 5:00 am when my hair rivals Medusa’s snakehead and I’m shuffling down the hallway to the kitchen for my wake up cup of coffee – holding the walls up to steady my feet as I go).

At times, despite the fact that they provide lots of enjoyment they also have the uncanny knack of finding just the right thing to do to make me stop dead in my tracks in disgust.

Dogs do the darnedest things – among them there are some that as a human being I just cannot fathom. You know what I’m talking about – and by no means is this list all encompassing:

Drinking toilet water (blue or otherwise)

Rolling in dung

And my personal favorite - Eating poop (ok – there I said it)

I have no clue what the fascination is here but I know that I’m not alone when I say that this habit in particular just revolts me.  In asking friends if their dogs have a taste for off color things I was surprised to find out that sure enough, lots of my friends have dogs with less than discriminating palates. 

So, what’s a girl to do?  Well, first let’s see why this occurs.

There are a few theories about the reason dogs find poop so yummy. One school of thought is that our four legged friends are missing some nutrients. With the quality of dog food on the market constantly adjusting to our requests for better grade feed, I find this explanation pretty unlikely.  Considering my own dogs are on nutritional enhancers I don’t’ really believe they’re missing out on “greens”. 

The other school believes that dogs eat meadow muffins out of boredom or because they want to hide the evidence to keep from getting yelled at. 

I think however, that they do it for another reason – and this is what I just don’t get.  I believe they find it tasty.  My sweet, lemon colored beagle Penny will literally watch another dog (and I swear she’s drooling as she does) and unceremoniously walk up behind that dog waiting for her “fresh out of the oven” (cow) pie. 

So how on earth do I stop my pretty, petite beagle from doing the unmentionable?

Well, there are simple solutions and there are products to help, many of them tried and true.

Solution number 1 (and this is a no brainer) - PICK IT UP. Be vigilant!  If there is nothing to find, there is nothing to eat. Simple as that.  Keeping a clean yard is the number one solution to stopping this habit. 

Deter the dog from eating things by teaching them the “Drop it” command. Each time they stop to pick up something they shouldn’t, utilize this command and it should go a long way toward stopping the behavior.  Obviously this only will work on-lead (which of course is not when Penny does this – she’s a bit more of free ranger who practices this when in our fenced yard and far enough out of my reach to get her to quit the habit).

Make sure your dog is eating a good balanced food.  Some of the newer food suppliers like Merrick, Wellness and Blue Buffalo manufacture kibble that contain items such as sweet potatoes, blueberries and whole grains in their ingredients list.  If you want to boost their value, consider a supplement that contains Alfalfa.  The nutrients in these foods should give your dogs all they need to provide the source of nutrition they need to keep them happy.

You can try some of these things too – personally I’ve had mixed results with them but they’re worth a shot:

Canned Pineapple or Pumpkin (just a teaspoon full) mixed in their food may help

*MSG (monosodium glutamate) – just a pinch in dry food is another possibility

*Commercial products like Forbid, Deter, are available in large chain pet stores

*SEP (Stop Eating Poop) is a homeopathic available online that is an enzyme which reacts with the stomach acids in Fido’s tummy to produce a natural deterrent.

 *Words of caution:  MSG and any of the commercial products must be used judiciously in any dog with renal syndromes because all contain potassium, which is not suggested for use in dogs with renal insufficiency.

If you have found a solution on your own to a problem that is very common, share it with us – and please remember that although this article makes light of a situation there could be an underlying medical reason your dog indulges in this behavior.  Coprophagia may be caused by medical problems such as pancreatitis, intestinal infections, or the body’s inability to absorb nutrients.  High fat diets also are known to cause Coprophagia.  See your vet please if this problem is more than occasional.  Something else could be brewing that as a responsible dog owner you would not want to miss. 

For more information consider these sources for additional tips!



Pattie Scully

Director, CBR-East


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