Coprophagia is the name given
to the habit of eating stools-either the dog’s own
or another animal’s. Cats’ stools seem particularly tempting to dogs.
Most dogs with coprophagia are well nourished and show no evidence of a
nutrient deficiency that would account for the compulsion to eat stools. These
individuals may have acquired a taste preference for stools beginning in
puppyhood. Other reasons sometimes suggested for stool eating include boredom
and confinement in close quarters, such as a kennel. Scolding the dog for a housetraining accident
may also cause him to want to eat the evidence. Whatever the cause, once
established, the habit is difficult to break.
Dogs are born to work for a living. They’ve worked alongside us for thousands of years, and most are bred for a particular purpose, like hunting, herding livestock or providing protection. Dogs’ wild relatives spend most of their waking hours scavenging and hunting for food, caring for offspring, defending territory and playing with each other. They lead busy, complex lives, interacting socially and solving simple problems necessary for their survival.
The most common job for our companion...
A minority of dogs have a medical reason for coprophagia. Dogs with
malabsorption syndrome,in particular, have a ravenous appetite and eat stools
in an attempt to acquire additional calories. Coprophagia has also been
described in dogs on corticosteroid therapy and those with Cushing’s syndrome,
diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and intestinal parasites.
Stool eating is undesirable, not only for aesthetic reasons but because
ingesting animal feces can bring in intestinal parasites. Dogs who eat large amounts of horse manure
can develop severe vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs who eat the feces of large
animals that were wormed recently may develop toxicity from the worm medication
residue present in the stools.
Treatment: Veterinary examination is warranted to check for parasites and
other medical problems. Management includes removing stools from the
environment as quickly as possible, making cat litter boxes inaccessible to
dogs, and distracting the dog by providing extra exercise and interaction with
pets and humans. Providing suitable chew toys may also help prevent coprophagia
caused by boredom. Sometimes, giving the dog canned food to provide a similar
texture may help.
A number of ingredients have been suggested as additives to the dog’s food
to improve digestion or to render the stools unappetizing. A partial list
includes meat tenderizers, crushed pineapple, Viokase, B-complex vitamins,
sulfur, glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate, sauerkraut, and canned pumpkin.
Forbid is a frequently recommended product made from alfalfa that gives the
stool a disagreeable odor and taste. There are no scientific studies to prove
or disprove the effectiveness of any of these additives, but anecdotal reports
suggest they may be of benefit in some cases.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"