(Ingestion of fecal matter)
By Dr. Karen Burgess
What is coprophagia?
The ingestion of feces from any source is called coprophagia. While not appealing to humans, coprophagia is not an abnormal behavior in dogs. Ingestion of feces can however allow for transmission of parasites and impact a pet’s relationship with their family for reasons of hygiene.
What causes coprophagia?
There are a variety of theories as to why dogs would eat fecal matter including boredom, normal den cleaning behavior, and nutrient imbalance. In some cases, it may simply be tasty to a dog, as in the case of cat feces. An examination by a veterinarian should be performed to rule out any medical causes.
What problems can coprophagia cause?
Exposure to parasite eggs or disease causing bacteria is the primary medical concern with coprophagia. From a human standpoint the issue is more one of general hygiene or the “yuck” factor.
How can coprophagia be addressed?
To address coprophagia both the enticement of the fecal material and the behavior need to be addressed. Remedies include attempts to make the stool less tasty and modifying the behavior. Options include:
- Changing the diet to a lower protein diet, canned diet, or the addition of oil to the food change the taste of the fecal matter.
- Giving more frequent smaller meals may also help if hunger is contributing to the behavior.
- Adding pineapple juice, Adolph’s meat tenderizer, or canned spinach to the diet which all may make fecal matter less appealing. For-bid and Potty Mouth are both over the counter products that can be added to food as another option.
- Tabasco, PopRocks, wasabi powder, or other unappealing substances can be applied to fecal matter thus deterring ingestion.
- Meticulous and immediate cleanup of fecal matter is recommended, but this may not address ingestion of other animals’ feces.
- Keeping dogs on leash, rewarding appropriate behavior (coming to sit after defecating to allow appropriate time for cleanup) and ignoring inappropriate behavior (ingestion of feces) are also helpful.
- Increasing exercise to alleviate boredom
- Providing meals in a food ball to increase mental
- Finally, for some pets wearing a basket muzzle to prevent coprophagia may be necessary.
Instructions for For-Bid
Recommended dosing-dogs less than 20# ¼ packet twice daily for 5 days, for greater than 20# ½ packet twice daily. Owners may want to moisten dry food before sprinkling with powder. Steroids will negate the effect of For-Bid.