“My dog just ate poop!” This is a frequent complaint of a very large number of dog owners. Many believe that there must a nutritional deficiency in the dog’s diet for them to want to eat their own or another animal’s stool. This has not been supported by research and most dogs are eating a commercial diet that is AAFCO certified to be a complete diet.
So why do they do it? Certain diseases can cause an animal to eat stool including pancreatic insufficiency, starvation and mal-absorptive type digestion problems. If you notice your dog eating poop; it is recommended to bring him or her in for a good check up which includes: a complete physical exam, stool check, and possibly bloodwork.
Most dogs eat stool for behavioral reasons. A mother dogs will eat their puppies stool when the pups are little to keep their nest clean. It is speculated that puppies will eat small amount of stool to establish their own gut bacteria. Others will eat poop as an attention seeking behavior, boredom, hunger, play, and even anxiety.
How do you stop this behavior? Many food additives are available to try to impart a bad taste to the stool the so the dog will not want to eat it. This only works if the dog whose stool is being eaten is taking the additive. It must be done with every meal to ensure all of the stool is treated. This can be a difficult task.
Three behavioral modifications that have the chance to break this habit are more favored in the veterinary community. First, do not allow the dog to have the chance to eat stool. Consider a basket muzzle while the dog is outside to that they cannot get the fecal matter in their mouth, accompany the dog each time it goes outside, and pick up all of the stools immediately. Second, redirect the dog away from the stool by using a toy or treat. Third, use the good old “bait and switch” as described by Kathy Diamond Davis. Here is a brief overview of her technique:
- Take your dog out to potty on a leash or head collar
- As soon as the dog deficates, using the leash, move the dog away from the stool.
- The instant the dog reaches you, give the dog a super tasty treat and lots of praise.
- Back away from the dog and have it come to you again for another treat.
- Repeat backing up and treats for a total of 3-5 times.
- Go inside with the dog and then clean up the stool alone.
- Eventually you will be able to recall the dog back without needing a leash. Be sure to keep up the treats and positive reinforcement.
Please feel free to contact our office for more information. We know Fido is a very important part of your family and want to help keep your bond strong.
Sara Nosbush, DVM
River Hills Pet Care Hospital