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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Eating Stool (Coprophagia)

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Condition Overview

Coprophagia is the name given to the habit of eating stools - either the dog's own or another animal's. Cats stool seems particulatly tempting to dogs. Stool eating is undesirable, not only for aesthetic reasons but because ingesting animal feces can bring in intestinal parasites.

Symptoms

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 house-training accident may also cause him to want to eat the evidence. Whatever the cause, once established, the habit is difficult to break.

Causes

A small number of dogs have medical reasons 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.

Diagnosis

You will see this happening

Treatment

Veterinary examination is warranted to check for parasites and other medical problems.

Prevention

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 other 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 dogs food to improve digestion or to render the stools unappetizing. Some of these are meat tenderizers, crushed pineapple, Viokase, B-complex vitamins, sulfur, glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate, sauerkraut, and canned pumpkin. Forbid (brand) 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.

Support

Please contact your veterinarian with questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +

Sources

Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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