Faecal Eating

Posted by Christopher-ZA
Sep 10, 2009

I hope someone can help me with this.
I have 2 german shepherds, Dusty & Sasha, 3 years old.
Since they have been puppies, they have been eating their faecal matter!!:confused:
I have tried to prevent it as best I can, by collect it on a regular basis and discouraging then from doing so when I see them.
Does anyone know why they are doing it and what I can do to stop them??
I feed them the best grade dry food and have even changed their diet, but it doesn't seem to make a difference.
My wife jokingly says that the food we give them is so good that it can go through their system twice!
But jokes aside, this in not pleasant habit and I need to find a way of dealing with it. Can anyone help?
Posted by KOPsarah
Sep 13, 2009
Hi christopher, and thanks for your post.

You may be surprised to know that this is not an uncommon problem. People tend to find this behavior quite repulsive, but ‘Coprophagia’ (or poop eating) is obviously not unpleasant for your dog, in fact it sounds as though they quite likes it. The good news is, if your dog is healthy and is only eating her own stool, then there are no risks to her health.

While there is no conclusive explanation of why a dog eats poop, there are a number of theories and possibilites. These include;

Attention-seeking– if your dog eats poop once or twice and you react strongly to the behavior the behavior may be encouraged just by the attention it brings

Nutrient deficiency or a digestion problem – if for some reason your dog is not getting enough of a particular type of nutrients from its diet or is unable to absorb enough of what it is getting it may eat its poop to scavenge some of the undigested nutrients to supplement its intake.

Boredom or frustration – if your dog is stuck in a small area with few toys or activities for long periods of time it may turn to coprophagia simply to pass some time.

Some people also suggest that, in the wild, females ate the feces of their young to make them less detectable by predators, and that in fact the behavior is actually instinctual. Or perhaps some dogs just like the taste!

Often it seems that a combination of these factors may be responsible.

How you respond might make matters worse. If you and your dog compete for ownership of the stool, your dog might become very determined to win.

The simplest way to prevent your dog from eating feces is by removing it immediately before she gets a chance to eat it. Naturally this will be difficult if she is at home alone during the day. Try exercising your dogs before you leave so that they have emptied their bowels before you go.

You can try putting pepper on the stools, or Tabasco sauce, or lemon juice. Some dogs, however, will eat the poop regardless of the taste. There is a product on the market called Forbid that you add to a dog's diet to make the feces distasteful. Some people get good results from using this, but it is not effective with all dogs. Some have added pineapple or spinach to their dog’s diet, while others use a meat tenderizer. These all aim to make the poop less palatable.

A diet change may make a difference if it leads to more thorough digestion, thus less nutritional goodness left in the feces. Premium dried foods, for example, are processed more easily by the dog’s system.

Leaving your dog with more activities such as treat balls, chews and kongs when you go out will help reduce any boredom related poop eating. Exercising your dog off the property before you leave can also be beneficial because there will be a reduced likeliness that she will still need to poop while your away and her boredom or frustration will also be reduced.

You can also discuss the problem with your veterinary surgeon so you can exclude physical causes and discuss the possible use of dietary additives as a specific deficiency may also be a causative factor.

Training them out of it
Try controlling the interest in poop with a (non-verbal) reprimand so that your dog knows that you are not happy with this behavior. When she approaches poop in the yard, squirt her with cold water, or shake a can of pebbles. Eventually she will fear that the squirt or rattle will arrive when she shows interest in feces and will avoid it.

It is important that you use these techniques to stop your dog when she is approaching the items because the effectiveness of your actions will be reduced if they arrive after she has started to eat.

Do not issue a verbal reprimand as this may just be giving her the attention she wants. After a month, with any luck, she should have learned that eating feces is not appropriate.

If you discover that she has been eating poop, but haven’t actually caught her in the act, reprimands ‘after the fact’ will have no effect.

I hope this tips help, and let me know if you have any further questions.
Posted by Christopher-ZA
Sep 19, 2009
Thanks for your help Sarah. I will do as you say, particularly using the pepper etc.