Did you know that 1 in 6 dogs regularly eat faeces?
The habit of eating poo (known as coprophagia), is understandably unpleasant, can harm the bond between dog and owner, and is often a challenging one to resolve!
There are many pathogens (bacteria, viruses and parasites) that can be spread in faeces, therefore if your dog is coprophagic it could make them poorly. Some of these pathogens can even be passed to humans so you may wish to think twice before letting them lick your face!
There are numerous reasons dogs might indulge in this unsavoury activity…
First of all, coprophagia can be normal in some circumstances. Examples might include a new mum removing puppy poo from the den to keep it clean, or young puppies chewing faeces as part of exploratory behaviour. This behaviour should never be punished as it can heighten your dog’s anxiety levels and lead to behavioural problems associated with toileting developing later on in life.
In the vast majority of problem cases, coprophagia is considered a symptom of wider behavioural issues. It can develop in any dog at any time of life, however dogs that are naturally greedy are more likely to develop the habit. Coprophagia may occur in some dogs simply because they enjoy the taste(!), particularly if they have had access to cat poo which is considered particularly yummy to some dogs (because of its high protein content).
Other behavioural cause that may lead to coprophagia include:
- Incorrect toilet training: When puppies are learning where they should defecate, it is important to reward them for going to the toilet where you want them to and avoid punishing them when they make mistakes. If your dog receives punishment every time they are in the vicinity of faeces, they may form negative associations with the action of toileting. This can result in them quickly consuming their faeces in order to ‘hide the evidence’ to avoid further punishment, which may become an ingrained habit as they grow up.
- Chronic anxiety or stress: Sadly, many dogs struggle to adjust to aspects of daily human life, as they are forced to adapt to fit in around us rather than the other way round. Separation anxiety and noise phobia are just two common examples of problems that continually heighten a dog’s stress levels – this in turn can lead to coprophagia which the dog uses as an outlet to help them cope.
- Boredom or attention-seeking behaviour: Lack of environmental stimulation, inadequate exercise or inappropriate training can all lead to coprophagic behaviour.
Finally, and less commonly, coprophagia can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that may be causing deficiencies in your dog’s nutrient and vitamin uptake, so it is always worth getting your dog checked out by a vet if they start displaying this behaviour.
How to break the habit?
For coprophagia which is considered to be part of a behavioural problem, there are several strategies you can implement:
- Use COPRO-NIL, a faecal taste modifier to break the pattern of behaviour.
- Don’t punish your dog if they do eat poo as punishment can make the problem worse!
- Avoid temptation – it’s hard to give something up if there are constant reminders, so keep the garden free of faeces and your dog on a short lead on walks. It is also important to make sure all dogs in the household are toilet trained. Make sure your dog doesn’t have access to cat litter trays.
- Behaviour training is really important to resolve the behavioural pattern in the long term and strategies include;
- Redirection training – ensuring dogs have excellent ‘recall’ and ‘leave it’ cue training so that their attention can be diverted away from faeces
- Response substitution – training the dog to display an alternative behaviour when encountering faeces, such as returning to your heel.
- Address any underlying behavioural concerns – coprophagia might be part of a wider behavioural issue, such as separation anxiety. It is recommended to seek qualified advice from a veterinary surgeon or veterinary behaviourist (the latter can be found on the following websites www.apbc.org.uk and www.asab.org/ccab), to help resolve them.
What is COPRO-NIL?
OPRO-NIL is a faecal taste-modifier and behavioural aid from TVM, which helps with the correction of undesirable coprophagic behaviour. COPRO-NIL contains an ingredient that is broken down in the gut into a bitter tasting compound, resulting in highly unpalatable stools. This discourages your dog from repeating the behaviour to help break the habit. It also provides a comprehensive B vitamin source as deficiencies in B vitamins may contribute to coprophagia.
How much COPRO-NIL should I administer?
COPRO-NIL is presented as a tasty powder that should be sprinkled onto every meal (wet or dry food and any treats that are given) to ensure it is consistently present in every stool. Administer daily for 10-14 days (some dogs may require for up to six weeks if the habit is particularly ingrained). If your pet is ingesting faeces from animals within the same household (e.g. the cats, or another canine companion), administer COPRO-NIL to all your pets in each feed.
Coprophagia, like any habit, cannot be broken overnight, it can take several weeks or even months to resolve. It’s important to remember the 3P’s; praise, patience and practice! Using COPRO-NIL, alongside appropriate training methods where necessary, can help to banish the dirty coprophagia habit for good, so you and your dog can spend more time enjoying each other’s company.
For more information on COPRO-NIL, please visit TVM’s website www.tvm-uk.com/poochew
Your Dog readers can currently enjoy 10% off COPRO-NIL by entering the code COP10 at www.animeddirect.co.uk/poochew