Many dogs develop the unpleasant habit of eating feces (coprophagy). In some animals, it becomes almost compulsive behavior. These pets eat not only their feces, but those of any other animals. Several theories have attempted to explain this behavior. Among the possible causes are boredom, too much confinement, lack of certain enzymes in the digestive system, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and neuroses.
Coprophagy usually does little harm except transmission of intestinal parasites and fecal bacteria, which may cause tonsillitis or intestinal upset. As long as you deworm your dog regularly (every 3 months with most worming tablets is sufficient, though certain brands are monthly), your dog shouldn't get sick from parasites.
Important Points in Treatment
In some pets, nothing seems to stop this behavior. However, here are a few suggestions that may help:
1) Remove the feces from the premises daily. Prevent access to cat litter boxes.
2) Do not confine your dog to an area where it has bowel movements.
3) Provide regular exercise for your pet.
4) There is a supplement which can be added to your pets food to give the feces a bitter taste. For some dogs though, even this is not a deterrent.
One or more laboratory examinations may be required to rule out hidden causes. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is one such cause. This is a condition common in German Shepherd dogs where the pancreas fails to produce enough digestive enzymes, so the dog cannot absorb enough nutrients from its diet. This results in weight loss, despite a ravenous appetite. This condition can be tested for by a blood test, and if diagnosed, can be well managed by supplementing the diet with artificial pancreatic enzymes.
NOTIFY YOUR VETERINARIAN IF ANY OF THE FOLLOWING OCCURS:
- There is blood in your pets stool
- Your pets bowel movements are abnormal (e.g. diarrhea)
- Your pets general health changes (e.g. weight loss)
Matthew Homfray is an online veterinarian at free pet Q&A service http://www.televets.com. Pet advisors are online right now waiting to answer your questions for free.