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One year old German Shorthaired Pointer eating feces

By: Dr. Jon Rappaport

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Our question this week was:

My one-year-old GSP has started to eat her feces. I've tried adding Accent and also Forbid, from my vet, to her food, but nothing is working. Do you have any suggestions?

JoAnn High


Answer

Hi – thanks for your email. This is a common behavioral problem in dogs. There are a lot of "solutions" and everyone one has their favorites recommendations (which to be honest means that nothing really works consistently).

"Coprophagia" is the technical term for eating stool (feces). Although it is a disgusting habit to most people, it is a natural behavior in dogs. Bitches naturally consume their own pup's feces – presumably, to keep the nest clean. Most puppies that eat feces do so as they explore their environment and "grow" out of it as they become adults. However, some dogs, like your one year old, will learn the behavior as adults.

I'm going to give you tips from a well-known behaviorist that wrote an article for me on petplace –Dr. Nicholas Dodman. He has some great tips that may help you.

He writes:

There are several "home" remedies that have been practiced, but they rarely work. You already tried a couple. They include:

  • Adding Adolph's Meat Tenderizer® or Forbid®, commercially available preparations of pancreatic enzymes, to the dog's food

  • Adding crushed breath mints to the diet

  • "Doctoring" each stool with Tabasco® in the hopes of discouraging the dog from the habit

    The following strategies have met with more success, though it is important to note that results vary:

  • Picking up all available stools (i.e. denying access)

  • Escorting the dog into a "picked up" area and walking him back inside the house immediately after he has successfully passed a bowel movement and before he even has a chance to investigate the fruits of his labor

  • Some dogs try to circumvent their owner's control by eating the stool as it emerges and for these incorrigible few a muzzle may be necessary

  • Changing the dog's diet and feeding schedule so that high fiber rations are fed frequently and perhaps by free choice. Hill's r/d Prescription Diet®, a diet that contains 10 percent fiber is a good option. It may work by allowing the dog to eat to satiation without gaining weight, or it may alter the texture of the dog's stool, making it less palatable. Dry food seems more effective than wet food in curtailing coprophagia.

  • Lifestyle enrichment is also helpful. Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise and spends plenty of quality time with you each day. Some dogs respond when a "Get a job program" is implemented. Such a program is designed to encourage the dog to exercise his natural tendencies by means of activities like chasing, fetching, walking, pseudo-hunting, fly ball, agility training, etc.

  • Teach the LEAVE IT command

    Although some of the above measures have occasionally been found effective on their own, it best to apply a whole program of prevention for at least six months to nip the behavior in the bud. If during this time, if the dog gets access to stool and ingests it, some ground will be lost. Hopefully, though, progress will eventually be made, even if it's one step back for every two forward.

    Despite all these modifications in environment and training, some dogs persist in the habit of coprophagia. For these dogs, the compulsive disorder diagnosis may be worth considering. Some obstinate cases respond to the judicious use of human anti-depressants.

    Although controversial, the obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis seems to fill the bill, on occasion at least, and it meets a couple of the scientific criteria for diagnosis.

    An article that might be helpful to you is on our Petplace.com is "Teaching the Leave it Command."


    Best of luck!



    Dr. Jon


    P.S. I love learning from my clients. Do you have any tips about this problem or any other general pet tips? I'd love to read it and maybe will even include it in future newsletters. Send me your pet tips!



    To read most recent questions Click here!


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