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Why Dogs Eat Feces

By: Alex Lieber

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Over the last few thousand years, we've narrowed the gulf of understanding between humans and dogs more than we have with any other species – until we witness dogs eating feces, that is. An owner is left scratching his head while the dog, inexplicably proud, runs up to give him a kiss.

What could possibly be the attraction?

It may be hard to believe, but stool-eating is not unusual nor abnormal for dogs. In fact, coprophagia – the medical term for stool-eating – might even be beneficial. Mothers routinely consume the feces of their puppies, a practice that keeps the nest clean.

The puppies may consume feces because of their natural curiosity. Like children, puppies go through a phase in which they explore their world by mouthing it. Most puppies lose the habit in a few months to a year. By then, they've figured out that the world offers a lot tastier choices than poop.

If the behavior persists into adulthood, it could indicate a problem. The dog may not be getting the right amount of nutrients in his food or he may be fed on an irregular schedule (which means he doesn't know when his next meal is coming). Or he may not be getting enough food as a whole. Or, he may be bored, and coprophagia is one way to pass the time.

Naturally, if the behavior is caused by some nutritional deficiency, it's important to correct the imbalance. The dog may need to be fed on a different schedule, and perhaps more often. Dry food may be more effective in curtailing the habit than canned food, especially high fiber food.

Some people suggest adding Tabasco® sauce, meat tenderizer, or some other dietary supplement (e.g. Certs®) to make the stool unpalatable. The tactic is rarely successful; if stool itself isn't unappetizing, it's hard to imagine what is.

One of the best ways to discourage the habit is not to give your dog the opportunity to consume feces in the first place. The yard should be regularly cleaned up and the dog's access to feces-rich areas should be curtailed. For a more detailed account of coprophagia and what you can do about it, see the article Coprophagia.

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