Dogs eating their own feces or other poo is an unpleasant topic to discuss- or watch for that matter. It can turn in to a very real health issue and an ingrained behavior. There are a few reasons for it. Good momma dogs stimulate the puppies urinary and bowel movements by licking their genitals, a normal and required behavior for the health of the puppies. Around 21 days old the pups are defecating on their own but may still need stimulation from the mother to urinate. She begins to leave the messy bedding to be cleaned by a fastidious caretaker and enjoy more time away from the always hungry, teething pups. Some mothers, however, continue to eat feces as the puppies grow older, becoming an ingrained behavior. One that the pups will learn to do as well, if allowed to continue.
Proactively keeping the bedding and relief yard clean, ensuring the mother is well nourished and removing the need for her to continue to clean up after the pups can eliminate the problem behavior.
In pets, rescues, athletic dogs, or dogs under high stress, the most common causes of eating feces are below:
- Insufficient mental and physical stimulation.
- Excess fat or carbohydrates in the diet which only partially digests, with the remaining still enticing enough to eat. Again.
- Deficiencies in calcium, phosphorus, or iron in the diet.
- Intestinal issues such as worms or indigestible foreign objects.
- Lack of feeling satiated after eating. Along with the opportunity/availability of the feces.
It is no mistake that boredom is #1. Many dogs need far more exercise than they are getting. Obedience training, learning verbal or hand signals, playing games or activity throughout the day, works both mind and body and can help deter unwanted, self-satisfying behaviors.
Never supplement iron without blood tests first, as it is not water soluble and overdose is possible. A blood test from the vet measuring Iron, calcium and phosphorus levels should always be done before adjusting the intake of these specific nutrients. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of low and high levels of these nutrients, and you will see why they are key to your dog’s overall health.
Control of the environment (immediate removal of poop, preventing other animals from defecating in the dog’s area) and behavior regarding ingesting foreign objects (offer safe toys and bones for your dog’s size and strength) are keys toward success as well. Scheduled worming with a well-rounded medication and routine health care can greatly improve your dog’s health and help eliminate the compulsion to eat feces.
Keeping your dog trim and feeding a high-quality food made for your dogs breed and size can help eliminate excess fat and carbohydrates. While raw food purists may object, you can safely add kibble to a raw food diet, ensuring proper mineral/vitamin ratios, if allergies are not an issue.
Fiber can add bulk to your dog’s food, helping them feel satisfied for longer periods of time. Competition dogs are often fed high protein diets and burn through calories and carbs very quickly. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, green beans and Bran Flakes are all easy, healthy ways to lessen your dog’s frantic search for more to eat. Using pieces of these foods during training is an easy way to keep your dog focused on you.
If you have checked through the above list and your dog is still diving for “The Doo”, there is a plastic basket muzzle with a cup insert that prevents them from doing little more than sniffing it. Just make sure you get the muzzle off the dog before they rub their head on you affectionately- they’re likely to share what they’ve found with the one they love.