Windermere Animal Hospital
Q: My 3-year-old dog, Suzie, went out to go to the bathroom the other day and pooped—after sniffing it for some time, she ate it. She went through a phase where she did this as a puppy, and I thought she grew out of it. Now that she’s back at it, what can I do to stop this?
A: Suzie is exhibiting “coprophagia,” which is the medical term for eating feces. It is actually a common problem, but is not readily discussed due to obvious reasons! Once a dog begins exhibiting this behavior, it can be a difficult habit to break.
Suzie needs to be trained again, like when she was a puppy. She must be monitored when she is outside and called in right after she defecates (use the “come” command and give a treat to encourage this). Then, once Suzie is inside, the feces must be cleaned up immediately. If Suzie doesn’t always pay attention to the “come” command, re-training this command and putting her on a leash to potty are good first steps.
There are some food additives such as “Forbid” that make the feces less appetizing (I know—that hardly makes sense). This would need to be used consistently until Suzie is no longer in the habit of turning around and eating the feces. It would then be used periodically to reinforce the behavior. The feces would still be removed from the yard often, and other dogs in the household would need to be given “Forbid”.
It must also be mentioned that sometimes certain health conditions and malnutrition can cause this. It is always important to maintain regular health checks with your veterinarian and discuss even these embarrassing issues! I’m sure with a little hard work, Suzie will soon forget this behavior!
ABOUT the Vet:
Dr. Pattee grew up in Noblesville, Indiana and went to Purdue University for her undergraduate work and veterinary school. After graduating, she moved to North Carolina and worked in a small animal veterinary clinic there. She just recently moved back to Indiana to be closer to family and friends. Dr. Pattee has two cats, Gator and Margo. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, reading, running, and scuba diving.