Ask The Vet with Dr. Neil Storey

Weston Veterinary Clinic

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: Poop eating, properly known as coprophagia, may be gross to us but to our dogs it can be a normal behavior. True, there can be health issues such as a lack of pancreatic digestive enzymes, parasitism, a poor diet, intestinal malabsorption, or medications like steroids that can drive a dog to seek out nourishment from feces, but usually the offender is healthy. Your vet should first rule out any medical issues. More likely, perhaps, the diet produces a stool that just tastes good (to a dog) or the pet is bored or does not know when the next meal is coming.

There are numerous ways that have been tried to prevent this behavior. Most
involve learned aversion, i.e., the stool is doctored to make it taste foul and repel the dog. This could be done by feeding something to impart the bad taste, BUT the dog must then be allowed to sample the resulting poop to learn that it now tastes bad. There are a variety of commercial products, most contain food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG). A pinch of meat tenderizer may do the same thing. The emergent poop could also be laced with hot sauce or bitter apple.

Unfortunately, in my experience such methods rarely work, but one approach always works; walk your dog on a leash, pick up the poop immediately, discard of it in a responsible manner. No more poop eating, clean yards and sidewalks, fewer parasites. RESULTS!

Dr. Neil StoreyABOUT the Vet:

Dr. Storey is Chief of Staff at Weston Veterinary Clinic. He has a BSc Applied Biology from Salford University (UK), a Ph.D. Zoology from Nottingham University (UK).
 He spent several years biotech research then DVM Tufts University. He lives with one dog, a 17-year-old Golden Retriever mix, who answers to “Paddington.”

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