As pet professionals, we are asked this question on a regular basis. It comes with stigma, embarrasment, and confusion. This was posted by Dr. Buzby recently on the AllDogsBlog in response to a recent query about dogs eating their own waste, also known as coprophagia. Here’s everything you ever didn’t want to know about this commonplace problem/habit!
Great question, but I recommend not reading my answer while eating a meal. Coprophagia literally means “to eat feces”. This activity, like dogs rolling on a dead carcass, is something we humans cannot appreciate. Yet it is a very rewarding behavior for our canine companions.
For-Bid™ is probably the product most commonly recommended by veterinarians for this issue. It’s been around for years, and is fed to dogs for 5-6 consecutive days, then as needed. For-Bid™ is basically wheat gluten and monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is the active ingredient because it is broken down in digestion to make the stool taste yucky. Reviews are mixed on how well the product works, but I’m leary about prescribing wheat gluten and/or sodium glutamate to my patients.
Several over-the-counter products are also available, some with more “gentle” ingredients (such as digestive enzymes and probiotics), but they also garner mixed reviews for efficacy. Then there’s the list of home remedies, such as feeding meat tenderizer or pineapple, used for their enzymatic properties in digestion.
I need to point out that in a multidog household, if you are giving an oral product to address this problem, the product needs to be given to all dogs, not just the dog who ingests feces, so that all the accessible excrement is altered.
Unfortunately, in my experience, there is no magic bullet for coprophagia (though sometimes one of the above products or tactics will work for an individual).
The most reliable way to address this behavior requires diligent, hygienic management of the dog’s environment and access to stool. This means:
• strict supervision when the dog is outdoors
• immediate picking up of the feces to remove the temptation
• teaching the “leave it” command
• as a last resort, using a basket muzzle to prevent ingestion
It is important to note that this behavior is not only a problem from the standpoint of the “gross factor”, but is also a possible route of transmission of internal parasites and bacteria.
Please talk to your veterinarian about your concerns. Though coprophagia is usually just a behavioral habit, it can be associated with a dietary problem or even an underlying medical issue.
Dr. Julie Buzby is a homeschooling mom of seven, American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and International Veterinary Acupuncture Society certified holistic veterinarian, and passionate advocate for canine mobility.In her free time she serves on the Advisory Board for The Grey Muzzle Organization. She can be found at Twitter @DrBuzby and on Facebook.com/ToeGrips. You’ll also find more of Dr. Julie’s posts at our Ask the Vet Archives page.