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Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

The Curious Causes of Coprophagy

                At Patton Veterinary Hospital, we get this question A LOT:   Why does my dog eat poop and what can I do to stop it?  As the owner of a dog who enjoys sampling the brown “cigars” that often litter our yard, I share your frustration.  Several new studies endeavor to shed some light on WHY dogs like to eat feces, but no one yet seems to have a foolproof solution to the problem. 

                An article published in January 2018 by several researchers at the University of California, Davis suggests that it may be instinct that leads our furry friends to perform such a disgusting act.  Dr. Benjamin Hart and other veterinary researchers at UC Davis posit that dogs may be acting like ancestral wolves who may have eaten stool to keep their dens clean and parasite-free.  Yes, coprophagy (the ingestion of feces) may be linked to an attempt at parasite prevention. 

                While rather revolting to think about, dogs and wolves tend to favor eating “fresh” umm...leavings, no more than 48 hours old.  This may be because, if the dog’s feces contain worm eggs, the eggs are usually not infective when first expelled.  Therefore, if immediately consumed, the risk of parasite infestation is reduced.  The study was not definitively conclusive on this matter, but it is one possible reason that dogs might ingest their waste.

                Other veterinarians have hypothesized that coprophagic dogs might be trying to satisfy a nutritional need.  Stray dogs in some countries are known to eat both human and animal feces if food is scarce.  Dr. James Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania said. “Modern dogs and cats are fed diets that are relatively rich in fats and protein, not all of which may be completely digested, making their feces potentially attractive as a secondhand food source.” 

                The good news is that these studies offer some explanation as to why dogs eat stool.  The bad news is the studies also looked at the efficacy rate of behavioral training as well as commercial and home remedies intended to stop dogs from eating poo.  Sadly, none of the products or training methods proved successful in preventing dogs from ingesting poop, so, coprophagy is a hard habit to break.  It seems that keeping the yard free of fecal matter is our best bet at stopping our stool-eating friends.  Take heart that if you have one of these indelicate pooches, you are not alone.  Who’s joining me in cleaning up “poopsicles” this week? 

                This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.