There's only one thing worse than finding out that your dog went No. 2 in the house. It's when you return with the items to clean up the mess only to find the mess has mysteriously disappeared. Then you find your dog, whose face you just love to smooch, sitting there looking like the cat who ate the canary. But as frustrating and disgusting as this habit is, there are reasons behind why dogs eat feces, and in some cases, it has to do with their diet.
Coprophagia is the scientific term for your pet's stool-eating habit. But as disgusting as the habit may be to you, your dog doesn't look at things the same way. In fact, eating feces is a natural occurrence for female dogs in the wild. After she gives birth to her litter, a mother dog will eat the stool of her pups in order to hide their scent from predators. But if your dog is domesticated and without a litter, then the coprophagia can be a result of other factors.
Coprophagia and Diet
A dog's system is designed to subsist on a live food diet. When a dog eats a dry food-only diet, it can cause his pancreas to reduce the levels of enzymes needed to break down his food. Since animal feces is rich in natural enzymes, your dog may choose to eat his own poop or that of other animals, like rabbits, cats and deer, in order to get the enzymes his body is lacking. Many veterinarians will recommend adding digestive enzymes or probiotics to a dog's food to help compensate for his lack of enzymes.
Medical Causes of Coprophagia
There are a variety of medical conditions that could cause your dog to start eating his own poop. Common causes include pancreatic insufficiency, parasites in his gastrointestinal system, intestinal malabsorption and enzyme deficiency. In some cases, a dog can develop intestinal parasites after eating the feces.
Dogs are sensitive animals and, sometimes, stress and anxiety can cause them to eat their own stool. All too often, whenever a dog is scolded for going to the bathroom in the house, he may try to "get rid of the evidence" the next time he has an accident. Coprophagia can also be learned behavior as young pups have a tendency to mimic older dogs, and if that older dog just happens to have this bad habit, there's a chance the young pup will also start doing it.
Finding the Cause
If your dog is suffering from coprophagia, you should take him to the vet for a checkup. A simple stool test will help determine the cause behind your four-footed friend's nasty habit so the appropriate treatment can be provided.