Coprophagia and Pica Behaviors in Dogs (eating poop or inedible items)

Learn about causes and corrective actions for coprophagia and pica behaviors.

Coprophagia and Pica Behaviors in Dogs

Coprophagia and Pica Behaviors in Dogs

  • Eating own waste or another animals' droppings
  • Eating clothing items, particularly those that retain odor like socks or undergarments
  • Eating stuffing from toys, pillows or cushions
  • Playing with and eating rocks or dirt

Causes and Corrective Actions for Coprophagia and Pica Behaviors

Note: No definitive reasons for coprophagia or pica behaviors in dogs have been established, but the following reasons present the most commonly accepted causes based on repetitive patterns in dogs presenting these issues.

Boredom/Over-Confinement

A bored or neglected dog will find something to occupy himself and sometimes this might be playing with and/or eating excrement or chewing on and swallowing inappropriate items.

BOREDOM/OVER-CONFINEMENT Corrective Actions: Ensure your dog receives ample daily mental and physical exercise through training, interactive play and running or swimming in safe areas. Supervise dog when loose in house or yard. Teach a firm "Leave it" command that tells dog to leave whatever has his interest and turn his attention elsewhere. Immediately clean up waste from all dogs in household. Never leave puppy or dog in dirty crate or run as this can desensitize one to being in/around feces. Various food or stool additives made for dogs that make stool distasteful sometimes work. Never assume your puppy or dog won't eat something inappropriate — socks, toys and other items commonly swallowed can result in digestive blockages and antifreeze's sweet taste causes many canine deaths yearly.

Hunger

An underfed dog may naturally scavenge for anything that seems remotely edible.

HUNGER Corrective Actions: If dog eats the recommended daily amount of a high-quality food, but still exhibits coprophagia or pica, schedule veterinary testing for parasites or possibly a medical condition that can cause increased appetite. Fur can hide exposed ribs and bones, so feel your dog's condition by running your hands down his sides — ribs should be felt beneath a slight covering of fat, if ribs and hip bones feel prominent then increase your dog's food or seek medical advice.If dog eats the recommended daily amount of a high-quality food, but still exhibits coprophagia or pica, schedule veterinary testing for parasites or possibly a medical condition that can cause increased appetite. Fur can hide exposed ribs and bones, so feel your dog's condition by running your hands down his sides — ribs should be felt beneath a slight covering of fat, if ribs and hip bones feel prominent then increase your dog's food or seek medical advice.

Mimicking

Some experts feel that puppies follow their dam's (mother's) example of eating feces in the whelping box to keep it clean.

MIMICKING Corrective Actions: Puppies often outgrow both coprophagia and pica, but need constant supervision and intervention during the time these behaviors surface to prevent either becoming an established and potentially long-term habit.

Nutritional Deficiency

Prey drive in dogs relates to the canine's instinctive desire to chase, catch and kill prey animals like they would in the wild, a drive that causes many dogs to key in on and chase moving figures, including joggers, bicyclists, skateboarders, cars, squirrels or other fast traveling entities.

NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY Corrective Actions: Schedule a veterinary appointment and take in a stool sample to rule out internal and external parasites as well as check your dog for signs of nutrient deficiency, such as poor coat, dry skin, ear gunk, excessive eye discharges and more. Particularly in thin dogs that produce loose poor stools, talk to your veterinarian about adding digestive enzymes to meals to improve digestion or possibly testing for potential medical problems. Because cheap canine diets use low-quality ingredients that prove difficult to digest, switch to high-quality diet for superior digestibility that may prevent "recycling" of stools in effort to extract further nutrients.

Scavenging

Some dogs naturally scavenge throughout their lives, and this may include eating their own waste, or even more likely, the excrement of other animals.

SCAVENGING Corrective Actions: For total prevention clean up all dog poop within your yard immediately. For other animals' excrement, train a firm "Leave it" command to tell your dog to turn his attention elsewhere, but understand this instinct proves strong enough that your dog may return to that spot for food.

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Joseph   Owego, New York

3/8/2014 3:45:09 AM

I had once heard there was a food additive that would render the poop inedible/distastefull. Is there such a thing?.

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Christine - 4004   Idaho Falls, ID

2/14/2013 7:59:43 AM

Add vegetables to the diet ~ fills the dog with fewer calories

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Melian and Tiny   E, CA

12/18/2012 11:31:48 PM

Ugh. It seems to me some dogs do it and some don't. Taste preference?

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Waleska   San Juan, Puerto Rico

9/15/2012 11:36:43 AM

I have a Bullterrier and she's 3 month and every time she do poop she eat some... I went to the Vet and they told me that she will stop...

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