The fact that dogs can sometimes eat feces may be one of the reasons why even the most die-hard dog lovers refuse to let their canine friend lick their face. Of course it’s perfectly understandable, because regardless of your dog’s specific reason for this terrible habit, it is definitely disgusting and highly undesirable. It is possible to prevent your dog from eating feces, but in order to effectively do so you must first understand why they may be doing this, and then address and solve the underlying problem.
Why Dogs Eat Feces
As distasteful as it may seem, eating feces is actually normal among many different animal species, including dogs. While some other animals species may eat feces in order to aid the digestive process, in dogs it is usually a cleaning behavior demonstrated by mother dogs. Feces can contain harmful germs and bacteria that can affect the health of puppies, and so mother dogs are simply trying to keep their puppies safe by disposing of this waste. However, some dogs without puppies may still participate in this behavior, perhaps in an attempt to clean their yard or kennel. Eventually, eating feces can become a terrible habit that the dog participates in without truly understanding why.
Some dogs may be malnourished and lack the nutrients in their diet that help them feel that their hunger has been fully satiated, turning then to feces in order to gain the additional nutrients that may exist therein. Other dogs may be unable to digest the nutrients present in their food, and find that the partially-digested nutrients in feces aid them in reaching full satisfaction. Some dogs may have a health issue, like intestinal parasites, that drive them to compulsively eat, no matter what they are eating. Still other dogs may eat feces simply out of a nervous habit, without any true reason for it. And then there are the dogs who understand their housebreaking training and the punishment for eliminating waste indoors, and who may then frantically eat feces in order to “clean” the area and avoid punishment.
Preventing Your Dog From Eating Feces
Preventing your dog from eating feces begins with understanding exactly why your dog is eating feces. It is highly advised that you have your dog checked out by a veterinarian in order to rule out the various physical health problems that can lead to coprophagia (the scientific name for feces eating). This includes checking for nutritional deficiencies, parasites, and other non-optimum medical conditions. You can also speak with your veterinarian about what diet is best for your companion in order to ensure that they are getting the proper daily nutrition for their weight, size and age. Additional tips for preventing your dog from eating feces include:
- Try feeding your dog just a little bit more in order to take the edge off their hunger. If you do this, it is important you are feeding them a nutritious, high quality food and engaging them in plenty of exercise.
- Clean up your dog’s waste immediately after they eliminate so that they don’t have access to it.
- Walk your dog on a leash so that you can better control them when they try to approach feces. Tell them to “leave it” and then praise and reward them for doing so.
- If your dog is eliminating waste indoors, establish a very specific schedule for feeding and exercise so that they learn to eliminate outdoors. Try to teach your dog instead of punishing him, that way he doesn’t feel he has to handle feces indoors by eating them.
- Check into products that can be applied to feces to discourage your dog from eating them – like Forbid or hot sauce. However, remember that removing feces from your dog’s normal outdoor environment is a far better option.
Handling coprophagia in your canine companion may be difficult to fully resolve, but it is important to be persistent. Ensure your dog is healthy, eating a nutrient-rich and high-quality food, well-exercised and exposed to clean spaces and you are well on the way to putting an end to this disgusting habit.