Canine Coprophagia: An Overview for Pet Owners

Coprophagia is the technical term for the oral consumption of feces. This is quite a common behavior in dogs, much to their owners’ disgust. Not a lot of medical research has been done on the subject, so reasons behind the fecal consumption are merely theories. It is a fact, however, that dangerous conditions can result from this behavior.

Many new dog owners may be horrified to find their puppy eating their own excrement one day. Some dogs do, while others never will. Dogs also seem to have a predilection for cat feces. Owners of both dogs and cats may find the hard way that their dog visits the cat litter box for little snacks. In this case, it would be a good idea to keep the box from the dog’s reach.

Why do dogs eat poo? Many of us have asked that very question, as it seems innate in humans to be revolted by such an act. There are many possibilities for coprophagia in canines. Here is but a brief list of reasons: to get their owner’s attention, to consume the parts of food that weren’t fully digested, to cover up their scent in the wild, because they see their owners pick up their feces, or possibly because it tastes good to them.

Beyond the behavioral reasons behind coprophagia, there can be medical reasons as well. A dog that is lacking in certain vitamins may try to get them from his feces, or from the feces of other animals, such as cats. Also, an overfed dog may eat his droppings because there are large chunks of food that didn’t get absorbed into his system. Many of the reasons behind the habit also apply in reference to your dog eating his own vomit.

Whatever your dog’s reason is for his coprophagia, it can be a dangerous habit to keep (not to mention a very gross one!). Many viruses are spread to dogs via fecal matter, such as parvovirus. In puppies, parvovirus is often fatal. This behavior can be curbed by keeping your dog away from his feces, disciplining the dog for eating it, or by the use of anti-coprophagia products that are available at many pet stores.

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