Puppy Coprophagia (Faeces eating)

The sweetest,cutest looking puppy can start eating it’s own faeces – here are a few tips to help resolve the problem.

Autocoprophagia (an animal eating its own faeces) is common in puppies between the ages of 3 and 9 months and usually resolves itself.

However it is understandably offensive to the pup’s owner and makes one reluctant to accept puppy kisses!

Possible Causes:

Genetic

Coprophagia can have a deep-rooted genetic base as at the very beginnings of domestication (around 40,000 years ago) dogs were scavengers living off human waste.

Allelomimetic (Copying)Often the puppy remembers its mother cleaning up the nest and eating the litter’s faeces (again an instinctive behaviour to prevent odours attracting predators).

Clinical

Possibility of a digestion problem – in other words, the owner is feeding the correct nutrients but the puppy is unable to digest/absorb what it needs so it eats its own faeces as a way of recycling the undigested food – illogical actually – if it could not digest the food the first time around – why would it be able to on the second attempt?

However if the problem persists the owner MUST consult their vet to definitely screen out any physical problems.Make sure the puppy is not infested with worms.

Nutritional

Puppy may not be getting all the nutrients it requires from its present food. Feed the best quality/chemical additive & preservative free food possible e.g Burns which is highly digestible and only contains consistently high quality ingredients. Sometimes changing protein or carbohydrate source helps.

Boredom

Autocoprophagia is a common problem in puppies who are crated for long hours and have inadequate physical and mental stimulation – faeces started off as something to play with.

Resource guarding

Pup may have observed owner cleaning up and decided that as the faeces are so important/valuable to the owner – pup decides it should get there first and eat the faeces so you can’t have them.

Attention seeking

If owner or anyone cleaning up has made a fuss about the mess – told puppy off/ made it clear that it is not acceptable to poo in bed/crate/kitchen etc – they have inadvertently rewarded the pup’s behaviour by paying attention to it – any attention is rewarding to a puppy – even negative attention.

Hiding the evidence

If anyone has chastised/punished puppy for house-training accidents – puppy may eat its own faeces to destroy the evidence.

Puppy enjoys the taste

Offensive as it may be to humans – many puppies regard their faeces as a delicious snack!

ONCE COPROPHAGIA IS ESTABLISHED AS A HABIT IT IS HARD TO BREAK – BUT MOST PUPS EVENTUALLY GROW OUT OF IT

What you can do:

1) Make sure pup is kept scrupulously wormed on the regime prescribed by your vet.

Worms can make puppies hungry and nutritionally depleted.

2) Feed puppy the very best quality food – the most easily absorbed and the one containing the purest ingredients – with the correct protein/carbohydrate levels appropriate for its age and all required nutrients. Sometimes changing the protein source makes the faeces less appetising.

3) Try adding a small amount of pineapple to diet – it is supposed to make faeces taste horrible. Or purchase a product like “Deter – coprophagia treatment” or similar. (Pills to be taken)

4) Clear up any faeces as quickly as possible – just one success for puppy in managing to eat its delicious snack will put back your programme.

Call puppy away from the accident (if indoors) and reward with high value treat for coming to you. This is training an alternative behaviour – coming away from the poo instead of eating it and receiving a reward for doing so.Treats have to be delicious to compete with poo!

5) Do not clear up in front of the puppy – if pup has accident indoors – do not say anything or appear annoyed – quickly and quietly remove puppy to another room and clear up when they can’t watch, or puppy will gobble it down even faster next time.

6) Work very hard on housetraining. Teach puppy to eliminate on cue – feed high value treat while pup is actually going and afterwards and praise lavishly. Lure puppy away from the spot – praise and reward. Treats must be very special for puppy to swap her delicious tasting poo for your treat. Put puppy inside and clear up – don’t let puppy see you.

Summing up:

If the problem is not improving considerably within 4 weeks using the above methods – you MUST consult your vet. It is not fair to continue to assume that we are dealing with a behavioural problem if there could be an underlying physical cause.

Stopping puppy Coprophagia is very much of vigilance,management and prevention i.e not allowing the behaviour to happen.

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