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Proper Pups Don't Eat Poo...Or Do They?

By PhotoLori on Jul. 24, 2017

"I was going to tell you a poop joke but it's really crappy." -- Unknown

The first time I saw a dog eat cat poop, I was absolutely disgusted. I had never before experienced this dog behavior, although I had heard of other dogs doing it. Technically, it’s called coprophagia, otherwise known as eating poop.

I was babysitting my neighbor’s pug, Smudge. He was a puppy at the time and full of energy. He would run around, chase the cats, play with my dog, Gabby, dance at my feet and then begin all over again.

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I knew something was wrong when there was total silence. Smudge had to be up to no good. I went searching for him. And I found him, in the litter box, with a mouth full of cat turds.

He looked up at me as if to say, “Hey, thanks for these awesome snacks. You want one?”

When I brought my senior rescue Sunny home, I didn’t know that she also was cat doo-doo dining dog. She could sniff it out anywhere. And when she found it on our walks she would use all her strength to stay there and finish it. She even taught Gabby to eat these gruesome brown lumps. I'm just grateful she never ate her own poop, which I've heard some dogs also do.

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What causes this disgusting habit? Since I was now forced to deal with it on a regular basis, I decided to look into some of the causes of coprophagia.

Not entirely surprisingly, dung dining is not an area of deep scientific observation; however, studies point to a variety of common factors, not all of which are related to illness or diet deficiencies.

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For example, ingesting feces is particularly prevalent in puppies. This is because, not unlike human babies, puppies tend to put everything in their mouths. Some are good with a sniff, and some go for the whole taste thing. Fortunately, many grow out of this behavior as they mature. 

Coprophagia is also normal in nursing mothers. Because pups are not able to eliminate on their own until about three weeks old, a mother dog will lick her very young puppies to activate the defecation reflex. Again, this is normal behavior, and is designed to keep the den clean as the puppies mature.

Lola009.jpgOther causes are a bit more non-specific, so it's a good idea, if this becomes a new behavior for your dog, to take him to see your veterinarian to rule out such concerns as parasites, nutrient deficiences, or an underlying disease. 

If it's something your dog has always done, you may be dealing with a serious poo eater, and there may be no other reason than...she likes doing it. The good news? With time and patience, you may be able to train her away from it. 

Talk with your veterinarian to discuss some alternatives, such as vitamin supplementation, enzyme supplementation or even some taste-aversion products that may help stop the poo noshing.  

If you have a kitty roca aficionado, the best way to alleviate the cat box diving habit is to keep the box clean. If you work (or otherwise can't be on regular cat turd watch) move the cat box to somewhere your dog can't get to it, but your cat can.

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You can also try curbing coprophagia with dedicated dog training. For Sunny, being so old (and being deaf) it was too late to train her. But if you are determined, consistent and patient, these training tips may help resolve the condition for your poop eating perpetrator:

  • Keep your dog on a leash when you’re in places where he might encounter other dogs’ or cats' feces. Pay attention to your dog and lead him away from any feces he discovers.
  • Teach your dog a reliable recall cue so that you can always call him away when you see him investigating a pile of feces.
  • Teach your dog the “Leave it” cue. This cue can be used to discourage contact with any item, including feces.

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Sunny displayed this behavior until the very end, I’m assuming she did this her whole life. And now that Gabby is 14 and still finding cat poo on our walks, I don’t think she will give it up. I’m just grateful she hasn’t passed the tradition on to our other dog, Mr. French. 

But I will keep up my vigilance on my walks with Gabby, after all, I do allow doggie kisses. Maybe I should rethink that.

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Professional photographer and dedicated animal activist Lori Fusaro takes photos of shelter dogs and cats at Best Friends Animal Society - L.A. in hopes that the images will help them find their forever homes. She also has a soft spot for pit bulls. Be sure to check out "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts," a book written by Laura T. Coffey, with photos by Lori Fusaro.

Read all about Sunny, Lori's most successful foster failure ever and one of the inspirations for the book "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts."

Looking for some dog training tips? Check out our Petco positive dog training classes in your area.

Does your veterinarian recommend a change in diet

Keeping a stash of treats around might not be a bad idea, too.

Read this touching blog from Lori Fusaro about the heartwrenching choices pet parents sometimes have to make.

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2 Comments
Comments
by Richard54321
‎05-08-2017 07:37 PM

well i dont allow doggie kisses on my face rather they are a poo eater or not.they are actually just licking the salt of ur skin and its not affection in any way on the dogs behalf.

well i dont allow doggie kisses on my face rather they are a poo eater or not.they are actually just licking the salt of ur skin and its not affection in any way on the dogs behalf.

Posted on May. 8, 2017
by Lauries
‎05-14-2017 03:36 PM

Lori Fosaro is such a dedicated animal activist, you can see how much she loves her job!

Lori Fosaro is such a dedicated animal activist, you can see how much she loves her job!

Posted on May. 14, 2017
About the Author
  • Lori Fusaro has worked as a photographer since 1996. Her boutique studio, Fusaro Photography, is based in Los Angeles, CA, where she is well known for her lifestyle portraiture of pets. She was honored as the top portrait photographer in the L.A. area for four consecutive years and her work has been featured on NBC Nightly News, The Today Show Pets, In Touch Magazine and in the book ‘So You Want To Be A Pet Photographer’. Lori has a soft spot for seniors and her book “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts is a National Best Seller.
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