Treating Coprophagia in Dogs

If you’ve been around dogs, you’ve seen them do gross things. We’re not talking about drooling, rolling in the mud, or getting into the trash. As ‘distasteful’ as this topic may be, the return of spring and the beautiful outdoors seems to increase the stories and questions we get here at Wags to Wiskers Pet Supplies regarding coprographia, or dogs eating feces. As always, we work hard to be the best place for you to get resources and advice about your dog before you have to visit a veterinarian, so this week’s pupdate will be focused on how to treat coprophagia in dogs.


Causes of Coprophagia

Medical and physical reasons for coprophagia in dogs:

  • Intestinal parasites - The parasites are feeding on the dog’s nutrients

  • Endocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) - Is a disorder where the pancreas is not producing digestive enzymes; the food being ingested is not broken down nor are the nutrients being absorbed (the dog is starving)

  • Underfed - Not feeding the dog the right amount of food

  • Poor quality diet - Malnourished Taste - Cat feces may taste good to a dog

  • Prescription medications can make a dog very hungry

Behavioral reasons for coprophagia in dogs

  • Abused dog that was not being fed (got used to eating his own feces)

  • Puppy mill puppies that were neglected and overcrowded causing anxiety issues

  • Seeking owner’s attention

  • Boredom (no activities or playtime)

  • Kenneled/isolated for extended amount of time

These are some of the reasons that experts believe cause coprophagic behavior in canines. As you can see, they are varied and can stem from a litany of areas of the dog’s upbringing or life.

Treatment of Coprophagia

In all of our experience working with pets and dogs, we’ve acquired a number of good treatments and strategies that dog owners can use to treat coprophagia. Here are just a few:

  • Endocrine pancreatic insufficiency is a serious issue that needs to be treated with the help from your veterinarian. Treatment usually entails replacing digestive enzymes using freeze dried pancreas extracts from pig and cattle. The extracts are sprinkled on the dog’s food usually 30 minutes before feeding.  The dog will also be placed on dietary supplements and vitamins. If your dog exhibits coprophagic behavior with great frequency, then it is worth speaking with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may also suggest….

  • Parasites to be treated with a de-wormer and your dog’s bedding, toys, and bowls will need to be washed in hot water.  Flooring should be cleaned and disinfected to help eliminate any remaining eggs. 

For behavior that is more sporadic and less excessive, your your local Wags to Wiskers Pet Supplies stores in Ann Arbor (2425 W. Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI, 48103) or Chelsea (1192 S. Main St, Chelsea) can assist with a few different products to aid in your treatment plan.

  • Anti-coprophagia food additives make the feces of your dog undesirable. Natural foods can have the same result, such as pineapple or zucchini.

  • Put your dog on a better diet. Deficient diets that don’t give the dog’s body what it needs can be prompting them to eat feces. It is recommended that you read the ingredient label; the first ingredient should be a protein not a “by-product”. Dietary supplements and vitamins can also be used. We generally carry all of the vitamins and supplements we think you’d need to treat coprophagia in dogs, but if you’ve done your research and want to try another option we are happy to order it for you!

  • Odor sprays are commonly recommended. If you let your dog out in the yard then you would have to pay close attention as these sprays are designed to be applied to the feces directly, creating an odor that your dog finds far too offensive to desire. Bitter apple or a water and vinegar mix are known to be effective DIY odor sprays.

  • Intensive training may be necessary if the behavior is deeply compulsive. Avoid screaming and scaring the dog when they eat feces. To begin with, give them a stern, “No.” and lead them away from the poop. Repeat this anytime there is any indication of interest in the stool. If this does not dissuade them, seek help from a dog trainer for a more intensive approach - we are more than happy to recommend a few of our well-known and well-trusted trainers in the area. Every dog is different. Keeping a clean environment will help this form of training, and lessen the possibility of coprophagia. 

  • Long walks with a wire basket muzzle are a very effective treatment tools for coprophagia. Increasing the dog’s exercise is a great way to reduce the anxiety that may lead to compulsive behavior. The wire basket muzzle prevents the dog from consuming anything while wearing it. Do not leave the muzzle on the dog when the threat of coprophagia is not around.

  • Remove the opportunity for your dog to eat feces by maintaining a clean yard, play area, and keeping them on a short leash while on walks.

If your dog’s behavior is long-term and frequent, we absolutely recommend that you visit your veterinarian and speak to them about it as it may be due to a medical, instead of behavioral, issue that your dog is experiencing. Regardless, we hope that you’ve been able to find these tips and strategies for treating coprophagia in dogs helpful! Please feel free to reach out to us at your local Wags to Wiskers Pet Supplies stores in Ann Arbor (2425 W. Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI, 48103) or Chelsea (1192 S. Main St, Chelsea) and we’d be happy to help you out in person!