A closer look: Eating Feces (Coprophagia) in Dogs
Coprophagia is a common behavior in dogs that is generally not a result of a medical condition. It can be challenging to train a dog out of coprophagia behavior as they age.
Severity of this behavior does not tend to vary. If the behavior is associated with an underlying condition, the symptoms of that condition can vary in severity.
In most cases, the primary method to treat coprophagia is to remove access to feces and monitor the dog when in areas where they may encounter other animal feces.
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Coprophagia is a common behavior in dogs which may not have an identifiable cause. Nursing mothers and young puppies are especially likely to eat feces as normal behavior, and many adult dogs will continue the habit.
The risks of fecal consumption can include gastrointestinal upset, transmission of intestinal parasites, rare ingestion of medications that are excreted in the stool, and transmission of Salmonella and E. coli to humans via licking.
Coprophagia is very common in dogs, especially in nursing mothers, who eat feces to keep the environment clean for the puppies, and in young dogs
Testing and diagnosis
If medical attention is warranted, a physical examination, medical history, and dietary evaluation may be performed. In addition, a number of tests can be done to identify a cause, including
- Fecal examination
- Bacterial tests
- Pancreatic and GI function testing
If there is an underlying cause, treatment for that condition can include medication, surgery, and symptom management. Dietary adjustments may also be required.
If coprophagia is due to an underlying medical cause, there may be associated symptoms.