Techniques for Treating Coprophagy
Always feed your puppy a good quality puppy food so that you can be sure that he is getting all of the protein, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients he needs for normal growth. Observe your puppy for signs that he may be suffering from poor digestion, such as poor growth, insufficient weight gain, vomiting, watery stool or stool with large particles of undigested food. If you see any of these signs, consult your veterinarian. This can become a serious issue if not resolved.
Make sure that your puppy is getting all the exercise, playtime and attention that he needs. Then when you have to leave him alone for a while, he will likely sleep rather than trying to relieve his stress, boredom or loneliness by eating feces.
Be diligent in cleaning up after your puppy eliminates. Do not give him the chance to play with or eat his stool. Try placing the puppy on a leash when you take him outside to relieve himself, and do not allow him to inspect his stool after he has defecated. Distract him from the stool by calling him to you, and when he responds appropriately, reward him with a training treat and verbal encouragement and then take him inside, away from the stool, before you go back to pick it up.
Some experts have found that adding meat tenderizer, digestive enzymes, or natural additives to the puppy’s food makes a big difference. Stool eating deterrents cause the feces to have a particularly unappealing smell that will discourage him from eating it. If you cannot immediately clean up the stool, or if there are some old stool piles in your yard, you can spray it with hot pepper sauce or mouth wash. However, it is still more effective to just clean up after the puppy each time he eliminates.
Always keep your puppy on a leash whenever you take him out for a walk. This will prevent him from eating the stool of the other dogs that are left lying around in the streets. Note that some parasites and illnesses can be transmitted through stool, so you don’t want your puppy to come into contact with stool (of course, this is not always possible). If the puppy begins to sniff at a stool pile, gently pull on his leash and lead him in another direction. Use immediate distraction techniques as soon as he begins to show curiosity for his or another dog’s stool, and reward him with verbal praise and a training treat when he responds appropriately.
If he is consistently discouraged each time he tries to play with or eat his stool and rewarded when he behaves appropriately, he will learn to let go of this habit in a short period of time. Soon enough, you will be able to give your dog a little bit more freedom and not have to worry about him eating stool when you are not looking.
What About Adult Dogs?
As was already mentioned, most puppies eventually outgrow their desire to eat their own or other dogs feces, but there are the occasional individuals that either continue with the habit or seemingly develop it out of nowhere as adults. What’s an owner to do in these cases?
First of all, if your adult dog has never been a poop eater and suddenly develops the habit in association with symptoms of disease like weight loss, lethargy, discomfort, other behavioral changes, vomiting or diarrhea. Make an appointment with your veterinarian. Coprophagy can be associated with diseases of the intestinal tract and sometimes other parts of the body (liver, brain, etc.).
Once you are convinced that your adult dog is healthy, all the techniques mentioned above for treating puppies with coprophagy are also appropriate for adults. These include switching to a high-quality, highly digestible diet; increasing the amount of exercise, play and attention the dog is getting; being diligent about immediately cleaning up feces; walking your dog on a leash; using stool eating deterrents; and distracting your dog when he shows interest in feces and rewarding him for leaving feces alone.
Finally, some types of feces are simply too enticing (from a dog’s point of view) to pass up. Most dogs will eat cat stool or horse poop when given half a chance. Owners simply have to prevent dogs from having access to “treats” like these.