Decades ago, when 100% vegetable diets were first used in dogs and cats, this concern about the appearance of stones...
WHY DOES MY DOG EAT ITS OWN FAECES?
Autocoprophagy is a common thing in puppies that can continue as they grow or can appear later when they become adults. This is quite unpleasant for us. However, it poses no risk to their health unless they have a disease and become reinfected. What can lead to health problems is the ingestion of faeces from other animals that can transmit parasites or viruses.
Usually, this problem called "pica" has also been related to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, but the reality is much more complex.
REASONS THAT CAN LEAD A DOG TO EAT ITS FAECES AND HOW TO AVOID THIS:
Make sure that the dog is adequately fed: Check with your vet what adjustments should be made to the diet.
- Health problems related to nutrient intake.
Nutritional deficiencies that derive from digestive, pancreatic, viral or parasitic problems and that prevent them from assimilating all the nutrients they need: After the diagnosis in your clinic they will indicate the appropriate treatment.
- Diseases resulting in increased appetite.
Diabetes mellitus, hormonal alterations, or treatments with corticoids increase appetite and can lead to coprophagia: Your local vet will advise you on the appropriate treatment and the steps to follow.
- Behavioural problems.
Stress or anxiety. Animals with separation anxiety can develop this behaviour, or maintain it over time: An ethologist ( a vet who specialises in behaviour) will study your little furry buddy and your lifestyle to solve this.
Punishments that don't work. It is never appropriate to punish an animal, but if the punishment is because it has made a potty somewhere, it can lead to the animal ingesting its own faeces: We should never, ever, punish an animal for defecating, even if it is in an "unsuitable" place. In return we should try to seek advice to change this behaviour that we do not like in a friendly way, keeping hygiene and redirecting the defecation to more appropriate places is something that is feasible and you can always seek advice from a good vet or an ethologist.
Lack of attention: A bored animal may try to seek our attention by defecating and eating it so that we pay more attention. Or it might just do it for fun, due to a lack of stimuli, and they might play with it before eating it: living with a dog means offering it the necessary stimuli so that it does not feel stress and frustration that lead to problems of this type. If you do not know how to do this, there are lots of sniffing exercises, intelligence games and other ways for our little furry friends to forget about eating their own faeces and lead a happier life.
Lack of hygiene. An animal that is forced to live in the same environment in which it defecates can easily end up ingesting one of these stools: Hygiene is essential for any animal, we must always keep the environment of our little buddies as clean as possible.
Behavioural imitation. If other dogs with whom you are living have this behaviour, it is possible that it might learn from them: If this is the case, we must first address the one who started this behaviour.
It can be a normal behaviour in a puppy that has just started to explore or a dog that has come out of a situation of neglect. To solve this, we can try to eliminate the faeces right away, or, as soon as we realise that they are going to eat them, we can call the puppy, play with them or offer them a treat, divert their attention to put an end to this behaviour - if they stop eating the faeces, they will forget about it and stop, otherwise it is best to seek professional advice.
WHY DO THEY EAT OTHER ANIMALS' FAECES?
- It is normal for mothers to eat their babies' faeces.
- Dogs also often eat faeces from other species, which is quite normal, as they have a very distinctive smell and taste and it can draw their attention. In this case, we should try to prevent this, as they can catch diseases.
María González Sola.
Co-founder of Refugio la vida color Frambuesa e responsible for the veterinary consultations of VeggieAnimals.