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Coprophagia In Dogs: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Coprophagia In Dogs

Canine conspecific coprophagy - a fancy term for Poop-eating is the predisposition or tendency of some dogs to eat their own feces or from other dogs. Coprophagy is a common occurrence as it occurs in almost 20% of dogs (owners who have seen their dog do this at least once).

There seems to be no clinically established irregularity associated with the behavior, such as a nutritional deficiency, compulsive disorder, or gastrointestinal upset. Whatever the reason is, this is usually very displeasing to owners.

Sometimes, the coprophagia is due to ‘boredom’ and it is associated with the dog that is kept in a desolate environment. The associated medical conditions with coprophagia include hydrocephalus, Endocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and intestinal parasites.

Once coprophagy has been established, vets try to systematically rule out medical causes and then look for the behavior issues. However, it is not always easy to differentiate medical causes from behavioral etiologies, and in some dogs, one may be made worse by the other and both are interwoven.

Symptoms Of Coprophagia

  • Dogs eating their own feces or other dogs' feces.
  • Dog eats her puppies' feces.
  • Dog vomits feces.

Treatment Options For Coprophagia

  1. Appetize the dog food:

Stimulate dog's appetite by attractive foods.

Adding chunks of meat such as lamb or chicken help to stimulate their appetite. Add some warm broth to their food (homemade broth is ideal) and also stimulates the appetite.

  1. Choose high-quality, specialized food.

A sick dog will need more specialized foods than normal to help bolster its immunity. For example, dogs with dysentery will need extra protein, dogs with constipation problems will need more fiber and dehydrated dogs will need wet food.

  1. Add flavor:

Add something more favorable to their food to stimulate eating, although it will depend on the dog’s individual preferences.

  1. Medication:

A prokinetic agent: (e.g. cisapride, 0.1 mg/kg orally; metoclopramide, 0.2 to 0.4 mg/kg orally; erythromycin, 0.5 to 1 mg/kg orally).

H2 blockers: Pepcid, Zantac or Tagamet.

A gastric mucosal protectant: (e.g. antacid or H2 - receptor antagonist, sucralfate,).

Home Remedies For Coprophagia

  • Change the food to a different texture or experiment with the food. Some animals do good with solid foods and some with liquid foods.
  • Canned food can be rolled into small meatballs. The meatballs must be swallowed by the dog and this stimulates enough esophageal motility to easily pass through the esophagus.

Prevention Of Coprophagia

  1. Fix a particular type of feeding schedule in place. This is one of the most important ways to lower the frequency of your dog’s coprophagy.
  2. Divide 3 meals into 5-6 mini-meals and introduction of a healthy late-night snacking right before sleep to decrease the night fasting period.
  3. Careful with your food measurements and don’t overindulge.
  4. Some vets recommend feeding a little food in the morning.

Affected Breeds Of Coprophagia

Terrier Dog Breeds, Shetland Sheepdog, Hound

Additional Facts For Coprophagia

  1. Causes:

Medical Causes:

  • Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).
  • Intestinal Parasites:
    • Quality of food is poor - Underfed /Malnourishment.
    • Improper usage of Prescription medications.

Behavioral Causes:

  • Female Dogs will lick each puppy's anal and urogenital regions with the aim of stimulating them to urinate and defecate.
  • Female dogs eat their puppy's poop to clean the nesting area clean.
  • An abused/neglected dog that is not fed properly or dogs in overcrowded places.
  • Attention seeking - Puppy to seek the mother's attention.
  • Boredom/Isolated/Kenneled for a longer time.
  1. Types:

Congenital Coprophagia: Some breeds are predisposed to coprophagia.

Behavioral Coprophagia: This is generally caused due to psychological reasons or due to necessity.

  1. Mortality:

There is no mortality documented due to macrophagia in dogs.

  1. Diagnosis:
  • Complete blood count
  • A blood chemistry panel and urinalysis.
  • Lipase, Amylase, Canine trypsin-like immunoreactivity (cPLI).
  • Fecal fat test
  • Fecal exam (for parasites).
  1. Prognosis:

Prognosis depends on the diagnosis and appropriate treatment for cases of coprophagia. Coprophagic Dogs due to an underlying medical conditions will need follow-up visits to monitor their progress. Dogs that were diagnosed with a psychological problem will need their owner to have patience and consistency in breaking the habit.

When To See A Vet

Contact your vet right away, if you notice the following:

  • Dogs eating their own feces or other dogs' feces.

Food Suggestions For Coprophagia

Best foods to stop Coprophagia:

  1. 75% of a Dog’s food should be complete, wholesome food certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
  2. The remaining 25% of your dog’s diet can be canned food or other foods.
  3. Rotisserie chicken: Smells good and it is the secret stimulant that you never dreamed would work.
  4. White meat: Give the dogs that require a low-fat diet.
  5. Give baby food, especially with meat flavors like turkey or beef. Other options are Shredded chicken, bone broth, meat-based baby food, unseasoned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!), sweet potatoes, etc.


There is no separate treatment for Coprophagy. The treatment depends on the underlying disease or condition or any exposure to toxins. Proper diagnosis of this condition is always best left to your vet to make sure that it is not progressing into a serious form.

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