The proper term for poo-eating is coprophagy.
Depraved appetite: An unnatural craving to eat unsuitable food is known as depraved (corrupt) appetite, or pica (Latin for magpie).
Whether it be tasty rabbit poo nibbles, big dollops of horse poo or scavenging for other dogs poo hidden in the long grass, poo eating is an issue we are frequently contacted about. It seems that this is something that many dogs like to do and unsurprisingly, it is something we find unpleasant and difficult to cope with.
Poo eating in itself, especially herbivore poo, is unlikely to cause any issues. However, it can be a transmitter of parasites and so any dog that is likely to have this habit is best kept up to date with all types of worm prevention medication.
There can be many different factors involved when a dog has been eating poo – life stage is the first factor to take into account. Young dogs that are still exploring the world will give eating most things a go at some point, including poo. For some it will be a passing phase, but for others they can realise they enjoy it and so a habit of ‘hunting’ for it can kick in. At this point, training is likely to be the key factor in solving the issue.
If an older dog is still poo eating or the behaviour has suddenly started at a later age, this is when we would look more carefully at the issue and make sure all dietary aspects have been carefully considered.
There are several myths about Poo eating:
As with many “bad habits”, poo eating can occasionally be linked to an underlying health issue.
Some dogs may show obvious signs of digestive upset such as occasional loose stools but for many, the only indication is poo eating. As with many common health issues, a holistic approach to health and nutrition can offer a solution. To do this, we have to consider in particular the health and function of the digestive system.
You can read more about diet and the health of the digestive system in my Veterinary Guide to Natural Healthcare. See the link below (pp.12-13).
The Burns Health and Nutrition Team (see back of leaflet) can give you individually tailored advice on finding the right food and the right feeding amounts for your dog
When trying to eliminate poo eating, it is important, initially, to have as little variety in the diet as possible, i.e. no treats, other pet food brands, fruit or even homemade foods containing meat and fat (vegetables are OK). Keeping it simple helps to identify what works best. Treats may be tried at a later stage once the poo eating has been resolved.
Get in touch with the Burns Health and Nutrition Team for individually tailored advice on the right food type and amounts for your dog. At Burns we work to address pet health conditions brought about by unhealthy lifestyle and especially diet. Drawing on the link between health and nutrition, we developed dry pet food that offers the same benefits for your favourite furry friend as simple homecooked food.