Feces eating in Dogs and Cats: Why do they do that?!!

Eating feces (known as coprophagia) is a frustrating thing.

You may have a dog or cat that is constantly trying to eat their own (or others) feces and unfortunately this can be a hard habit to break. There is nothing worse than chasing your dog around the backyard as he playfully runs away, or seeing a trail of litter leading away from the litter box. Why do they do it? More importantly, how can we stop it? Let’s first discuss some of the reasons for this undesirable behaviour.

Possible Medical Reasons

It was once a common occurrence to see this behaviour when animals’ were not getting proper nutrition. Most commercial diets (and all veterinary diets) meet the nutritional requirements that pets need. Be cautious with home-made diets as these can be tricky to guarantee proper supplementation.

In rare cases animals may eat feces if they have any underlying or undiagnosed medical issue. This can go hand in hand with a disorder called ‘pica’ – a generalized disorder where they eat inappropriate things. Screening tests performed by your veterinarian (including blood work and a fecal analysis) can help rule this out.

Behavioural Reasons

Most incidences of coprophagia are behavioural. Did they eat stool as a puppy and never grew out of the habit? Have they developed a taste for fecal material? Have they had an accident in the house and they are covering their tracks? Do they suffer from anxiety or stress? All of these things can lead to this undesirable behaviour and will require a lot of patience and determination from you as the owner. 

What can we do?

Obviously the best way to stop coprophagia is by removing the feces as soon as possible.  You can also try increasing your animal’s activity level – playing with toys and longer walks outside can help tire them out and alleviate boredom. 

Feeding your pet at specific times can help you predict when he or she will have to go. This will eliminate the need to constantly be watching them.

Changing their diet may be helpful if your animal’s food is not of the best quality. Talking to your veterinary staff is recommended prior to making any changes that may affect your pets’ health.

A product called FORBID®is sold exclusively at veterinary hospitals. It is an over-the-counter powder that is sprinkled on the animal’s food. This will change the flavour of the feces and perhaps make it less desirable. Probiotics such as FORTIFLORA®can alter the flavour as well. Both of these products are sold at Eastern Passage Village Veterinary Hospital!