Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Speaking of things your pet shouldn't be eating, why wouldn't its own poo top the list?
With the type of prescription drug commercials we have to sit through on TV now (you know the ones I mean), I figure if they're going to broadcast awkward and uncomfortable human topics into our living rooms every day, why not address an embarrassing-to-discuss topic about our pets?
By far my favorite story from vet school was the anesthesiologist who loved Boxers. In fact, she let a particular one, who was in for removal of an intestinal foreign body, lick her all over her face. The surgeons later removed the obstruction which turned out to be a human colostomy bag from the dog's intestines! How do you politely tell someone (without them vomiting on you) that their face was drenched in saliva from a dog that had recently eaten human feces?
The medical term for poo-eating (yes, someone decided the behavior needed a medical term) is coprophagia. One theory is that flavors in certain brands of pet foods are undigested and remain in the feces thereby making the poo "taste good." Another common assumption is that they are doing it because they are deficient in a trace mineral or something.
The theory I subscribe more too is the following. As predatory carnivores, canine and sometimes feline digestive tracts and intestinal microbes have adapted to being able to gain maximum nutrition from their prey. This includes eating a certain amount of intestines and their contents (such as feces) from their prey without suffering serious illness.
How this translates for owners of poo-eaters is that it is an inherent behavior we need to train them out of (it doesn't bother them, it just bothers us), and there are products we can prescribe to expedite this training. These are products that can be added to the dog's food that will pass through their system, have a deterrent effect helping your dog make the right decision when it is standing over that pile thinking to itself, "Should I eat that again or not?"
Talk to one of us about how to incorporate one of these products with training techniques if your dog "suffers from" coprophagia (of if your dog is fine with it, but you suffer from your dog's coprophagia).
Dr. Carl is a mixed-animal veterinarian at Watkins Veterinary Clinic. Please e-mail your questions for this column to