causes, risks, solutions… everything you need to know

causes, risks, solutions... everything you need to know

Coprophagia, the scientific term for the act of eating one's own or other animals' feces, is a behavior that surprises and even disturbs many dog ​​owners. Find out what are the causes and risks of this phenomenon.

Behavior… hygienic

This behavior is seen more in female dogs, especially those with puppies, as well as the puppies themselves. Indeed, coprophagy is linked to instinctive maternal behavior. Female dogs, like many other mammals, naturally clean their young and their resting area by eating their young's feces. This behavior has a hygienic function, helping to keep the puppies' environment clean and reducing the risk of attracting predators. It is also important for the health of young dogs, as their immune systems are not yet fully developed.

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Puppies learn many behaviors through imitation. If a female dog shows coprophagic behaviors, it is likely that her puppies will do the same. Young dogs are naturally curious and explore their surroundings with their mouths, leading them to taste everything, including their own or other animals' feces.

A health or eating problem

In addition to behavioral concerns, certain health problems can lead to coprophagia. Digestive disorders, such as poor absorption of nutrients, or conditions such as intestinal parasites can cause a dog to eat its feces. This behavior may be a sign of illness, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, digestive problems, or a change in appetite. In these cases, it is important to consult a veterinarian to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

A dog may instinctively seek to supplement its diet by eating feces (Getty Images)

A dog may instinctively seek to supplement its diet by eating feces (Getty Images)

Coprophagia can also indicate a nutritional deficiency. If a dog's diet does not provide it with essential nutrients, it may instinctively seek to supplement its diet by eating feces.

Risks for dogs… and humans

In addition to extremely foul-smelling breath, this behavior obviously presents several health risks. The greatest risk is that of ingesting parasites and bacteria. Feces contain parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and protozoa, as well as harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. These pathogens can cause intestinal infections and other health problems. If your dog eats the feces of other animals, the risk of catching communicable diseases increases.

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Another risk is related to the consumption of medications or toxins that are present in the feces of other animals. If another animal has been treated with medication, residue may be found in its feces. Your dog may then be exposed to these substances. There is also a risk to human health. Dogs that eat feces and then lick their owners or objects in the house can potentially transmit bacteria and parasites to humans.

How to act?

To remedy this behavior, start by eliminating access to feces. Clean up immediately after your dog poops, especially in your yard or while taking walks. If you have other animals, make sure their space is cleaned regularly as well.

Eliminate access to feces by cleaning up immediately after your dog poops (Getty Images)Eliminate access to feces by cleaning up immediately after your dog poops (Getty Images)

Eliminate access to feces by cleaning up immediately after your dog poops (Getty Images)

Next, look at your dog's diet. Make sure he gets a high-quality, balanced diet, as nutritional deficiencies can sometimes lead to coprophagia. A dog who is bored or has too much energy may develop unwanted behaviors. Make sure your dog gets enough physical and mental activity every day. Games and regular workouts will help keep his mind occupied and his body active.

If the behavior persists despite these measures, consider consulting an animal behaviorist. A professional will offer you personalized advice and behavior modification strategies tailored to your dog.

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