Friday, August 16, 2013

Squeamish Beware!

Today’s blog is difficult to write.  It’s like I’m sharing a dirty family secret.  My dog Chuy has Coprophagia (the name given to the habit of eating stools-either the dog’s own or another animal’s).  It’s not pretty, but it’s a fairly common problem. Chuy has done this all his life as far as I know.  He may have picked up the habit when at the shelter when he was a hungry puppy.  I had hoped it was something he would grow out of but he will still do it from time-to-time. 
Research suggests several reasons as to why a dog develops this habit:

  • Dogs are basically scavengers (they eat what they can to survive)
  • They are wired to keep their “dens” clean and tidy
  • Inattentive parents (the dog may be doing it for attention)

I’ve also learned that there are medical reasons as to why a dog has Coprophagia, but these are not common.  To name a few: dogs with malabsorption syndrome, dogs on corticosteroid therapy, those with Cushing’s syndrome, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and intestinal parasites.  
Chuy does not have any of the medical reasons above, however our vet does caution us to watch for parasites in his stool in case he ingests something that contained larva of some variety.

I don’t think Coprophagia is uncommon so thought I would share some of the things we do to curb his nasty habit:
  • Keep walks around the sixes.  We’ve learned that both Chuy and Nikki’s general potty routine is around 6:00am and 6:00pm.  We try to keep twice daily walks around this time so we can pick up the tempting pleasure.  If we see either dog potty in the backyard we try to pick it up as soon as possible (we also spot check often).
  • Either chop carrots smaller or switch to another bulky supplement (like green beans) that is not as sweet when supplementing my dogs’ food. (I’ve been adding chunks of carrots to the dogs’ food to help control weight gain but this makes the stools tastier to Chuy as the carrots don’t digest thoroughly.)
  • Keep toys and other distractions in the yard to curb boredom.
  • No access allowed to the litter box (although our cat has since passed).
  • Keep Chuy away from flower beds when on a walk (they seem to be a favorite potty spot for some cats in our neighborhood)  
I have not tried any of the additives below but have learned of them while doing research on this subject: 
A number of ingredients have been suggested as additives to the dog’s food to improve digestion or to render the stools unappetizing. A partial list includes meat tenderizers, crushed pineapple, Viokase, B-complex vitamins, sulfur, glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate, sauerkraut, and canned pumpkin. There are no scientific studies to prove or disprove the effectiveness of any of these additives, but anecdotal reports suggest they may be of benefit in some cases.   A product that may be recommended by your vet is called Forbid.   It is made from alfalfa that gives the stool a disagreeable odor and taste.
I would suggest you check with your vet about Coprophagia before you make any changes to your dog’s diet and to ensure your beloved pet does not have a medical condition that needs attention.

P. Miner - Heart of Texas Lab Rescue Volunteer Coordinator