If you don’t own a dog, you might want to look away now. Coprophagia is the smart name for eating poo. Some dogs have a taste for it. Revolting but true.
I remember reading about this condition pre-Teddy and feeling faintly horrified. In Bruce Fogle’s DOG The Definitive Guide for Dog Owners, he writes the no-nonsense facts: “Dogs eat poop. It’s wired into their brain circuitry. In some the instinct is firmer than others.” I’m going to gloss over his use of the word ‘firm’.
Puppies sometimes eat faeces while investigating their environment. What do you do when your dog eats poo? To stop it becoming a habit, there are non-harmful sprays that you can buy to trick your pup into hating eating poo: squirt it on the stuff, leave it for your dog to find and then your dog will (hopefully) avoid the nasty-tasting stuff in the future. Of course, training your dog to ‘leave’ and ‘come’ would help, too.
Although Teddy has an occasional fondness for rabbit poo he has never really gone for anything bigger. But this week he did. Cue much gagging on my part and a brisk walk home, followed by two thorough scrub-downs with a special anti-fox poo shampoo kept for just such unlikely, stinking occasions. For the sake of thoroughness, his teeth were brushed too, and then he was back to his former glory, above.
This unscheduled double wash and brush-up put paid to our morning’s plans and Ted definitely wondered what all the fuss was about. I did, too. Why had this usually choosy Miniature Schnauzer suddenly scarfed down these unmentionables?
Apparently some dogs eat stool in an effort to correct an imbalance in the digestive process. “If a dog is not digesting food properly, and they have less pancreatic enzymes, they might eat faeces because it will have the protein that they are after and which is palatable,” says Rodney Zasman of Zasman Vet. “Another reason a dog might eat faeces is a condition called pica, which is a brain tumour. More often than not, if a dog is a habitual eater, it’s worth getting them checked out.”
Then there’s the problem that eating poop can cause health problems of its own if it’s contaminated with viruses, parasites or the kind of crazy toxic substances that Teddy’s cousin found on our local Heath (see my previous post: When Your Dog Gets High).
As he hasn’t shown an interest since, I’m putting Teddy’s momentary dietary deviation down to the fact that, according to Rodney: “The poorer quality the food, the tastier the faeces. Same goes for cat faeces. Fox poo is tasty to dogs because it’s high in protein”. Still though, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Teddy’s meanderings and I’ll definitely be steering him away from the undergrowth in future.