My dog eats faeces: What can I do?
During a walk, you and your four-legged friend romp across the meadow and step into a pile of faeces. What you as the dog owner find disgusting, your pelt nose finds an attractive source of food. Does it sniff curiously at your sole or even lick the traces of excrement off your shoe? No need to panic: Your dog is often magically attracted to fatty acids in the faeces of other dogs, other animals or even humans. If your four-legged friend occasionally eats small amounts of faeces, there is no reason to worry. If, on the other hand, your dog regularly eats large amounts of faeces and seems to be constantly looking for food, you should take a closer look.
8 reasons why your dog eats faeces
Feces eating, also called coprophagy, can have many causes:
- Territorial behaviour: Territorial behaviour: If your four-legged friend does not tolerate rivals in its territory, it will eat the excrement of its own kind and thus remove the foreign smells from its territory.
- Hygiene: If dogs are kept in kennels and the kennel is very dirty, some animals eat their own poop and thus clean their living space. Female dogs also eat their puppies' faeces after they have given birth. In this way, they keep the whelping box and the environment clean and, at best, no bacteria form.
- Stress: External factors such as an unclear hierarchy may be stressful for your dog because he is not aware of his role in the pack and therefore cannot understand his boundaries. So your dog shows you that something is stressing him out with conspicuous, negative behaviour like eating faeces.
- Attention deficit: If dogs are alone for long periods of time, or if they are bored and lack activity, eating faeces could indicate a lack of attention. For them, it is a form of attention when their owner reprimands them; they eat their faeces to gain attention in this way.
- Exertion: Sporting dogs in particular ingest faeces when overstrained in order to quickly make up for their energy needs.
- Disease: An underactive pancreas prevents optimal utilisation of nutrients, so your dog will constantly be looking for a food source for energy.
- Worm infestation: Internal parasites cause a disturbance of the digestive processes. In this case, your dog will consistently try to ingest food to stimulate digestion.
- Nutritional deficiencies: If your four-legged friend's food is difficult to digest or not nutritious enough to provide enough energy for his activities, he is suffering from malnutrition. The lack of nutrients can promote faecal eating. In addition, chemically produced flavour enhancers in low-quality food make the dog's own faeces or those of his fellow animals appear attractive.
Eating faeces: 3 possible dangers for your dog
If your dog eats faeces regularly, it is not only unpleasant, but can also affect his health in the worst case. Three common consequences of coprophagy are:
- Worms and parasites: Some parasites lay their eggs on faeces, from which larvae develop. If your dog ingests such faeces, the parasites enter his digestive system.
- Medication: If animals are ill, they are often given medication, the ingredients of which are partly excreted in the faeces. Horse apples, for example, can contain toxic additives for dogs if the horse has just received a worming treatment. But other medication residues can also cause symptoms of poisoning.
- Pathogens: Your furry friend may pick up pathogens through the excrement of his fellow species or that of other animals. For example, giardia in dog faeces can cause bloody diarrhoea and dullness. The faeces of some wild animals can cause diseases such as bird flu, rabbit plague (tularaemia) or salmonella.
Attention: Consequential diseases from eating faeces can also be dangerous for humans. For example, if your dog licks a child's hand and the child then puts it in its mouth without washing it, parasites such as roundworms may enter its digestive tract. Besides parasites, zoonoses such as toxoplasmosis or rabbit plague also pose a danger to humans. If your dog has eaten faeces, it is therefore advisable to clean its mouth and your hands thoroughly without delay.
Our tip: If you want to clean your dog's teeth, first offer him an apple. By chewing the apple, the interdental spaces are also freed from excrement. Then you can remove the loose droppings with a soft, slightly damp toothbrush. If your dog does not accept the apple, you can brush directly with the toothbrush.
Precaution: How to prevent your dog from eating faeces
If you want to prevent your pet from eating excrement, there are different ways to educate or adjust some conditions. Some suggestions are:
- Give a command: "Off!" is one of the basic commands that your dog should learn right from the start. With this command you can influence your dog from puppyhood, prevent the first bite into the droppings or ensure that your four-legged friend drops the tasty horse apple again.
- Make droppings unattractive: If you sprinkle pepper over the piles in your home garden, your dog will probably not try it again because of the pungent taste.
- Set boundaries: If you catch your dog in the act of eating faeces, it helps to gently push him away from the pile. Alternatively, if the distance between you is too great, you can throw a throwing chain, leash or other harmless object in his direction to scare your dog and thus negatively influence his eating of faeces. However, never aim directly at your dog!
- Change of food: It is possible that the energy content of the food you are feeding is no longer appropriate for your pet's age or activity level. You can get advice on individual feeding options from a specialist retailer.
- Food supplements: If you have a very active, immunocompromised or old dog, the nutrients in the food may not be enough to meet your pet's needs. In this case, you can feed natural supplements.
Conclusion: If your dog eats faeces, it is difficult for a layperson to recognise the cause. It is therefore best to consult a vet and have the reason for the faeces eating clarified before you take preventive or educational action.