Poop -Eating Pooches and Pups and Pica in Dogs (& Cats)
From Dr. Fox’s Animal Doctor syndicated newspaper column Nov/22
DEAR DR.FOX, I have a English Springer Spaniel of 14 years and he is loved by all (great disposition). The Vet says he is in good shape for his age.
However, lately he has started to eat dirt from plants and water from garden pots on our porch. At those time he has a bowl with much dog food (Purina One Dry )topped with some morsels of our dinner and plenty of water.
He is starting to feel his age (arthritis, hearing loss etc).Is this a problem and how do I solve it. C.J.W., Brick, NJ
DEAR C.J.W., Your dog’s condition is called pica, a “depraved” or abnormal appetite for almost anything that can be swallowed. When it is dirt and plant vegetation I suspect chronic gastric irritation, possibly cancer in an older dog. Pica may help alleviate, temporarily, the internal discomfort and even trigger vomiting which can also be relieving and even result in the upchucking of undigested pieces of some toy or other indigestible material from the stomach.
But I would strongly advise, before you take your dog for a full veterinary check-up, to consider a possible nutrient deficiency the dog is instinctively seeking to remedy by eating natural roughage and bacteria-rich soil/dirt. This is common in dogs fed the kind of diet your dog is being given. For details see the book Big Kibble by Shawn Buckley and veterinarian Dr. Oscar Chavez (St Martin’s Press NY 2020).
Transition your dog onto my home-prepared dog food posted on my website www.drfoxonehealth.com with or without the addition of some better-quality dry dog food ( that is more palatable after soaking in hot water) such as Earth Animal’s Wisdom dog food which my dog relishes!
Note: Both dogs and cats will engage in pica and swallow various materials which could mean abdominal surgery to remove blockages and repair damaged intestines. They may do this for many reasons-boredom, curiosity, desire for more dietary roughage, to alleviate oral discomfort especially teething pups and cats with all-too-common dental problems. Because of their “ranula” ( raspy tongue with backward-directed spines) cats have difficulty removing materials like string and dental floss once in their mouths and it is easier for them to swallow the material which could lead to an emergency surgery. Dogs and especially cats are attracted to plastics and with young animals especially, all electrical extension cords should be kept out of reach to avoid electrocution when chewed.
DEAR DR.FOX, We have an Australian Shepherd 6 1⁄2 months old who has been eating her poop since we got her at 8 weeks old. Our vet recommended Forbid to add to her food. We tried that for about 4 weeks with no success.
We tried Coprophagia Stool Eating Deterrent for approximately 3 weeks with no success.
Then a friend recommended canned pumpkin. We have been giving her the pumpkin with her food for a month. And again no success. We try to pick up her poop and dispose of it before she can get it. But she sees me approaching and quickly gobbles it down. Is there a deficiency in her system that causes this? What can we do? Thank you for your insights. Jody Aleshire
DEAR J.A., I am disappointed with your veterinarian’s response in addressing what is called coprophagia. Beginning at such a young age it resembles an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It could have begun with a diet-related deficiency which may still need correcting especially if your dog’s main diet is conventional dog kibble.
Some dogs who are coprophagic are best ignored when their anxiety is increased by scolding or having the dog in the yard while you are cleaning up the poop. Part of a mother dog’s work to keep the den clean is to eat the poop of her pups and the urine after she licks them to stimulate evacuation. Some species, like rabbits, engage in “refection” eating their own poop once-over to get additional nutrients provided by the bacteria in the poop.
Your dog may benefit from a healthful diet along with prebiotics such as unsweetened shredded coconut; a tablespoon of canned unsweetened pineapple which provides digestive enzymes and a supply of oral canine probiotics (taken from the feces of healthy dogs!). Go to the websites of Holly H. Ganz, PhD Chief Science Officer at AnimalBiome.com and Margo Roman DVM at www.microbiomerestorativetherapy.com for more details and for your veterinarian to consider along with discussing what you have been feeding your dog all these years.