It’s the stuff of which nightmares are made. Your best pal, Ringo, the greatest dog in the world, so clever, so cute, looks up, tail wagging with a self-satisfied expression, and then you notice—he’s snacking on cat droppings stolen from their litter or other droppings from outside! Oh no! That’s disgusting! How could you!? You’re remembering the last time he licked your face… than start to feel queasy.
It’s gross but true: Many dogs enjoy eating poop. Their own, other dogs’, cats’, they’re not really picky. Whether it’s because the waste retains some of the smells of undigested matter that is appealing, or whether it’s a reaction to boredom is less important than breaking your dog of this undesirable habit, known as coprophagia.
The biggest health issue associated with coprophagia is the potential continued transmission of parasites. If your dog eats another’s stool, parasites contained within it can be ingested, and take up residence. If your dog eats his own stool, he can be re-infected with parasites you are working to get rid of. And yes, if your dog eats parasite-infected stool and then licks your face, he can potentially transmit these parasites to you! Ew.
Here are some methods you can utilize to help break your pooch of this nasty little habit:
First, be sure you’re feeding your dog a quality dog food. This will help insure the highest level of digestible content, leaving little if any undigested food matter in the feces. Also, dividing the daily intake into several smaller meals can help keep your dog more satisfied throughout the day and less interested in “snacking.” Consider vitamin and mineral supplementation, which may increase levels sufficient to dissuade your dog from this nasty noshing. Next, spend time with your dog engaged in an activity. Exercise and playtime will help keep him focused on enjoyable pastimes and less likely to forage out of boredom.
Of course, keep temptation to a minimum. That means clear the yard of waste, and have yummy treats available when you play together in that space. Your dog will start to associate the yard with something even tastier than feces. If your dog lusts after the cat’s litter box, move the litter to a place where the cat, but not the dog, has access to. Or, opt for a covered litter box to prevent trespassing.
If your dog remains undeterred, there are a few additives on the market designed to “ruin” the flavor of your dog’s waste. Some people have found that sprinkling a hot spice, like cayenne pepper, hot salsa, or wasabi on the stool discourages dogs from sampling. Make sure your dog doesn’t have any allergies to these things beforehand, if possible.
When walking your dog in public areas, keep a firm grip on his leash and give a sharp tug and vocal, “NO!” when you see him pulling with interest toward a foreign mound. Distract him with an alternative treat but never punish him for his weakness since it may reinforce the behavior or result in other undesirable issues.
If your dog is “hooked” and unyielding in his appetite, talk to your SouthCare Animal Medical Center vet at your appointment, or on Airvet – our virtual exam experience. See what else you can try that’s safe and effective. There are supplements we can provide that are tasteless for your pet, but can make feces taste less desirable. Dogs are never too old to learn new tricks or better habits!
In most cases, by neutralizing your dog’s desire for and access to these forbidden delicacies, you will eventually be able to curb if not cure him of his dirty little secret and once again enjoy those happy kisses!
Four Steps to Help Fido’s Anxiety
No matter how much we love our dog, leaving the house and the dog home alone is a part of life as a pet owner. For some dogs, this can cause anxiety and stress, resulting in mild to severe separation anxiety. Some breeds are more prone to it, and life changes, like a move to a new house or the loss of an important person, can cause it. It’s important to remember some of the symptoms of separation anxiety are similar to other behavioral conditions, such as a dog that is not fully house-trained. If you suspect your dog is suffering from anxiety, monitor and record his behavior patterns to discuss them with your veterinarian.
How Can I Help My Dog?
Separation anxiety can be hard on you as the pet owner too. If you have concern over your dog’s behaviors that may include urinating or defecating, excessive barking and howling, trying to escape or being destructive while you are away, try these four steps to help with the dog’s separation anxiety.
- Take a walk- The physical stimulation will help tire the dog out and you will leave him in a quiet, resting mode. If you can’t take a walk, playing together or working on training before you leave will help mentally exhaust your dog before you depart.
- Don’t make it a big deal- Don’t pet your dog, talk to him or make eye contact when you leave — or even when you first return home. This helps him learn time apart is just business as usual.
- Start small- Leave the dog alone for five minutes, then extend the time to 20 minutes, then to one hour. Continue to increase your time away until you’re able to leave for a full eight hours without problems occurring. Use treats and praise as positive reinforcement when your dog responds well.
- Stay calm- The dog can sense your concerned and guilty feelings as you’re getting ready to leave. When you’re calm and confident and project the energy that everything will be okay, the dog’s anxiousness will decrease.
Is Your Dog Still Suffering?
If these steps don’t help your dog’s separation anxiety, ask your veterinarian to consider medical problems that may be contributing to the behaviors, such as incontinence or a medication that causes frequent urination. If behavior problems persist, a certified applied animal behaviorist or certified professional dog trainer may be able to help the dog with more complex counter-conditioning or desensitization.
Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed too, but for best results, these drugs should be used along with a training plan to help the dog learn how to handle being left alone. Consider leaving your dog with a friend or family member, taking him to a doggie daycare or even taking your dog to work with you, if you can, while you help your dog cope with anxiety in the short term.
Will Crate Training Help Separation Anxiety?
Some dogs respond well to crate training because they learn their crate is a safe place to go. But for others, it can cause added stress and anxiety. Owners can observe the dog when he’s left in the crate while you are home. If he is panting heavily, trying to escape or persistently barking/howling, you may consider confining your dog to one room behind a baby gate instead. Leaving busy toys for distraction, or clothes you’ve recently worn as a scent cue can help your dog too.
Treatment can be a gradual process. As you work with your dog through the separation anxiety, it’s important to remember you should not scold or punish your dog. Anxious behaviors are a distress response, and not a result of disobedience. If you punish him, he may become more upset and the problem could worsen.
Does your pet suffer from Separation Anxiety, and you feel like you’ve tried everything?
Schedule a Behavior Consultation appointment with our very own Dr. Annika Benedetto! She loves helping families with pets that have challenges. Dr. Benedetto can asses your pet and their environment to provide your family with a training protocol aimed to reduce stress for the whole household.