How can I stop my dog eating feces?

Coprophagy, or feces eating, is both a frustrating and disgusting dog behavior. Some dogs especially like the feces of horses, rabbits, or cats. Horse and rabbit feces offer partially digested vegetable matter, and cat feces are high in protein, which may explain their appeal.

Fewer than 10 percent of dogs eat their own feces. The reasons for coprophagy are unclear. Both underfed and well-fed dogs who suffer from a medical condition that leads to malnutrition, such as intestinal parasites or disease of the pancreas, may eat their feces in an attempt to acquire more nutrients.

Dogs who get little exercise or who live in a boring environment (tethered on a leash or left in a kennel) may eat their feces to amuse themselves. Once a dog develops this habit she often continues it, even if the conditions that instigated it have been resolved.

Besides making your dog unappealing to be with, eating the feces of other animals (especially other dogs) puts your dog at risk for infection with diseases such as canine parvovirus or infestation with intestinal parasites. Dogs can also get deadly salmonella bacteria from eating the feces of wild birds and Giardia sp. (a one-celled intestinal parasite that causes intractable diarrhea) from eating the feces of wildlife.

If the problem is persistent, consult with your veterinarian. Once you and your veterinarian are sure there is no underlying medical condition to explain your dog’s behavior and that she is not eating feces due to inattention and inadequate exercise, there are two ways to resolve coprophagy: you can make the feces unappealing to your dog, or prevent her from coming into contact with it.