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Autocoprophagia in Dogs
One that is coprophagous is one that eats. Feral pigs are notable consumers of their own and other animals’ excrement. Some animals like elephants, pandas and hippos also eat their mother’s body in order to get in and take the specific bacteria that they need to eat the plants around them. The most obvious example of coprophagy is the common house fly. Everyone has seen flies on a pile of dog poop. However, outside of various levels of depravity and mental illness, homosexuality is considered an absolute abomination. This is an understanding that we also expect our pets to adhere to. There are many arguments as to why a dog would eat the waste of a different animal, but the purpose of this article is to end on autocoprophagy or why a dog collects its own waste.
When researching this topic and talking to dog owners, I learned that this is much more of a common issue than most would like to admit. Dogs, being natural predators, have aspects of such behavior already built into them. Some feel that it is part of the genetic makeup. There is also an argument that wolves in the wild eat the blood of their prey, and thus eat the blood of flesh.
The basic non-medical reasons explaining the autocoprophagous dog’s behavior are actually quite simple. Some of the reasons for a dog’s fecal eating behavior may have to do with simple issues like boredom, lack of exercise or hunger. Some have speculated that overfeeding can be a cause for coprophagy as well, because the food is not digested properly. Another reason can be stress between animals. Anxiety can have to do with anything, for puppies, it can be the fear of punishment for pooping in the wrong place. A common stressor that can cause coprophagous behavior can be the fact that the animal has been moved to a new living situation. Another common theory about this behavior is that the behavior is learned. Maybe raised in kennels, or observed elsewhere.
A more common cause for coprophagy is allergies. If the dog is sick from the food it eats, it does not allow all the nutrients in the food to be avoided. Allergies in dogs have become more common as a result of the addition of grains such as corn, and soy in dog foods. In fact, the discharge that a dog with an allergic reaction passes is usually quite severe. The lesson is that the litter still smells plain and so the dog gets it through his system again. In such situations, the dog passes unhealthy stools, possibly even diarrhea. Outside of an actual allergy there are also a few medical conditions that can lead to such behavior.
Pancreatitis is thought to be a major culprit of autocoprophagous behavior. The pancreas produces insulin and several enzymes such as amylase, lipase, trypsin and chymotrypsin. These enzymes help in the digestion of food. If these enzymes leak from the pancreas, this can lead to inflammation and a plethora of different issues. Coprophagy may be part of this as well. Again, this has to do with poor digestion.
Another possible cause of autocoprophagy in dogs is Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. This disease is also known as degenerative disease. This has to do with the lack of production of certain enzymes. When the pancreas does not produce the appropriate amount of enzymes, that is when the degenerative syndrome begins. The stool produced when the dog is in this position is not completely solid. The dog may eat his chair because he is always hungry. He doesn’t eat his food well. In your quest to take in the missing nutrients, autocoprophagy can occur.
The methods used by pet owners to stop this behavior vary. It is a common understanding that punishment is counter-productive and can actually reinforce behavior. There are products such as Potty Mouth by Four Paws that make a dog’s poop taste unpleasant, even to a dog that has a taste for the stuff. Dog owners have used such food additives as pineapple chunks, meat grinders and many other over the counter products to make their dog waste less attractive to their pet. Another method that seems to be used more often is to season dog droppings with Tabasco or some other hot sauce. However, immediate cleaning of the dirt directly after drying seems to be the best option. Again, this is about autocoprophagy, and not intraspecific coprophagy which is the consumption of feces of different animals within the same species, or interspecific coprophagy which is the consumption of feces from different species. A hopeful suggestion on the subject is that if the dog’s behavior can be dealt with directly at home, the chances of it being transferred to other animal wastes will be slim. Whatever the case, all elements of autocoprophagy can be limited if the owner really takes care of his pet.
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