Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Coprophagia

Synonym(s): coprophagy

Contributor(s): Karen Overall

Introduction

  • Eating cat or livestock feces often normal
  • Behavior often highly unacceptable to owner.
  • Fairly common in young, kennelled or understimulated dogs.
  • Occurs particularly in neutered animals and those with increased appetite.
  • Dogs are attracted to feces by smell.
  • Feces from dogs and cats fed on tinned food may be more attractive due to undigested flavor enhancers.
  • It is normal for bitch to eat puppies feces.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Often occurs in understimulated individuals with unsatisfied appetites being left for long periods in the presence of feces.
  • For those animals with increased appetites, opportunistic scavenging leads to location of feces by scent.
  • Individuals quickly learn to search likely locations for feces and it becomes a self-rewarding habit.
  • May be the consequence of 'nose-rubbing' to house-train puppy - nose-rubbing initiates taste for feces.
  • Punishment for house soiling may also encourage the behavior - animal removes the evidence of the problem - the consequence of instrumental learning.

Predisposing factors

General
  • Neutering (since it increases appetite).
  • Insufficient food given.
  • Drug-induced increased appetite.

Pathophysiology

  • Can be due to unsatisfied appetite. This can be caused by dietary imbalance or disease which impairs normal digestion of food, although pica Pica more likely.

Timecourse

  • Usually begins in adolescence as individual begins to explore and requires more food to stay satiated.
  • Gradually becomes a deep-rooted habit if allowed to develop as the animal matures and as the behavior pattern becomes learned.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Wells D (2003) Comparison of two treatments for preventing dogs eating their own faeces. Vet Rec 153 (2), 51-53 PubMed.
  • McKeown D, Luescher U A & Machum M (1988) Coprophagia - food for thought. Can Vet J 29 (10), 849-850 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Landsberg G, Hunthausen W & Ackerman L (1997)Handbook of behavior problems of the dog and cat.pp 112-114.
  • Overall K L (1997)Clinical Behavioral Medicine for small animals.pp 245-246.
  • Askew H (1996)Treatment of Behavior Problems in dogs and cats. pp 270-271.
  • Houpt K A (1982)Ingestive behavior problems in dogs and cats.Vet Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice12, 6683-6692.

Organisation(s)

  • Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, PO BOX 46, Worcester WR8 9YS, UK. Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1386 751151; Email: apbc@petbcent.demon.co.uk; Website: http://www.apbc.co.uk.


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