Q: My older female dog has begun to eat her poop and we cannot figure out the cause. She gets the same amount of dog food that she always has. Why is this happening?

A: There comes a time in every dog owner’s life when poop dominates the conversation. Welcome to not-so-nice aspects of dog ownership. While my dog Lulu does not share your pet’s particular problem, she has taken extreme measures to hide evidence of “accidents” every now and then. With such a strong sense of smell, she still seems to forget that poop leaves an odor.

Since your little poop eater leaves the crime scene squeaky clean, she may have a condition called coprophagia.

“Unfortunately this is a topic that is brought up quite often,” says Dr. Arhonda Johnson, owner of The Ark Animal Hospital in Atlanta. In most cases, this problem is behavioral and stems from curious hounds exploring the environment and all it has to offer. (Dogs don’t exactly have discriminating taste.)

Sites like Amazon.com are flooded with products such as For-Bid or other supplements that make a dog’s poop “unpalatable” — now that's an oxymoron. Customer reviews tend to vary, and many of the products require continued use to reap the benefits. Also, these supplements fail to address the core problem, which Johnson notes could be an underlying health issue. 
If your pet suffers from coprophagia, here are a few common causes to consider:

Nutritional deficiency: “You are feeding her the same amount of food, but are you feeding her the same type of food?” Johnson asks. “If so, she might have intestinal parasites that are robbing her of the nutrition she is consuming. Tapeworms, which are transmitted by fleas, are big nutrition robbers.” A visit with the vet will help determine whether parasites are behind your dog’s unfortunate pastime.

Boredom: Idle minds breed mischief. Johnson says that your dog may be acting out of sheer boredom. If that’s the case, it may be time to monitor her outdoor privileges.

Curiosity: It’s new, it’s different and it smells interesting. What’s not to like? Dogs, particularly puppies, are prone to coprophagia. Use a gentle hand to steer them in a different direction.

It’s there: Be sure to clean the area thoroughly after your pet’s potty time. It also may be time to invest in a good pooper scooper. “The best prevention is cleanup,”  Johnson says.

All the best!

— Morieka Johnson

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