Why dogs eat poop
The activity of eating poop, or coprophagia in technical terms, is thought to have to do with our dog’s wild ancestors, wolves. Several theories exist, but one of the most common one believes that wolves regularly eat feces left in the den by their pups as a way to stop the spread of intestinal parasites. The most common intestinal parasite found in wolves doesn't become infective for two days. So by eating the feces, and getting rid of it, they can help stop the spread of parasites to them and their young. Some believe that our dogs are displaying similar, ancestral behavior when they engage in coprophagia. Another theory suggests that since dogs naturally clean their puppies at birth, they are used to cleaning up feces and therefore have the urge to "clean it up" in less appropriate situations.
Should you be worried?
Aside from bad breath, there are few side effects from your dog eating their own poop. If your dog eats feces from other animals, there is a real risk of spreading bacterial and intestinal parasites. Most mammals harbor intestinal parasites, and when they deposit their poop, those intestinal parasites enter the environment. When another animal comes along and digests the feces, they also ingest the intestinal parasites and so the cycle continues. Dogs are susceptible to all sorts of parasites and many can be inadvertently spread to us! The good news is, intestinal parasites are preventable and, by giving your dog regular heartworm preventative, you're also helping to protect them from these intestinal parasites. Contact us if you have any concerns.
Curbing your dog's habit
The easiest way to keep your dog from eating poop is to make sure you clean up after your dog whenever they go. You can also keep a leash on your dog when they do go, so that if they start to engage in the behavior, you can quickly tell them "no" and pull them away. The right training can also be very successful in eliminating your dog’s unsightly behavior. Contact us for a list of reputable trainers in the Asheville area. There are food additives that are marketed to help curb the behavior, but recent studies have suggested that they may not be too effective.