This is not a topic to be discussed at the dinner table, but it is a common condition and therefore worthy of dog owners’ attention. Many dogs eat their own or other dogs’ feces; this is called “coprophagia.” Statistics reveal that 10-25% of dogs have this nasty tendency.
Most commonly, this is a behavioral problem, but it can also have a medical basis.
For example, dietary deficits from insufficient absorption of nutrients can promote this habit. Also, an increased appetite from illnesses or medications can cause it.
Other medical conditions include: Cushing’s Disease (hyperadrenocorticism), exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (“EPI”), severe liver disease, undertreated diabetes mellitus, and gastrointestinal and kidney disease. Being on some medications can prompt this act as well--particularly steroids.
As a behavioral condition, the most common condition is being a mother-dog. They lick at their pups’ behinds to stimulate defecation, and then will consume produced feces to keep their “home area” clean.
It is best to consult with your vet to determine the cause if you witness your dog engaging in this act. She or he can screen for intestinal parasites in your dog that may cause it. In some cases, the most effective treatment is behavior modification. One option is to give the dog an additive that will make his or her feces more distasteful.
The best solution is simply to pick up feces promptly. You may also choose to keep dogs on a leash in a well-supervised area. Teaching the dog to respond to the order to “drop it” is also an option to gently address this undesirable condition.