Why Does My Dog Eat His Own Feces?

Once a dog starts eating his own feces, it's a tough habit to break. Rigorous yard cleanup works best.

Q. I am hoping you can shed some light on a recent problem that has developed with my 6-year-old male retired racing Greyhound. He has suddenly found that eating frozen poop (his own and others) is a tasty treat. He weighs 80 pounds, and I feed him two times a day at the rate of 2 1/4 cups per feeding. He is on a mix of Turkey and Barley Pro Plan and Nutro Lamb and rice given in even quantities each feeding. He also gets four snacks a day.
People are telling me that his new poop-eating habit could be the result of a vitamin deficiency. Could this be so? If a deficiency is the case, could you recommend a vitamin for him?
I really do not want to change his diet as it took me some time to find the right one for him. He was having a problem with diarrhea on a regular basis, and this food mixture seems to have solved the problem.  In case you are wondering, I did have him checked for parasites while he was in his diarrhea phase (especially had him checked for giardia but nothing was found).
A. You have brought up a very disturbing and mysterious behavior in dogs known as coprophagia, or eating of feces. I like dog kisses just as much as any other dog owner, but there are situations which can dampen the pleasure.

The ingestion of feces can cause serious medical risks, including intestinal parasites such as roundworms or giardia, as well as unwelcome bacteria such as salmonella.

There have been numerous theories about coprophagia, but none of them seems to hold up. Once your dog acquires a taste for these tasty, frozen nuggets, it can be a very difficult habit to break.

Most good quality dog foods provide all the vitamins and minerals your dog needs. Rather than adding a supplement, which might cause more harm than good, I would recommend diligent yard cleanup to deny your gourmet-minded Greyhound access to the feces. Providing chew bones and other sources of treats is also worth considering.

Hopefully, your dog will then move on to other sources of self-amusement, and you can once again enjoy the full pleasure of doggie kisses and undoubtedly improved doggie breath.

Jon Geller, DVM

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