DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Anyone who has had a pet dog and/or cat for any length of time will tell you that their pet has from time-to-time shown a nasty habit or two. Probably the most offensive of these would be COPROPHAGIA...the act of eating feces (either their own or from another animal). This repulsive habit is actually fairly common and is most often done by dogs. The most obvious question to arise when a dog owner sees their dog doing this is, "Why?" Veterinarians are presented with this question frequently and the answer is not always a simple one.
COPROPHAGIA IN DOGS
Over the last few thousand years, we've narrowed the gulf of understanding between humans and dogs more than we have with any other species – until we witness dogs eating feces, that is. An owner is often left scratching his head while the dog, inexplicably proud of eating a stool, runs up to give him a kiss.
What could possibly be the attraction?
It may be hard to believe, but stool-eating is not unusual nor abnormal for dogs. In fact, coprophagia – the medical term for stool-eating – might even be beneficial. Mothers routinely consume the feces of their puppies, a practice that keeps the nest clean.
The puppies may consume feces because of their natural curiosity. Like children, puppies go through a phase in which they explore their world by mouthing it. Most puppies lose the habit in a few months to a year. By then, they've figured out that the world offers a lot tastier choices than poop.
If the behavior persists into adulthood, it could indicate a problem. The dog may not be getting the right amount of nutrients in his food or he may be fed on an irregular schedule (which means he doesn't know when his next meal is coming). Or he may not be getting enough food as a whole. Or, he may be bored, and coprophagia is one way to pass the time.
Naturally, if the behavior is caused by some nutritional deficiency, it's important to correct the imbalance. The dog may need to be fed on a different schedule, and perhaps more often. Dry food may be more effective in curtailing the habit than canned food, especially high fiber food.
Some people suggest adding Tabasco® sauce, meat tenderizer, or some other dietary supplement to make the stool unpalatable. The tactic is rarely successful; if stool itself isn't unappetizing, it's hard to imagine what is.
One of the best ways to discourage the habit is not to give your dog the opportunity to consume feces in the first place. The yard should be regularly cleaned up and the dog's access to feces-rich areas should be curtailed.
Barring nursing mothers, the majority of "normal" adult dogs have absolutely no interest in eating feces.
When Coprophagia is a Problem
Slow learners, "oral retentives," and pups in which habits are easily ingrained may continue to engage in coprophagia well beyond the accepted "norm" and may engage in it to excess. Such hard-core coprophagics continue the behavior long after their peers have developed new interests. Dogs like this, that seem addicted to the habit, may best be described as "compulsive."
Whether by nature, nurture, or a combination of factors, coprophagy rears its ugly head as a persistent and irritating habit that some long-suffering dog owners seem fated to endure. There are several different forms of coprophagy but, whatever form it takes, there are probably similar drives and predilections operating. Variations on the theme include
• Dogs that are partial only to their own stool
• Dogs that eat only other dogs' stool
• Dogs that eat stool only in the winter if it is frozen solid (Helpful Buckeye had a client who called these "poopsicles")
• Dogs that eat only the stool of various other species, often cats
The following strategies have met with more success, though it is important to note that results vary
• Picking up all available stools (i.e. denying access)
• Escorting the dog into a "picked up" area and walking him back inside the house immediately after he has successfully passed a bowel movement and before he even has a chance to investigate the fruits of his labor
• Some dogs try to circumvent their owner's control by eating the stool as it emerges and for these incorrigible few a muzzle may be necessary
• Changing the dog's diet and feeding schedule so that high fiber rations are fed frequently and perhaps by free choice. Hill's r/d Prescription Diet®, a diet that contains 10 percent fiber is a good option. It may work by allowing the dog to eat to satiation without gaining weight, or it may alter the texture of the dog's stool, making it less palatable. Dry food seems more effective than wet food in curtailing coprophagia
• Lifestyle enrichment is also helpful. Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise and spends plenty of quality time with you each day. Some dogs respond when a "Get a job program" is implemented. Such a program is designed to encourage the dog to exercise his natural tendencies by means of activities like chasing, fetching, walking, pseudo-hunting, fly ball, agility training, etc.
• Teach the “LEAVE IT” command
Although some of the above measures have occasionally been found effective on their own, it's best to apply a whole program of prevention for at least six months to nip the behavior in the bud. If during this time, if the dog gets access to stool and ingests it, some ground will be lost. Hopefully, though, progress will eventually be made, even if it's one step back for every two forward.
Despite all these modifications in environment and training, some dogs persist in the habit of coprophagia. For these dogs, the obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis may be worth considering. Some obstinate cases might respond to the judicious use of human anti-depressants, but this should only be done on the advice of your veterinarian.
Portions of this were adapted from PetPlace.com
Some further advice and suggestions from PetPlace.com about ways to clean up your dog's feces might be helpful for those of you that simply cannot accomplish this task on your own.
Of all the chores done by pet owners, the least enjoyable is undoubtedly cleaning up their pet's waste products. An undesirable but necessary task, it is important to dispose of waste promptly and properly. Viruses, bacteria and parasites can be spread in the yard or other areas used for eliminations. Feces attract flies and other insects, damage lawns, make walking hazardous and just plain smell bad. Many communities have laws prohibiting the disposal of animal waste in the garbage. Here are some options for keeping your home and environment clean and free of waste and complying with local ordinances.
Waste Management Companies
You may be surprised to know that there are companies who deal with animal waste removal as their sole business. These services are arranged on a contract basis and you decide how often you want them to clean the area and from there you simply pay a service fee. The fees may vary on how often they visit your home, how many pets are involved or the size of your yard. The feces are taken to locations that comply with your local waste disposal laws. If you don't want anything to do with picking up your yard, this is the best option for you.
Inground Septic Systems
Even if you have a small yard, consider installing an inground septic system. This is a plastic cylinder that is buried in the ground and functions to break down the waste by the use of enzymes and other natural processes. It requires minimal effort to install. The collected feces are deposited into the receptacle and a special packet of enzymes begins the process. Water is absorbed leaving behind odorless byproducts. You still have to clean the yard but these systems are a simple, easy and effective way of dealing with the never-ending supply of waste your pet leaves behind.
A product made of biodegradable paper is designed for use in your home plumbing. The feces are collected and deposited in the flushable bag and from there it simply goes down the toilet. The bag breaks down without causing any backups in your plumbing. These bags are a good option if you live in a home with limited or no yard space or if your pet eliminates during walks in public areas.
Don't be discouraged if clean-up chores are left up to you. Unpleasant as it may be, there is some advantage in picking up after your pet as it serves as a valuable health monitor. If your pet eliminates out of your line of sight on a regular basis, cleaning up the waste may be the only time you become aware of a health problem. Stool that is off-color, contains blood or mucus or has turned to diarrhea is a reason to contact your veterinarian. You may also see parasites or foreign material in the feces, another cause for medical attention.
Many innovative people are sympathetic to your plight and a variety of products have been developed to make the collection process easier. Specially made scoopers eliminate the need for bending and have spring loaded traps so they can be easily operated. There are specialized scoops with bag attachments so the feces fall right into a disposable bag. There are even scoop and broom combinations. A visit to your local pet supply store will surprise you with a variety of options.
As a final reminder, your local community may have restrictions regarding the disposal of animal waste. Check with your waste disposal company to see if special conditions apply.
The American Kennel Club has put together a quiz of several questions that might help you determine which type of dog is best for you. Go to: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/09/08/quiz-find-the-best-dog-breed-for-your-personality-and-lifestyle/ and click on "Launch Quiz"....
Also, the AKC is interested in helping you separate fact from fiction in certain dog breed myths: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/09/14/dog-breed-myths-can-you-separate-fact-from-fiction/
PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK
1) The FroliCat DART is an automatic rotating laser light that provides hours of fun for your feline and canine friends. Read about the DART at: http://www.frolicat.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=F&Product_Code=RT1-001
2) The Kitty Scratcher, from PulseTV.com, provides many features of interest to your feline(s). Check it out at: http://www2.pulsetv.com/prodinfo.asp?number=5321&msid=20758600
1) PawNation.com and the AKC are giving away a year's supply of Iams dog food to a lucky winner. Go to: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/10/01/countdown-to-meet-the-breeds-win-a-years-supply-of-iams-dog-f/ and go the whole way to the bottom of the page, enter a comment about your pet's routine. You will most likely have to register as a "New User" but it'a simple task. Be sure to get your comment accepted before October 15th....
2) Apparently, there is an increasing trend developing in which a family pet (usually a dog) participates in a wedding ceremony. Read about this experience: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/09/28/dogs-in-weddings-a-new-definition-family/?icid=main%7Chtmlws-main-w%7Cdl10%7Csec3_lnk2%7C173931
3) OK, this dancing poodle isn't as impressive as the meringue-performing dog from last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, but it does definitely have the one move down pat: http://www.funnieststuff.net/viewmovie.php?id=1949
The Ohio State Buckeyes got a little scare against Illinois on Saturday. Not only did Illinois keep the game close (as they have for most of the last 10 years) but the Buckeye QB (our Heisman candidate) sustained a mystery injury to his leg. Top-ranked teams invariably get a scare from one of their lesser opponents...Alabama got theirs last week against Arkansas...hopefully, this gets it out of the Buckeyes' system for the year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers played their hated rival, the Baltimore Ravens, today and weren't able to continue our unbeaten streak. It was a tough game from start to finish and the Ravens played just well enough to win by 3 points in the last minute. Our worst enemy was our kicker, who missed 2 makeable FG attempts.
Finally, the baseball regular season mercifully came to an end today, which will allow the LA Dodgers to crawl back in their collective hibernation den to await the final disposition of our owners' divorce. Then, maybe they can get back to thinking about playing baseball next year.
Helpful Buckeye successfully completed the 3rd leg of his Quadathlon of Northern Arizona this past Thursday by climbing Mt. Humphreys, the highest point in Arizona, at 12,633 ft. This was the 5th time I've made the climb and the trail was in worse condition than for any of the previous climbs...probably resulting from a combination of our large snowfall this past winter and the federal budget cut-backs. Two years ago, I had 3 friends who said they'd like to accompany me on the climb and, for various reasons, they all bailed out at the last moment. This time, I had another friend who commited to joining me and he had an attack of gout in his foot a few days before the climb...so, I did it solo...again! The last time I had the company of a friend on top of Mt. Humphreys was several years ago when my cousin, Jeff, was visiting and gladly joined me for the climb. Jeff's a true stud, in all the good ways! Anyway, Desperado was right there at the trail head, waiting for me to finish the trek. Again, she had a wonderful evening planned in celebration of my day. If she keeps this up, I'll have to schedule many more events and the downtown Flagstaff restaurateurs will be forever grateful! Only 1 more leg remains in this rendition of Helpful Buckeye's Quadathlon...and that will be accomplished the week after next. Stay tuned....
Desperado and Helpful Buckeye relaxed the day BEFORE the big climb by going to see Wall Street: The Money Never Sleeps. For those of you who saw the original 23 years ago, this will please you just as much. Michael Douglas still impresses on the screen and the message of the movie eerily reflects recent developments.
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~