Labradors are naughty and we find their behaviour funny. But not everything. I have heard many lab owners complaining about a problem which is their Labrador eating poop. Eating poop is something very disgusting to us. But this kind of behaviour cannot be considered completely awkward and is observed generally in animals like rabbits and hares and sometimes even in dogs. This behaviour of poop eating is known as Coprophagia or Coprophagy.
Do you know that a mother dog licks its new born’s anus and genitals?. The mother dog even consumes the puppy’s waste. Actually, this is not an unusual thing but the mother is trying to help the newborn puppies to defecate. The other reason is, it consumes the puppy’s waste to hide the puppy’s scent from predators in the wild. This is a natural process of survival mechanism. Hence poop eating is completely natural at that stage for a mother dog, but this behaviour is considered unwanted in an adult Labrador dog.
Labrador eating poop- But why?
Every Labrador owner thinks why is this happening to them? Why is my dog eating poop all of a sudden? But is this a sudden behaviour?. Remember this is not always a sudden behaviour and you are not alone facing this problem. The reason why your Labrador is eating faeces can either be a simple behavioural problem or a serious health issue. It is very important to check for any possible medical reasons before concluding it as a behavioural problem.
Reasons Dogs eat poop
Let us see the medical reasons first
1. Enzyme Deficiency
Canine food over years have changed completely. In the wild dogs used to eat the complete prey which includes its digestive system and the prey’s digestive system is full of digestive enzymes. Modern dog diet mostly includes packaged food and processed kibbles filled with excess fillers and carbohydrates which are not necessary for your dog. Lack of proper digestive enzymes makes it difficult for your dog to absorb the nutrients completely. Hence a nutrient-rich poop is passed out. Naturally, your dog starts cravings towards this nutrient-rich poop.
2. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
This is a medical condition in which the pancreas is unable to produce necessary digestive enzymes or produces very low digestive enzymes. Without these enzymes, your dog will not obtain the necessary nutrition and will starve due to lack of nutrition. Conditions such as poop eating known as Coprophagy can be seen in dogs with this medical condition. A dog with Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency will generally produce voluminous stools pale yellow or grey in colour. Symptoms include weight loss, frequent passing of gas and rumbling sounds from the stomach
Many parasites such as worms and protozoa can create their home in your dog’s digestive system. These parasites interfere with the natural perfect digestive process making it imperfect and create issues such as Coprophagia. Giving your dog a natural dewormer can help your dog to get rid of these parasites.
A simple nutritional deficiency in your dog’s food can be a reason for your dog to eat poop. Lack of necessary vitamins such as B12 and other trace minerals can cause your dog to eat the faeces. Poop contains vitamins and minerals and your dog wants to have them. According to Roger DeHaan, DVM hydrochloric acid deficiency can also cause poor digestion and your dog searches for nutrients in poop.
And there can be other reasons for Coprophagia in your Labrador.
5. Because your Dog is hungry
Your dog might feed on poop just because he’s hungry. If your dog is not fed well and if it finds any poop in the garden, it might eat it like a snack. Hunger simply sometimes promote Coprophagia.
6. Natural instinct
Dogs had been fed on trash and garbage for years. They are natural scavengers and are tempted to taste the poop if available. I already told you about the mother dog which cleans away the faeces of their puppies. Some puppies which stayed a longer duration with their mother might adopt this kind of behaviour impulsively.
7. Fear of punishment and stress
A dog which had been punished for pooping indoors might try to hide the evidence by eating the poop in order to avoid the punishment. Punishments such as forcing your dog’s mouth near the poop, beating your dog for pooping indoors often don’t work. Hence some dogs out of fear and stress eat the poop.
8. Boredom and attention seeking
Some dogs often get bored and want their master’s attention always. Some dogs to get their attention from their masters simply adopt this kind of poop eating behaviour. Even though the master reprimands them, they get the attention they need by poop eating.
9. Puppy exploration
Puppies explore the world with their mouth and exploring the poop is a part of this process. If your Labrador is a puppy, there is nothing to worry and behaviour gets reduced as your puppy grows.
10. Finally, it is Cleanliness
This happens if your dog’s place is not properly cleaned or if your dog’s crate is not maintained cleanly. Your dog’s natural desire to keep its place clean stimulates your dog to clean its place by itself. Hence poop eating behaviour is also caused by simple reason such as an unclean dog area.
Is your Labrador eating poop- 2 ways to stop this
Firstly it is important to rule out all the medical reasons by contacting your vet before initiating methods to stop your labrador eating poop. Many people suggest remedies such as adding pineapple to diet, adding Zucchini (Courgette) to your dog’s food. Some remedies include adding poo eating deterrents such as forbid, potty mouth.
Other methods include spraying chilli powder, hot sauce and lemon juice on the poop and making the poop unappealing to eat.
The success rate of these methods is individual to every dog. I have seen some dogs eating poop even after adding pineapple to its diet, but some hate eating it. Hence the success of these methods depends upon the particular dog.
I always advice 2 successful and proven methods which stop your Labrador from eating poop. They are
1. The perfect form of Diet
2. Effective training
1. The Perfect form of diet
What is this perfect form of diet? The perfect diet includes food which contains all the necessary nutrients in the right quality and right quantity.
Many dog owners feed their dogs kibble based foods which contain heavy amounts of carbohydrates which are actually unnecessary for your dog. Carbohydrates are more difficult for your dog to digest and may pass through the stools in partially digested form. Hence this partially digested food may smell like their food and the dog gets tempted to eat it. Hence shifting towards a kibble with high protein content can help your dog to get rid of poop eating behaviour.
If you can spend enough time for your dog’s food preparation, it is always advisable to feed homemade cooked food for your dog. This food should be high in protein, moderate in fats and low in carbohydrates. Always follow this diet thumb rule while preparing homemade food for your dog
70% Protein+20% Complex Carbohydrates+10% Fruits and Vegetables. See my article on how to feed your Labrador.
2. Effective Training
This is one of the best and most successful ways to stop your Labrador from eating faeces. By using reward based training train your dog a “command word” in order to leave anything from its mouth. I have trained the word “NO” for my dog. Whenever my dog holds any unwanted thing in its mouth i say the command “NO” and my dog leaves it immediately. Trust me this is one of the best ways that will work.
Whenever your dog goes toward a poop call him with a “command word” and lure him with a treat. Give him a special treat which he likes. It might be difficult in the beginning, but trust me with patience your dogs get habituated and stops going towards the poop.
3. Other practical solutions that help
– Adding probiotics to improve your dog’s gut health. Because sometimes gut health is the culprit.
– Lack of necessary digestive enzymes can cause this poop eating behaviour. Hence adding digestive enzymes to improve nutrient absorption will help.
– Adding vitamin B and necessary minerals to your dog’s diet
– Deficiency in hydrochloric acid can sometimes cause coprophagia. Add unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar to your dog’s diet. I use the same for my dog for its gut health.
– Keep the yard clean and remove the poop as soon as your dog eliminates. Remember always to keep the cat litter box away from your dog.
With little patience, proper training, healthy balanced diet your dog can get rid of this behavioural problem. Always remember punishments do not work and also increases the fear of punishment in your dog. Hence this fear further increases the problem of poop eating as your dog tries to eliminate the evidence.
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