Cute Puppy eating Foul Stools?

Posted by Lakshmi Gopal on Sun, Apr 10, 2011  
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Many of my acquaintances, who are animal lovers, become exasperated and disgusted with their objects of affection, once they bring them home. Life with a pet can turn nasty when an owner discovers it eats its own filth.

Animal species that we take for granted as being ‘cute’ and ‘sociable’ -- cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, and chinchillas may spring a rude surprise when they finally land on our doorsteps. They may be coprophagic, meaning, of a stool-eating nature. They may eat their own, another animal’s, or human excreta.

I’m not discussing this aspect of keeping pets to dissuade people from bringing them home. Instead, responsible pet ownership entails an understanding of the various reasons as to why this ‘obviously repulsive’ practice prevails in some species.

Scientists say that stools in some herbivore species like guinea pigs, rabbits, and hamsters are a source of vitamins B and K, produced by bacteria in the gut. These animals do not have a complex digestive system and they extract more nutrition from their food by passing it a second time through the gut. They excrete soft faecal pellets of partially digested food that they consume immediately. This is also important for adequate nutritional intake of Vitamin B12.

It has been commonly seen that cats eat their kittens’ faeces. They do this in order to eliminate the trail of scent that may help predators attack their newborns, and to keep the den clean.

Dogs are, by nature, pack animals and therefore, scavengers. Coprophagia is a part of scavenger behaviour. In a domestic situation, a pet dog may indulge in it to attract its owner’s attention. It may be subject to anxiety, stress, or may live in filthy, crowded surroundings. The instinct to clean up its pen may lead to this behaviour. A pet dog that had been punished for having defecated inside the house may attempt to hide its stools by eating them. Also, a female dog which has had pups would exhibit the same behaviour as the cat mentioned above, for the same reason -- trying to prevent the scent from attracting predators.

Coprophagia in dogs may also signify health problems like pancreatitis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, intestinal infections, or food allergies.

If your pet is eating stools, a good veterinarian would be able to provide some practical solutions to the problem. Vets usually recommend adding pineapple or vinegar to dog food, as this makes the faeces inconsumable. Many producers of dog food manufacture correctional additives containing capsicum oleoresin, which can be added to the animal's food to discourage its foul habit. This chemical lets out a repulsive odour so that the dog is completely put off faecal matter.

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