One of the more unpleasant and off-putting habits of many dogs is coproghagia, or eating poo. Usually it is simply one of those disgusting, but relatively common, things that any dog (and many other species) may engage in. It's not abnormal for dogs to eat poo – whether it's another dog's poo, cat poo, or the faeces of another herbivore such as a possum – and this behaviour is very common in the wild. Eating another animal’s poo does provide some nutrition, and also loads of probiotics. Gross as it is, it is quite normal.
The only time coprophagia may indicate a medical problem is when dogs eat their own faeces. While this may just happen due to boredom, there is a medical condition called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) where dogs – most commonly German Shepherds – have an under-active pancreas, and don't produce enough enzymes to break down their food. As a result, their faeces contain a lot of undigested food particles, which are attractive as a food source.
German Sheppard - Courtesy of Pharaoh Hound - Flickr
Dogs suffering EPI are generally quite thin and hungry, and will readily eat the very large, pale-looking faeces they produce. EPI can be diagnosed by your vet and can be treated with an enzyme supplement.
If dogs eat their own faeces but do not suffer from EPI it's generally a sign of boredom and need to be given more environmental stimulation or it will become a bad habit. The first step is, as much as possible; to make sure their environment is kept clear of temptation by cleaning the yard every day to remove faeces. You can try adding fresh pineapple to the dog's diet as this can prevent the behaviour.
Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons) is a qualified veterinarian and the founder of Vets All Natural. He has developed this range of foods and supplements purely from his desire to heal more, and a wider range of animals than those seen in his clinic everyday.