Fine Young Animals

Dr. Wim Van Kerkhoven, DVM


Technical Director &
Managing Partner at Viyo Int. nv



(+34) 601 26 53 65


Causes & treatment of coprophagy


Coprophagy may indicate any disorder leading to polyphagy, such as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), or a high-dose corticosteroid treatment. Coprophagy and Pica can be found in animals with a certain nutritional deficiency, or with a behavioural disturbance. If a feed is high in carbohydrates (a surplus in grains and vegetable fibres), lacks flavour, or is relatively low in vitamin B1, there is a chance of the dog developing coprophagy. Coprophagy exists in many animal species and is common behaviour in some cases, such as  bitches eating their litter’s excrement. Although there are many other causes for adult coprophagy, all of the following should in fact be considered hypothetical. 

There are indications that undernourished dogs and those on a low-calorie diet may develop coprophagy. Faeces of dogs with digestive disorders that lead to non- or different digestion of certain components in it, are seemingly attractive to other dogs, and eating them is therefore rewarding to the dog. 

Boredom in certain kennel situations is another hypothetical cause. Landberg et al (2003) give the following possible medical causes: gastrointestinal disturbances, kidney failure and endocrine abnormalities. A behavioural problem may be expected when a dog that is lacking attention, finds out that coprophagy leads to a desired reaction from his owner. Other possible causes are boredom or stress from an unvaried living environment. Yet another possibility is that Coprophagy is part of a more general pica. Very often, however, an obvious cause for the problem will be hard to find. 

In terms of treatment the following can be recommended. From the underlying idea that an unidentified deficiency might be the cause, a diet change (other commercial pet foods) may be a first attempt to attack the problem. Some say that feeding sponge cakes to the dog solves the problem in a number of cases, but there’s no hard evidence to support this assumption. The same applies for adding vegetable enzymes and Viyo Elite to the diets of dogs that consume their own faeces. It is recommended to strictly train dogs that eat excrement outside (especially to come when called). If the dog does not (yet) comply with the recall command, walking him on a long lead or a flexi-lead can provide control. The idea behind it is to deny the dog access to the faeces and thus prevent the positive effects (in the dog’s mind) of eating it. Training the dog by use of the Master Plus, whereby a spray can be activated from a distance the moment the dog demonstrates coprophagy by sniffing or eating dung, proves to be effective. Attempts have been made to render the excrement unattractive by adding salt, for example, or a substance causing nausea (LiCi), in order to invoke feed avoidance learning. However, solving the problem remains easier said than done.

(Doctor in Veterinary Medicine Wim Van Kerkhoven – Viyo International)