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Eating Poop

When a Pug Eats Poop


I'm so upset, my Pug is eating poop. I caught my dog Sophie eating another dog's feces in the back yard. She ate the whole thing! Why would she do this? How unhealthy/unsafe is this? 

How can I prevent her from doing this again besides watching her all the time?

(She loves to walk around in the fenced in yard off the leash and I let her do this in the mornings and evenings when it is dark and I cannot see what she is sniffing/eating).

Owner Arlette , Pug Sophie
Answer Overview
Hi Arlette. You are certainly not alone with this issue of a Pug eating poop. There is a medical term for this: Coprophagia, which refers to the ingestion of a dog's own feces or that of another animal.

It can be quite horrifying to see this happen and there are reasons to be concerned. There are some things you should know about this and some steps you can take to stop your Pug from eating poop in the future. 
Health Issues Related to a Pug Eating Poop

Aside from just being a disgusting habit that will cause a dog's breath to smell like feces, there are 2 medical issues to be concerned with:

1) Ingesting the stool of other animals can cause a dog to pick up internal parasites; most typically is roundworms, heart worms, coccidia and giardia. The latter two cause diarrhea as the most common symptom. All internal parasitic infections need to be professionally treated.

2) If the dog that left the feces behind was recently de-wormed, a Pug that then eats that poop may develop a toxicity from the medication that is expelled along with the bowel movement. 
Reasons why a Pug Eats Poop

This is such a common problem that some sources list completely wild theories that have nothing to prove them to be true.

Myths about eating poop:

1) Scavenging instinct that has remained from when dogs were wild. Yes, tens of thousands of years ago before dogs were domesticated it is thought that if food were scarce they may have ate anything that was available including the feces of other wild animals. 

It is highly doubtful this instinct still remains since dogs are fed on a regular basis and have been so for 15,000 to 125,000 years - depending on which theory you subscribe to. 

While food does play a factor in cases of Coprophagia, it is not due to hunting and foraging for meals.

2) Submissive behavior; While there may be a problem of one Pug eating another Pug's feces in a multiple dog household, it is not true that eating poop done as a signal of bowing to the Alpha.

3) Hiding guilt - Despite some that guess this is the reason, a Pug does not ingest his own feces to hide a bathroom accident. 
Real reasons a Pug eats poop:

1) Lacking a particular vitamin or mineral - The #1 reason a Pug eats his own feces or ingests hat of another dog is that the body is craving certain nutrients. A Pug may be feed plenty of food and seem full; yet the body will be lacking something. Canine instinct causes him to search for it.

When a low or moderate quality food is fed, it is comprised of a certain amount of fillers. Fillers are non-food ingredients that are not digestible. They have no nutritional value and are not absorbed by the body. They pass right through and end up in a dog's stools.

There are also veterinarians that surmise that a dog's digestive system cannot properly handle today's lower protein manufactured foods, are in need for more vitamin B or are overfed, leading to stools that are still packed with protein as the matter has not been fully digested.

The bottom line is that for many Pugs that continually attempt to ingest feces, owners will want to reexamine what is being fed as both main meals and as snacks. Choosing a high quality food as the the main diet along with healthy snacks can go a long way in keeping a Pug satisfied enough that he will stop looking to feces as a food and nutrient source. Owners may also wish to speak with the vet regarding a daily vitamin and mineral supplement. 
2) There is an accepted theory that this is a learned  behavior. Some animal specialists believe that if a puppy has access to feces and out of curiosity eats it...and is not stopped from doing so, that as the dog matures he will continue to regularly ingest poop for no other reason that habitual patterns.

3) Stress - Another accepted possible cause is that puppies or dogs under stress may eat their own poop as a sort of coping mechanism for extreme cases of boredom and/or isolation.

4) Symptom of Medical Disorder - Eating feces has been documented to be a clinical sign of several health conditions including Cushing’s disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and intestinal parasites. The latter is ironic since eating feces can cause parasites and having parasites can cause a dog to eat feces.  
How to Stop a Pug from Eating Poop

There are a few ways to discourage a Pug from eating feces. Since it can cause parasites and other health problems, it is always recommended to have the puppy or dog brought in for a full physical to catch any possible effects. Once he is cleared of possible concerns, you can direct your attention to preventing it from happening again.

1) Reevaluate what you feed your Pug - This applies not only for meals but for snacks and treats as well. Be sure that all household members are on the same page in regard to what is given to the Pug and the feeding schedule.

2) Look over the bathroom schedule - It may be that a Pug has a bowel movement within 20 minutes of an owner leaving for the day. Stress from being alone coupled with boredom may cause a Pug to feces while isolated. When owners will be gone for the day, it can help to devote more time in the morning to bathroom needs. 

The biggest mistake is not giving a dog enough time. Some Pugs need up to 15 minutes for bowel muscles to relax enough to release what they have been holding in all night. Those 900 seconds can seem like forever and owners may rush back in right before a Pug has a chance to do the deed.

It will not help to tell a dog to 'Go'. Rather, owners can stand (or sit in an outdoor chair) in the middle of the designated area with the Pug on a 6 foot leash. Read, email, tweet or surf while your Pug has time to find the right spot and eliminate.
3) Leave plenty of chew toys, toys with treats inside and other items of distraction if the Pug will be by himself. Read over the guidelines  of how to help a Pug with separation anxiety to make sure your Pug is properly set up to be on his own.

4) Don't let your Pug outside alone. Even if you have what appears to be a secure fenced in area, too many things can go wrong if your leave your Pug dog outside alone. This is not a breed that is meant to fend on his own.

There are many dangers including but not limited to: The Pug is able to find a weak spot in the fencing and escapes, a hawk or other large bird of prey tries to scoop him up (applicable to puppies), he ingests poisonous plants, weeds, mushrooms and/or grass that is sprayed with chemicals, rocks or other non-food items are ingested, he swallows a poisonous toad or lizard, and of course, he has access to feces and may eat them. 
5) Deny access - Quite possibly the simplest and easily method of stopping a Pug from eating poop (when an owner is with him) is to keep him on a short leash - and a harness for good control - and simply not allow him close enough to any feces to actually ingest them. It's amazing how many owners ask about how to react if their Pug sniffs poop while out on walks. 

Owners should be in control, with a Pug walking to the human's left side - not ahead of him/her - and with the tug of the leash (this will not cause any discomfort as long as a proper harness is used) a Pug will not be able to sniff and then eat the poop.
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