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Eating Bowel Movements (Coprophagia) in Dogs

Coprophagia is defined as eating any type of bowel movement (feces). Coprophagia is considered a natural evolutionary behavior used by wild dogs to sustain themselves during times when food was unavailable. Mother dogs (breeding bitches) commonly eat the feces of their puppies in order to keep the nesting area clean. This usually occurs until the puppies have reached 3 weeks of age and physically are able to pass their stool away from the nest. Dogs also may eat bowel movements from cats living in their household or from farm animals.

Additional information

Ingestion of feces, the animal's own feces or those of another animal including those of another species

Coprophagia is common in dogs but rare in cats. The remainder of this section deals with the behavior in dogs . The only circumstance in which coprophagia is considered a normal behavior is when a bitch eats the feces of her pups from the time of their birth until about 3 weeks of age. It is thought that the bitch does this to keep the nest area clean until the pups are able to move away from it to defecate. A clean nest area may be less likely to attract predators in the wild. It may also be considered a natural, although not normal, behavior for dogs to consume the feces of ungulates containing large amounts of nutrients remaining after large intestinal fermentation, which may have helped to sustain dogs in the wild when no other food source was available. Dogs also commonly eat the feces of cats with whom they share a household.

Systems Affected
Gastrointestinal--recurrent infection with intestinal parasites. Gastroenteritis commonly results from consumption of large amounts of ungulate feces.
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