Expert advice from Baileys’ nutritionist on discouraging an elderly dog from eating faeces
Q: I have a 13 year old Labrador/German Shepherd cross dog. He is very fit, healthy and fullof life, with no signs of arthritis or other age related problems.
During the last twelve months he has started to eat other dogs faeces and, at times, his own. The vet says that there is nothing he can suggest apart from keeping him on a lead, but this seems unfair, as I like to keep him fit and active.
Is there anything you can suggest to get him out of this very unpleasant habit? He is fed James Wellbeloved Complete diet.
Liz Bulbrook replies: Occasionally dogs start eating faeces (known as coprophagia) as a means of supplementing their energy intake by “recycling” their own faeces or those of other dogs. It can then become a distasteful habit.
As animals get older the digestive system sometimes becomes less efficient in absorbing and utilising the diet, so although your dog may still be active and generally well, he may need a slight increase in feed per day to meet his energy requirements.
Apart from offering more food, check that the food youare giving him has a good level of fibre in it. Although dogs’ don’t obtain significant levels of nutrients from fibre, a contribution is required for efficient gut function. Generally diets containing 3-4% fibre should be sufficient.
Products containing meat-based nuggets combined with crunchy cereal biscuits, such as Baileys Working Dog Mix, will provide both fibre and interest to the diet. Avoid putting gravy or water on the food as this can break it down and increase the rate of passage though the gut.
Give your dog several meals each day to reduce the sensation of hunger, which can initiate coprophagia. Avoiding highly concentrated high protein, low fibre diets can also help in some cases.
I suggest you increase your dog’s energy intake and frequency of feeding and take him out on a lead initially. Then reintroducing active walks as before to see if that has helped the problem. The more exciting and interesting you can make your dog’s walk the less interested he should be in searching out other dogs faeces.
Coprophagia is unlikely to be a major health hazard to the dog despite it not being very pleasant for you.