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Date:   15 September, 2008
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Toa Payoh Vets - Behaviour
Coprophagia --- How to stop your puppy eating his own stools?
Anal sacculitis --- Offence is the best form of defence
Sep 15, 2008. Coprophagia or stool eating is a concern amongst puppy owners all over the world. How to stop this behaviour? Plenty of ideas from puppy books and articles. But it is not easy in practice as most Singapore puppy owners are too busy. Or the puppy is too smart as in this case.

I recommended that the owner of this 6-month-old Shih Tzu buy a cloth muzzle. It is a loose cloth muzzle and the puppy will not die as it can breathe and is kept indoors. (See story about a muzzled German Shepherd).

"Put the muzzle on after feeding the puppy," I advised. "As the puppy poops twice a day and after eating, the muzzled puppy will not be able to eat the stools and therefore you can stop his bad habit. After he has pooped, take away the muzzle. Put the muzzle on for around one hour."

The puppy is smarter than the veterinarian who has to study 5 to 6 years in the university. 

"My puppy will just poop a bit and wait till I take off the muzzle," the owner told me some 2 weeks later when she sent him for neutering. "So I muzzle him 24 hours as he enjoys eating his stools after the muzzle is off!"

In this case, the puppy is no more a puppy really. He is 6 months old and is "rebellious" like an adolescent. Neutering is an attempt to change his behaviour. Will it work?

I put the puppy on the examination table when the owner brought him in for neutering to check him. Immediately, a foul stench vaporises into the consultation room.

"Your puppy has squirted anal sac fluid," I said to the owner. "Did you express his anal sacs regularly?"

"What are anal sacs?" the lady in her 40s asked me. "From my reading of the dog encyclopedia, the dog passed out a strong smell because he is aggressive. One day he did it to my friend who came to visit me."

"How many times he has done it?" I asked. Offence is the best form of defence for this puppy.

"Only once," the lady laughed. "I don't have other friends visiting yet."

This dog behaved like a skunk and really stank the small consultation room.  When the skunk encounters danger, he squirts out a foul-smelling fluid onto the other party. In over nearly 4 decades of practice, this is the first time I encounter a "canine skunk."  Not only is he outwitting the veterinarian who advised the muzzle, he is also attacking him with anal sac oil. In real life, this Shih Tzu is a gentle dog.

I taught the owner how to express the oil from his anal sac. The oil was around 5 ml - dark yellow liquid and foul. Muzzling him for the next few weeks may stop him from eating his stools. There seems to be no other simpler methods as the owner had tried the ineffective anti-poop eating commercial powders.  

The dog was neutered. Neuter may or may not help stop his coprophagia. Only time will tell. But it will likely stop him squirting anal fluid at visitors in an attempt to mark his territory or defend himself.


Story about a muzzled German Shepherd
"Mr Tan does not want to talk to me anymore," the Vet Technician from Myanmar laughed when we went to Mr Tan's house to see him about house rentals. Tien Tien had decided that house-rentals are her cup of tea and working for a Singapore veterinarian was not challenging enough or bringing in the money as an employee.  

Tien Tien said, "I was the substitute groomer. His dog died after grooming. So he did not want to see me any more"

"Tien Tien, some dogs do die after grooming. What happened?" I was surprised that a 7-year-old German Shepherd could die after grooming. Few old dogs do die after grooming but this German Shepherd was in middle age.

"Well," Tien Tien shook her head recalling the event. "Mr Tan insisted that the muzzle be kept on. I asked him to remove the muzzle after my grooming. But he said to leave it on."

"The dog probably from heat stress as he was outdoors," I speculated. "Why didn't you insist that the muzzle removed after grooming?" Nobody knows the cause of death as there was no autopsy.

But Mr Tan never wanted to talk to Tien Tien again. Till after some time had passed and he needed Tien Tien's services to do house rentals to the Myanmarese.    
 

Below is a draft report of other puppies eating their stools
 

Friday, June 29, 2007

Coprophagia. -- Eating poop and pooping frequently --- 5-month-old female Miniature Schnauzer

Draft copy Jun 30, 2007 7 a.m

Toilet Training Your First Puppy in Singapore

Coprophagia
. The puppy or dog eats poop (faeces).
Causes: In 500 puppy owners interviewed for the Puppy Toilet Training Project, coprophagia affects around 5% of the cases. Usually the healthy puppy eats its own poop till adulthood. In Singapore, puppies seldom have chance to eat the cat's poop as most owners have only one species.


Causes

1. In most cases and my review of the literature, the causes are not known.

2. Attention-seeking. Puppy eats poop, gets attention by scolding by the owner. The owner is busy working and when he goes home, the puppy has had eaten his poop. Or his overnight poop has been eaten. He still gets attention. Puppy eats poop when sick or bored, gets scolding. So he eats poop.

Don't scold the puppy. Just pick up the poop regularly after the puppy has eaten. Will this work? I don't know as I don't think owners will not scold the puppy for eating poop.

3. Puppy is sick. Examples of medical conditions include exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, pancreatitis, intestinal infections, malabsorptive syndromes and over-feeding (especially high fat content diets. Other medical signs will be present if the puppy is sick.

4. Faeces taste good. So eat more. Puppies in Singapore are fed twice a day. Majority of them thrive. But some puppies may want to eat more --- so eat their stools as 3rd time.

Treatment

1. Meat tenderizer: Add the enzymes to tenderise the meat. Success not guaranteed.

2. A powder supplement added to a dog's food. Dog faeces passed out will taste bad. E.O.P (Eat Own Poop) powder is available at some Singapore pet shops. Success not guaranteed.

3. An anti-eating-poop pill is given to a dog with its food to make the feces distasteful. Not available at pet shops or vet clinics.

4. Bad taste on feces:
Yesterday evening, I attended the opening of the beautiful vet clinic at Vivo City. A cool evening with lion dances and time to catch up with old friends. I visited the beautiful pet shop looking at the crates at 9 p.m. A pet shop salesman came to see me.

He told me about how his groomer friend found the use of chilli padi sometimes successful. Wasabi, chilli sauce, tobasco sauce, pepper sprinkled on stools are also sometimes successful. So is eating the E.O.P powder.

"Will the puppy get diarrhoea if he eats chilli padi?" I asked him. Chilli powder is inserted in the centre of the stools and left for the puppy to eat.
"You need to take the risk," he said.

Is this method effective? I think most owners do NOT execute the procedure of adding something distasteful to the faeces every time. So, most owners find the method not effective.

5. Pick up the stools. This is the most effective method of control but not practical for time-pressed owners who work. Use the gastro-colic effect --- the puppy poops within 10 minutes of eating.

Now, not all puppies do that as many have had been distracted by the owner during feeding time to play. Some are given free feeding for the whole day.

6. Scolding/Punishment: Many owners think scolding or spanking will work. In some cases, it does but the puppy enjoy the attention, rather than no attention.

7. Ignoring the stool eating. No scolding. May work.

8. Positive reinforcement. Call the puppy to come for a food treat or play when he starts eating poop. Unfortunately, the owner may be too busy doing other housework. But this method may be better than scolding/punishment or ignoring the bad behaviour.

9. Pick up the stools during exercise or walks may be the solution to break the cycle rather than scolding/punishment.

10. A dog muzzle used whenever the owner is not free to pick up the stools. May be effective but the owner may feel that it is cruel to muzzle the puppy. If the puppy can take it, this may be the best method.

11. Chemicals: Pineapple is commonly recommended. Other chemicals. Success not guaranteed. Owners seldom persist in giving for over 2 weeks.

12. Puppy will stop eating poop when he is an adult. Not always true. .

13. Positive Reinforcement: This is the process of reinforcing another behavior making the puppy feel good instead of the coprophagia. Commands such as "Leave it", "come", "sit", can all be used. The puppy is distracted while the owner picks up the feces. A food treat is recommended.

14. Negative Reinforcement: Sudden noises when the puppy eats poop. A can with pebbles or coins suddenly thrown onto the floor or dropped from the top of the door. A water pistol to shoot at the puppy when he opens his mouth to eat the poop. These have been suggested at various dog magazine/book writers.

15. Combination of above treatments. Modify eating poop behaviour and other treatments may be needed.

Health Implications
1. Worms.
Puppy do have roundworms seen being passed out. Give the puppy deworming tablets every 2 weeks to get rid of worms, esp. for puppies eating poop. If the puppy eats cat poop, you need to deworm too. During exercise, leash the puppy. Make sure he does not eat poop of other animals.

2. Viruses from stools of other dogs. Hepatitis and canine parvovirus are two important diseases. Vaccinated puppies for 3 vaccinations are usually protected. Singapore vets may advise no contact with other dogs till 2 weeks after the 3rd vaccination. The vet regulators permit sale of puppies by pet shops only 2 weeks after their 2nd vaccination. If not, a fine is imposed.

Conclusion
In my opinion, owners seldom have time to stop the owner eating poop for practical or lack of time reasons.


1. No time to give positive reinforcement training to stop poop eating.
2. Not leaving the puppy alone during feeding time and let him poop first before releasing him out to play.
3. Not giving faeces covered with chemicals like chilli sauce 100% of the time.
So, the success rate is said to be poor when the procedure is not properly executed.


CASE STUDY
On Jun 29, 2007, the lady owner of the 5-month-old female miniature schnauzer said that the puppy eats stools for the past 2 months and poops 5-6 times per day when released from the playpen to the living room. "Sesame seed like worms had been passed out after deworming." She works from home. How to solve her problem?

Routine:
1. 9.30 am. Eat inside the playpen. At the lower right corner of the playpen there is a grate with pee pan.
2. 10 am. Puppy poops on the grate.
3. 10.30 am. Puppy taken out of the playpen and put in the living area.
4. Puppy goes to balcony to poop on the floor. Seldom goes back to the grate.
5. Puppy may poop 3 times in the morning. Afternoon, no poop. Sleeps.
6. 6 pm. Go out for walk.
7. 7 pm. Feed at garden. Usually poop during walk.
8. 9 pm. Back to playpen.

Poops from 3 - 5 X per day.

1. Now given a fish-based dry food at 30% to old puppy food. Diarrhoea. Saw vet today.

2. What to do with poop eating? E.O.P powder ( a pinch) given daily for the past 2 weeks. Supposed to make the puppy stop eating poop. But unsuccessful. However, the puppy does not poop as many times as before.

3. What are my advices?

1. Continue with E.O.P powder instead of other chemicals. Putting chilli padi powder definitely is not recommended for this puppy.

2. Back to old formula till puppy has no diarrhoea. Then add 10% of new feed to 90% of old feed for a week and increase gradually to new feed.

3. Do not scold the puppy for poop eating at the balcony.

4. Distraction method. When see poop eating, call the puppy "Come" and give food treat and praises. But the owner has to do this every time and be available. She has her work to do.

5. Distraction method. Squirt water at the puppy in the balcony before she eats poop? I had ever suggested such a method to a father with a 10-year-old boy. The boy was very interested but not the father!

6. Distraction method. Throw a can of coins just as the puppy eats the poop? You are supposed to do it without the puppy knowing you are doing it. Some puppy books even suggest that you pull a string attached to the can which is put on top of the shelf. Very impractical suggestions?

Feedback from various owners will be useful. E-mail to judy@toapayohvets.com your success stories.

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All rights reserved. Revised: September 15, 2008
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