Dear Dr. Fox: We recently adopted a shelter dog, a few months after losing our loving Maltese. We looked at several places online, telling them we were looking for another Maltese, and one of the shelters sent an email saying they had one. We drove over 100 miles to find out there was not a Maltese in the place.
A young girl started bringing out dogs on leashes, and the first was a beige terrier female. I picked her up and she kissed every inch of my face. We ended up buying her for a lot of money. Our vet says she is about 3 or 4 years old; the shelter said she was 2 years old. She will not go outside to pee or poop, so she is still paper-trained.
The problem I’m writing about is that ever since we got her, she eats her poop when I am not looking. I have her on Natural Balance dry and canned foods. I bought pills at a pet store that were supposed to make her stop eating poop, but they did nothing. I recently gave her a little treat of a small piece of chicken and some fresh-cooked carrots. She went into the bathroom and brought me back a piece of her poop.
Do you have any ideas how I can stop this awful habit? E.H., Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Dear E.H.: You’ve certainly had a run-around adopting this poor little dog.
My guess is that she was confined in a cage or crate for some time, which can lead dogs to eat their own feces. Another of several reasons why dogs engage in this behavior (called coprophagia) is related to chronic deficiencies in nutrition and/or gut bacteria (the microbiome). If this indeed is the root of the problem, transitioning your dog to a raw (or partially raw) diet, along with my home-prepared dog food recipe, may help. Also try digestive enzymes, found in a teaspoon of fresh papaya or pineapple, and daily probiotics.
Above all, get your dog trained to evacuate outdoors. Take any soiled newspaper outside, and encourage her before and after meals to go to the newspapers and evacuate — after running around and sniffing, since activity does get the bowels working and improves digestion.