Frankie just came in from the back yard with a satisfied look on his face — and a little piece of dog poop caught in the fur around his mouth. This made me very unhappy for a variety of reasons, but not for the most obvious one: the fact that he was feasting on his own feces.
He’s done it before. And if I’m not careful he’ll surely do it again. But in the general scheme of canine health concerns, it’s no big deal.
As it happens, I discussed the topic with my vet a few days ago because we were trying to figure out what might have caused Frankie’s recent bout of intestinal distress. Frankie doesn’t graze on potentially dangerous stuff out on the trail — I would know, because I’m always with him — and the only thing he’d be likely to come across in my enclosed back yard, where he is allowed to venture unaccompanied, is his own poop. I didn’t think that was an issue; I hadn’t noticed Frankie with stink breath or with little shit snacks — yes, for a brief period he used to bring the “treats” into my living room to enjoy — in a very long time. And, anyway, my vet opined, “That wouldn’t have caused his stomach problems.” Which I knew.
It’s a fact that’s hard to accept. Many dogs — even cute little ones like Frankie — eat poop. Their own. That of other creatures. They would no doubt eat yours if they managed to get hold of it. There’s even a name for this taste for waste: coprophagia. It’s gross to us — but then again so is a dog’s habit of rolling around in dead stuff.
No one is entirely sure why some dogs do it and why some don’t. Perhaps it’s as simple as some humans having a taste for lobster, and some being disgusted by it. And it’s not always clear why some dogs like Frankie do it for a while and then lose interest. But, hey, I used to eat tuna fish sandwiches every day when I was in sixth grade. Now I can’t look at them.
What concerns most people about poop eating is how to prevent it.
I’ve heard solutions to the problem ranging from putting meat tenderizer in your dog’s food — apparently it makes the poop less yummy — or, on the same principle but post-digestion, sprinkling Bitter Apple on the turds.
This seems to ignore the obvious cure: cleaning up after your dog immediately.
I know, poop production can’t always be supervised and some dogs like to recycle their waste immediately. One friend admitted, shamefacedly, that one of her dogs used to stand with his face near her other dog’s butt, waiting for him to eliminate so as to get a steaming fresh feast. But the fact that my friend was around to observe this suggested to me that what was required was vigilance — and separate potty times for her pups.
Which brings me back to my distress over Frankie’s snack. He’s still on a semi-restricted diet, one that’s clearly not entirely satisfying. I know I’ll need to call my vet again to discuss introducing more or different food. And that in doing so I’ll have to admit to him that I haven’t been very scrupulous about keeping my back yard feces free.