Coprophagia and Pica

Coprophagia and Pica

“Stop chewing on that. Okay, now you’re taking my slippers away!”

Have you ever found yourself belly aching due to your pets taking and eating everything possible that is not supposed to be eaten? This is what we call Pica.

Pica is a medical condition referring to the craving to the dogs for non-food items and subsequent eating of it. Coprophagia, on the other hand is the eating and ingesting of feces.

Commonly, these are not because of any underlying disease but in some cases it might. The good news is that both conditions have treatment options and behavior modification practices that can be implemented if it is a non-medical issue. The disease can not only affect dogs but also cats.

Symptoms and Types

With our previous articles, you are sure to know the list of products that are very harmful to the health of the dogs. The largest organ system which is the gastrointestinal tract is affected by the behavior of the dog that happens to ingest items like dirt, soap, clay and many such things. Vomiting, loose stools and diarrhea can be caused due to the same and the dog may feel weak and lethargic.

Causes

The development of the behavior of eating non-food items and feces can be caused due to several reasons. It may be due to malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, increased appetite or conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disease.

There may be the involvement of parasites for the enhancement of such kind of a behavior.

Sometimes dogs may eat their feces if there are undigested articles of food in their stool. Mothers with newborns also commonly eat the feces of their newborns. As such, puppies may eat feces as an observation of the mother’s behavior or as part of exploration. It has been duly noticed that dogs may happen to behave that way as a response to a recent punishment, to get attention or as a demand for a cleaner environment.

Medical Causes:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Anemia
  • Increased hunger
  • Neurological disease
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Malnutrition
  • Thyroid disease

Diagnosis

The diagnosis involves a full physical examination for underlying medical causes. The vet, through this examination would try to distinguish between the medical and behavioral causes. If it is not due to the medical condition, the next step of the vet would be to conduct a full history test of the dog including its diet, appetite, handling practices and the environment in which it lives. This in turn assists the veterinarian in developing a proper treatment plan.

Treatment

The treatment will also depend on whether the underlying cause is medical or behavioral in nature. For instance, if it is behavioral in nature, the veterinarian may recommend changing the dog’s environment or using forms of behavior modification, such as a muzzle. This will also include the limiting of the dog’s access to any non-food items at home.

Living and Management

Follow up is recommended during the first few months following the initial treatment of the dog.

Prevention

Prevention of this type of behavior usually requires the limiting of the dog’s access to non-food items, or applying a bitter or pungent taste to such items to discourage regular consumption or chewing. Keeping the dog’s area clean and disposing of waste promptly will also bar the dog’s access to feces.

In addition, dietary needs must be met to be sure that the dog is being supplied vitamins and nutrition that it needs, and to be sure that the dog is being fed the required amount of food.

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