Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

Today I’m going to discuss a totally disgusting topic, coprophagia.

Coprophagia is a pleasant term for stool eating.

Although the idea of this activity is totally gross, there is actually one stage in a pet’s life when coprophagia is expected.

When mother dogs and cats have litters, they deliberately consume the feces of their puppies or kittens to hide their scent while the litter is vulnerable and sheltered in the den.

Wendt Worth Corgis Jr Low Riders

Wendt Worth Corgis Jr Low Riders

Beyond that, stool eating — although a very common complaint among pet and especially dog owners – is just plain gross.

Reasons Behind Coprophagic Behavior

Pets eat poop for a variety of reasons. Medical problems are a common cause, including pancreatic insufficiency or enzyme deficiency. Intestinal malabsorption and GI parasites are also common medical reasons that can prompt a dog to eat his own poop.

This is why I recommend dogs have their stools checked by the vet’s office every six months to make sure they’re parasite-free. Healthy dogs can acquire intestinal parasites from eating feces, so twice-yearly stool analysis is a great idea for all dogs.

The pancreas of dogs does secrete some digestive enzymes to aid in the processing of food, but many dogs don’t secrete enough of these enzymes and wind up enzyme deficient. Since the feces of other animals are a source of digestive enzymes, dogs with a deficiency will ‘recycle’ by eating the enzyme rich poop. Gross, I know, but true.

Rabbit poop is one of the richest sources not only of digestive enzymes, but also B vitamins. Many dogs, if they stumble upon rabbit droppings, will scarf them right up to take advantage of those nutrients.

And dogs on entirely processed, dry food diets, who eat no living foods at all, will intentionally seek out other sources of digestive enzymes to make up for their own lifelong enzyme deficiency.

Cats with enzyme deficiencies, malabsorption, or who are fed poor-quality diets can provide litter box temptations for dogs in the family. Many cheap dry foods contain ingredients that are not bioavailable, so ingredients are passed out in the stool undigested, providing scavenging dogs with the opportunity to “recycle.”

Feeding your pet a diet containing human-grade protein, probiotics and supplemental digestive enzymes can sometimes curb the urge to find gross sources of free enzymes around the yard or in the litter box.

Coprophagia Can Also Be a Behavioral Problem

Another cause for coprophagia in dogs is behavioral.

Some dogs, especially those in kennel situations, may eat feces because they are anxious and stressed.

Research also suggests dogs who are punished by their owners for inappropriate elimination develop the idea that pooping itself is bad. So they try to eliminate the evidence by consuming their feces.

Another theory that seems to hold some weight is that coprophagia is a trait noted in all canines – wolves, coyotes and domesticated dogs – and arises when food is in short supply.

Sadly, I see this most often in puppy mill dogs. Puppies who go hungry, are weaned too young, have to fight for a place at a communal food dish, or are forced to sit for weeks in a tiny crate with nothing to do, are at high risk of developing habitual stool-eating behavior that becomes impossible to extinguish.

Coprophagic behavior can also be a learned behavior. Older dogs with the repulsive habit can teach it to younger dogs in the household.

Like a dysfunctional game of ‘monkey see, monkey do,’ one dog can teach the rest of the pack that this is what you do while wandering around the backyard.

Wendt Worth Corgis Low Rider

Wendt Worth Corgis Low Rider

When Poop Eating is Compulsive

Some scientists believe dogs eat poop simply because it tastes good to them.

I disagree with this.

Some dogs have weirdly strange ‘standards’ about the poop they eat. It’s strange to think any standard is applied to poop as a food group, but for example, some dogs eat only frozen poop (we affectionately refer to these as poopsicles at my practice).

Others consume only the poop of a specific animal. Still others only eat poop at certain times of the year.

So some dogs who stumble upon feces occasionally decide to sample it, while others become completely obsessed with eating certain specific poop.

Tips for Curbing Your Dog’s Revolting Habit

What we do know for sure is dogs don’t eat poop because they have a poop deficiency!

Fortunately, there are some common sense ways to reduce your dog’s coprophagia habit.

  • First on the agenda is to pick up your dog’s poop immediately, as soon after he eliminates as possible. Don’t give him the opportunity to stumble across old feces in his potty spot.
  • Next, if you have cats, get a self-cleaning litter box or place the box in a location in your home where you dog can’t get to it.
  • I also recommend you improve your pet’s diet as much as possible, and add digestive enzymes and probiotics at meal time.
  • Offer toys to your dog that challenge his brain and ease boredom.
  • Sufficient exercise is also crucial in keeping your dog’s body and mind stimulated. Bored dogs tend to develop far stranger, disturbing habits and behaviors than dogs that get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Lastly, consider trying one (or more than one) of the many over-the-counter coprophagia deterrent products. These are powders you either sprinkle on the stool itself or feed with meals to create an unpalatable stool. But keep in mind these powders contain MSG, including most of the remedies you can buy online.

    Also, you may have heard you can add a meat tenderizer to your dog’s food or stool to discourage poop eating, but most meat tenderizing products also contain MSG.

    I recommend you look for a non-toxic deterrent than doesn’t contain MSG.

If your pet’s coprophagic behavior seems to be going from bad to worse, make sure to talk to your vet about your concerns. You definitely want to rule out any underlying medical reason for this very gross, yet very common behavior problem.

 

Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of HealthyPets.Mercola.com. You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to MercolaHealthyPets.com, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

By Dr. Becker

Here’s more proof puppies need to stay with their families of origin (their litters and the mother dog) for at least the first two months of life …

A study done in Italy and just reported in Veterinary Record, the official journal of the British Veterinary Association provides yet more evidence puppies should not be separated from their mother and littermates too early.

The study, titled Prevalence of owner-reported behaviours in dogs separated from the litter at two different ages, involved 140 adult dogs. Half were taken from their litters at 30 to 40 days of age and half were removed at 60 days.

Half the dogs were purchased at pet shops, a third came from a friend or relative, and the rest came from breeders.

The study results indicate the puppies separated early from their litters were significantly more likely to develop behavior problems as adults than puppies who stayed with their littermates for at least two months.

The ‘Sensitive Period’ in a Puppy’s Development

There is evidence certain behavior tendencies in dogs — anxiety, fearfulness, noise phobia, aggression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example – have a genetic component.

However, researchers and experts in the field of canine behavior believe it is a combination of genetics, environment and experience (nature and nurture) that contributes most significantly to behavioral development.

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

We know for a fact puppies pass through a sensitive stage during which it is critically important they be well socialized to other dogs, humans, and a wide variety of stimuli in their environment.

During this important period, generally agreed to be from around 2½ to 3 weeks through 12 to 14 weeks, a puppy’s brain is primed to accept new experiences with minimal fear. The experiences the pup has during this sensitive time actually have the capacity to modify the brain. What your puppy experiences (or doesn’t experience) during this stage of development has a profound impact on his adult character, temperament and behavior.

Since part of a pup’s socialization is learning appropriate dog-to-dog interaction, it is in the best interests of puppies to remain with the mother and littermates until they are at least 8 to 8½ weeks old.

Research suggests many of the social and behavioral problems seen in adult dogs have their roots in too-early separation from the litter.

Purpose of the Italian Study

The intent of the study was to determine if and how early separation from the litter plays a role in undesirable behavior in adult dogs.

The measured behaviors:

Aversion to strangers Toy possessiveness Stranger aggression Paw licking
Excessive barking Food possessiveness Owner aggression Shadow staring
Fear during walks Attention-seeking Play biting Pica
Reactivity to noises Destructiveness Tail chasing House soiling

The dogs in the study ranged in age from 18 months to 7 years, and the information about their behavior came from a questionnaire their owners completed.

Intriguing Results

Two behaviors were the most frequently reported among all dogs (those removed early from litters and those removed at 60 days) according to their owners:

  • 68 percent of the dogs were attention seekers – they nuzzled, pawed or jumped up on family members looking for attention and physical contact
  • 60 percent showed signs of fear when exposed to loud noises

Also in terms of the entire group of dogs, age played a factor in two behaviors. Dogs under 3 years of age were significantly more prone to tail chasing and destructiveness than older dogs.

A much larger proportion of early separated dogs demonstrated all listed behaviors with the exception of pica (eating non-food material), owner directed aggression, shadow staring and paw licking.

Also, dogs separated early and purchased from a pet shop showed much greater tendency toward toy possessiveness, fearfulness on walks, attention-seeking, stranger aversion, excessive barking, destructiveness and play biting. Dogs from pet shops not separated early from their litters had fewer of the same behavior issues, which leads to one to conclude early separation combined with temporary housing at pet stores is particularly inhibiting to a puppy’s social development.

What It All Means

The conclusion we can draw from the Italian study is that early separation from the litter sets the stage for behavior problems in adult dogs. And if the early separated puppy is also moved directly to a pet store-type environment, the problem can be exacerbated.

To illustrate the significance in a puppy’s life of time-sensitive, appropriate socialization, the study authors offer the following:

Much of what is learned during the sensitive period results in stimulus-specific and long-lasting behavioural changes, potentially providing a foundation for many adult behaviour patterns and problems (Fox 1978, Godbout and others 2007), aversions, social responsiveness (Scott 1958), patterns of active and passive agonistic behaviour (Fox 1966), general activity levels (Wright 1983), reactions to separation (Pettijohn 1977), approach-avoidance patterns (Fox 1966), the development of social hierarchical relationships (Scott and Fuller 1965), anxiety (Ramos and Mills 2009) and functional fear responses (Melzack and Scott 1957).

As you can see, the ‘sensitive period’ is a powerful molding process for puppies.

There’s enormous benefit to be gained or potentially lost in how a very young puppy is handled – whether she’s old enough to leave the litter, her first environment away from her mother and littermates, and how and to what degree she’s socialized by her human family to a new life full of unfamiliar people, animals and other stimuli.

The Dam Provides a Secure Base from Which Her Puppies Can Explore the World

When a puppy remains with her mom and siblings during the earliest part of socialization (2½ – 4 weeks to 8 weeks), she is able to learn dog-to-dog social development from them.

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

Wendt Worth Corgis Litter

According to study authors:

During the socialisation period, puppies are normally exposed to novel environmental stimuli within the context of the guidance and reassuring presence of their dam. From about three weeks of age, puppies become extremely distressed if they are placed in a strange situation without their dam, littermates and nest sites (Elliot and Scott 1961).

The authors go on to say that absent the security of their mother and siblings, the early separated dogs were much more likely than the other group to exhibit avoidant and fearful behaviors. Specifically they were:

  • 15 times more likely to be fearful on walks
  • 7 times more likely to have attention-seeking behaviors and noise reactivity
  • 6 times more likely to bark excessively

Study authors also found behavioral problems were more likely to develop in dogs obtained from shelters and pet shops, as well as in strays.

It can be reasonably assumed puppies in these groups aren’t adequately socialized. They are also often the result of poor breeding practices. In addition, the pet shop or shelter experience may have lasting effects, as would being homeless.

How We Can Use These Study Results

Some important potential benefits of this study:

  • It provides further evidence that early separation from the litter influences specific problem behavior patterns in adult dogs.
  • With this knowledge, we can continue to stress the importance of keeping litters together with the mother until the puppies are at least 8 weeks of age.
  • It may generate ‘early behavior intervention’ information and ideas for owners of early separated puppies.
  • It re-emphasizes 1) the potentially harmful effects of housing puppies in pet shop and shelter environments, 2) the critical importance of appropriate and time sensitive socialization of puppies, and 3) the need for behavioral intervention for early separated dogs and those who’ve spent time in pet shop and shelter environments.

Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of HealthyPets.Mercola.com. You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to MercolaHealthyPets.com, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.


//

Read Full Post »


Are you going crazy listening to your dog scratching his ears all night long? Have you about had it with your dog licking her paw non-stop? At your wit’s end over your dog biting his own tail?

If you think you’re uncomfortable, imagine how your dog feels.

Compulsive scratching, licking, and chewing behaviors are quite common in dogs and have a variety of causes. They can also be harmful. One of the first signs your dog has a problem might be the development of a “hot spot” — a red, wet, irritated area that arises from persistent chewing or licking. Although hot spots, or “acute moist dermatitis”, can occur anywhere on your dog’s body, they are most often found on the head, chest, or hips. Because dogs often incessantly scratch, lick, or bite at an area once it becomes irritated, hot spots can become large and incredibly sore rather quickly.

Reasons Why Dogs Compulsively Scratch, Lick, or Chew

Dogs scratch, lick, or chew for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from allergies to boredom to parasite infestation:
~Allergies
~Boredom or anxiety
~Dry skin
~Hormonal imbalances
~Pain
~Parasites
Read more on each category by clicking here


Skin Problems in Dogs Slideshow


Treatment for Your Dog’s Compulsive Scratching, Licking, and Chewing

Because there are so many reasons why dogs chew or scratch, be sure to check with your veterinarian as soon as you notice a problem. The veterinarian will help figure out the cause of the behavior and determine the best treatment plan. Depending on the cause of your dog’s compulsive behavior, this might include:
~Eliminating parasites
~Changing foods
~Using medication
~Preventing the behavior
~Addressing anxiety or boredom
Click here to learn more about these treatments

Read Full Post »

There are many things that cause canine commotion. Let’s start with kennel design. There are 30-35 dogs packed into a kennel area of about 1,100 square feet. They can see 360 degrees around their kennels and know immediately who’s coming and going, and who’s barking or not. It’s amazing how quickly they can stoke each other up. They can jump up on their kennel walls and fence fight with the three dogs next to them. Transporting a dog through the kennel area is sometimes like running a gantlet where canine noise and commotion replace whips and clubs.

A new, modern kennel design will greatly reduce the commotion. It will reduce the visibility the dogs have and create more space, with indoor and outdoor access for the dogs. It will facilitate easier handling so transporting dogs around can be an act of love and not survival. It will be much more user friendly for adopters, staff, and volunteers. This will reduce canine stress and benefit the dogs and adopters in a huge way.

Much of the barking is also caused by barrier frustration, excitement and over arousal, and attention seeking behavior. Dogs do understand that someone coming into the area with a leash or even just looking can mean something good for them, so they compete for attention. Some dogs simply bark because the dog next to them started, like monkey see, monkey do.

An important thing to understand is that the barking is generally not aggression, nor is it indicative of how the dog will behave outside the kennel. Some dogs are insecure in the kennel environment and will bark as warning. Get them out of the kennel and they are cream puffs. Also, don’t take the barking personally. One man told me he thought the dogs did not like him because they started barking when he entered the area. On the contrary, most liked him very much and really wanted his attention.

Read the full article by Tom Kandt, shelter trainer and behavioral consultant at the LCHS. He is a certified professional dog trainer.

Read Full Post »