PICK IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!
by Lilian S. Barber

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The topic for this column may be more than a little unappetizing, but it concerns a subject with which many Italian Greyhound owners find themselves faced. Yes, quite a few of our elegant little beasties indulge in the practice of coprophagy. Very simply and bluntly, they are in the habit of eating their own feces or that of other dogs.

This has been of concern to owners for many years, and there have been several possible reasons given for a dog developing this behavior. these range from the dog learning it from its mother, who may have been a little overzealous about cleaning up after her puppies, to a throwback instinct from the wild, where animals find the need to rid the den area of any sign that would give their presence away to predators. Still another theory is that dogs who do this are lacking in a particular enzyme. Some dogs also do it from sheer boredom when left alone for many hours during the day. It is quite likely that in any given dog the habit involves more than one of these hypotheses. Whatever the reason for dogs to do it, coprophagy is as common and natural to canines as it is disgusting and offensive to their human guardians.

So, what can be done about it? There are several enzyme based products available --some over the counter and some only by prescription from a veterinarian --that are said to curb a dog's appetite for eating stool. In some cases these have worked wonders, but often they have no effect at all. The same is true of sprinkling MSG (monosodium glutamate) on the dog's food, which is advice offered in many books. Some preparations formulated to inhibit coprophagy are supposed to make the stool unpalatable to the dog. Of course, if one has multiple dogs it becomes necessary to use this preventive measure on all of them, even those that do not indulge in the pattern. Reprimanding or punishing the dog for stool eating does very little good, especially if this is done after the fact. If you catch him in the act and scold him, he will more than likely learn that he should eat stool only when no one is there to see him doing it.

By far the most effective method of controlling coprophagy is to keep the dog area clean and thoroughly picked up at all times. In other words, get to "it" before the dog does. This is the only way to make completely sure that all stool eating ceases. Repulsive as it may be, coprophagy is probably not as hazardous to a dog's health as one might think, especially if ingestion is limited to stool from one's own healthy dogs. If a dog is allowed to roam free, it is possible that he can pick up infections and parasites from the droppings of other dogs.

Related but not quite the same thing is the average dog's love of eating droppings from birds and other animals, such as rabbits and squirrels. When dogs have access to cow dung or horse manure, they usually revel in it. This is a very normal behavior for ALL canines. these things that we see as being so disgusting are considered a delicacy to the canine palate. Again, the best way to prevent your IG from ingesting this material is to either remove it or to keep the dog away from it.

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