Hypothyroid Shiba Inu and Coprophagia

Beebe eats her poo (coprophagia). I thought she had outgrown it, but yesterday, right in front of company, she immediately turned around after eliminating and started lapping at it, right in the middle of a play date with 5 other Shibas and Grym. Gross.

Popular dogma indicates that feces eating is the result of boredom or hunger. High protein food may also be suspect. I think lack of sanitation in the whelping area is also a factor for this behavior. When people with dogs from pet stores and puppy mills report it, I admit that I am quick to label that as a cause of this disgusting behavior.

Most people know by now that puppy mills generally lack proper sanitation, or anything remotely acceptable in the housing and care of young pups, and many petstores as well. These poor environments counteract the dogs’ natural desire to avoid soiling in its bed due to constant crating over its own waste and the lack of space for proper elimanation habits to form outside. There is quite likely an element of boredom and hunger involved in these case.

To note, the breeder Shibas who have stayed with me have never done this. Ike is horrified of his poo and will bury it like a kitty does. They were raised in a loving, clean, healthy and stimulating environment indoors with nearly unlimited access to spacious outdoor freedom. Beebe however, did come from a classified ad, and I’m sure there is a behavioral component to her coprophagia, but I’m wondering if it also may be from her hypothyroid. Interestingly, here is a blogpost from some friends regarding their Akita and some of his medical issues, including hypothyroid and coprophagia (feces eating).

I don’t think boredom is an issue with Beebe. It’s my feeling, that she does this because she is hungry. She is always hungry, which is par for the course with hypothyroid dogs, but she’s overweight so I can’t feed her all that she could eat. So, my question is for any other hypothyroid Shiba Inu owners: do your dogs do this too and did it get worse or better when on thyroid meds or with increased amounts of food?

6 thoughts on “Hypothyroid Shiba Inu and Coprophagia

  1. Ahhh… dogs… gotta love them for how very "special" they are. =PThe only time Bowdu has ever eaten his poop is once as a puppy when we gave him some Japanese cheesy treats which apparently still smelled rich and cheesy coming out. Ew. We stopped giving him those treats, and it stopped being an issue.Typically, he will have nothing to do with his poo, ever. Which is fine with me!Have you ever tried those powders or additives to stop coprophagia? I'm not sure what's in them or how long they need to be used if it's just an occasional habit that unpredictably surfaces. So maybe if Beebe was just tempted that once, just that one day (anything unusual about what she ate that day?), it's not necessary…

  2. That's a very interesting theory with hypothyrodism & poop eating. My Koi has (in the 6 months I have had her) eaten/attempted to eat poo twice. She also has hypothyroidism and is always hungry. I always associated her fondness for (some) poop as being attracted to whatever was IN the poo as she does not always eat feces whenever we encounter it. So it's 'selective' – to what factor, I have no idea – perhaps it may have to do with a deficiency due to her thyroid issues.

  3. Ugh…more common that you think. Yep you are right, clean up is so important for the dam and the pups. Believe it or not I think the mother dog that does this will instill the behavior in the pups since the sniff her mouth to determine what is appropriately edible. So over all you do not want a "poop dog" to be showing youngsters the way if you know what I mean. Also grass constipation can lead to discovery too. Actually I have not noticed a correlation between being hyperthyroid and this nasty habit though. I have seen plenty of healthy non-thyroid dogs do this, wildlife biologists indicate wolves do this as well. I do notice increased interest when smellier food is fed. Certain high fat items in the food seems to increase interest, probably because some types of mammal fat does not fully break down in digestion. The only thing that seems to work is to divert and call the dog away and use clicker to signal and then offer more desirable edibles as reward for doing so. Vigilance seems to be the only way to prevent or by keeping on leash in the case of working around other dogs. Dogs that are gobblers or prone to Pica tend to have this behavior as well…..gulp and ask questions later. I don't think it really is about hunger but being first on opportunity.

  4. @shibasenji- Once is too much, lol. It's soo infrequent, but it got me wondering if there is a correlation.@the spoon- The deficiency aspect is interesting. I know hypothyroid people are usually deficient in calcium and are often a bit anemic. I wish I knew of some research regarding this in dogs, but I wonder if borderline anemia/mineral deficiency causes some pica in kibble fed hypothyroid dogs? She hasn't done this when she eats raw, the poo is dry and fairly odorless. She seems more prone to it when she gets any sort of canned meat/kibble and the poos are more smelly.@Shibasenji, have you come across any mention of pica or calcium deficiency in hypothyroid dogs?@Fuzzy- I do not want her showing puppies this at all. Dams clean up poo for the first weeks, so are you saying if it continues passed the first 3-4 weeks, there is more a chance of the puppies learning this for themselves? Mammal fats- I recall a convo we had about this before regarding a specific supplement. I totally forgot that until you mentioned it just now, but that is probably partly why, although it's been maybe 7 days since she had any. She is a horker too, and an oppurtunist. Occum's Razor wins again!

  5. To clarify…If the dam is eating scat, her own or other dogs, and/or cleaning up after pups once they are on solid food then the probability increases that pups will learn crap is fair game. It is amazing what dogs will learn from each other.

  6. Lindsay, yes, one article in the Thyroid special issue of Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 37.4 (July 2007) is "Calcium Homeostasis in Thyroid Disease in Dogs and Cats."I didn't read that article before I returned the volume though… damn.

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