Icky Housebreaking Questions

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NOTE: This information is for educational purposes only and is intended to be a supplement to – and not a substitute for – the expertise and professional judgment of your veterinarian. The information is NOT to be used for diagnosis or treatment of your pet. Always consult your own veterinarian for advice concerning the treatment of your pet.

My dog is eating his poop! How can I get him to stop?

There’s nothing that freaks dog owners out quite as much as the sight of a dog chowing down on his own poo! Don’t worry, your dog’s not some kind of deviant. This is a fairly common behavior called coprophagia. There are many reasons that your dog may be eating his feces, so it may take some experimentation to figure out what it’ll take to fix his problem.

Dogs sometimes start eating poo for a simple reason – they’re hungry, or they think the poop tastes good. Feeding the dog a larger amount of food or splitting the food into multiple feedings instead of one big meal might help to prevent him from getting hungry for a poo snack. Changing the kind of food you’re feeding your dog may also help, since a different dog food can change the flavor of his poo and he might not enjoy it quite as much.

A food change may also help if you’re feeding a low-quality dog food and your dog’s eating his poo because he’s not getting sufficient nutrition from his food. You might also want to have your vet test a stool sample, since parasite infestations can also cause your puppy to miss out on some of the nutrients in his dog food. Many owners find that their dogs stop eating their feces when they switch to a grain-free food. If you want to give it a try, just make sure to switch from your dog’s old food to the new food gradually to avoid digestive upset.

Some dogs will eat feces out of boredom or anxiety. Be sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and attention. Obedience training can also help. Giving your puppy toys to play with, or a bone or other chew toy, will give him something to occupy himself with (other than poo!).

Some dogs will eat poop in their crate or confinement area or in the yard in an attempt to keep the area clean. Be sure to pick up any poo promptly so your dog doesn’t feel the need to do it himself. Don’t let him watch you clean up, since some dogs seem to eat poop as an imitative behavior… he sees you doing it and mimics the behavior.

Be careful about correcting your dog for this behavior, since some dogs seem to use poo-eating as an attention-getting activity. If you jump up and start screaming and chasing your dog around when he tries to eat his own poop, he’ll realize that he can get some action and attention from repeating the behavior. Better to calmly stop him if you see him looking like he’s about to eat his poo. Use the other methods mentioned here instead of correction to stop this behavior.

If you’ve tried all of the above and haven’t been able to resolve your dog’s problem, you might want to give him an anti-coprophagia supplement. You can buy them over the counter, but you may want to check with your vet before using them if you have any questions. There are two good products, Forbid and Deter, that you can easily find at the pet store or online. When digested, the supplement gives your dog’s poo a bad taste (as if poo didn’t taste bad enough already!) so he’ll be less inclined to eat it.

There are white things in my dog’s poo that look like spaghetti; what are they?

Your dog most likely has roundworms, a common intestinal parasite in dogs. Wondering how he got roundworms? The four most common ways a dog gets roundworms are consuming worm eggs from soil, eating an animal with roundworms, nursing from a mother dog with roundworms, or being infected during embryonic development if the mother dog has roundworms.

Try not to be too grossed out – just take him to the vet to have a stool sample tested. Your vet will give you a deworming product that’ll easily resolve this problem. You’ll likely have to treat your dog two to three times a few weeks apart so worms in all life stages are killed by the deworming medication. Talk to your vet about regular preventive deworming at home to prevent future infestations.

Another possibility to consider: If your dog chews on rope toys that are made up of thin white strings, you may want to check to see if he’s ripped one apart – sometimes a suspected roundworm infestation turns out to be strings pulled off a rope toy and swallowed!

There are white things in my dog’s poo that look like grains of rice; what are they?

If your dog has a tapeworm infestation, you may see tapeworm segments that look like grains of rice in his feces. You may also see them around his anus or on his dog bed. There’s even more bad news with this one: The most common way dogs get tapeworms is from swallowing an infected flea, so your dog probably has a worm problem AND a flea problem. Take him to the vet for treatment of both.

To prevent future infestations, talk to your vet about deworming your dog regularly at home and be sure to keep your dog on a good flea control program year-round.

What do I do if my dog has diarrhea?

Although diarrhea isn’t always a big deal, medically speaking, it always seems like a big deal when it’s affecting your housebreaking program. Even housebroken dogs can have occasional accidents when they have diarrhea they can’t control. However, even if the initial accident is caused by uncontrollable diarrhea, having accidents can become habitual if your dog gets used to going potty in the wrong area. So when your dog has diarrhea and it lands in the wrong place, it’s important to get the diarrhea under control immediately and be sure that you’re especially vigilant about supervising your dog and giving him regular potty trips for a few days after a bout of diarrhea, so he stays in the habit of going potty in the right area.

Occasional diarrhea occurs with most dogs and can be caused by a food change, by stress or when your dog eats something that doesn’t agree with his digestive system. It can also be caused by parasites, viruses, allergies, infections or other medical conditions that require veterinary intervention.

Your dog’s diet is the first thing you should consider when digestive problems occur. Has he eaten anything unusual, such as a new brand of food, treats or chew bones? Did he pick something up on the street, go dumpster diving in your kitchen and eat your fast food leftovers, or gobble up a whole bowl of your cat’s food? You may notice a pattern to your dog’s diarrhea incidents, which will make it easy to resolve.

If a food change seems to have caused your puppy’s diarrhea, it may be because the new food doesn’t agree with him or because you changed his food abruptly. When changing foods, a gradual approach works best. Don’t wait until your puppy’s food bag is empty to buy a new brand. You’ll need some of the old food to mix in with the new. For most dogs, the best approach is starting with 3/4 of the old food and 1/4 of the new, then going to half and half, then to 3/4 of the new food and 1/4 of the old before feeding the new food exclusively. Stay at each phase for 3-4 days to give your dog’s system a chance to adapt. If you find that he continues to have digestive problems even with this slow approach, the new food might not be right for him and you may have to go back to the old food – or find another that agrees with your dog’s tummy.

Overfeeding can also cause soft stools or diarrhea in some dogs. Check to be sure you’re feeding your do the proper amount by checking the feeding guidelines on the dog food packaging or by talking to your vet about the appropriate amount of food to give your puppy at each meal.

If you find that your dog has diarrhea after you give him new treats or chew bones, try giving him fewer of them to see if you can slowly acclimate his system to them. If that doesn’t work, try a new brand or type.

If your dog’s stealing Kitty’s food, put the food up high where your cat can get to it but your dog can’t. Be sure that Kitty’s bag of cat food isn’t accessible to your dog, since cat food in large quantities can be very hard on your dog’s system.

If your dog’s getting diarrhea after digging around in your trash can, replace it with a covered trash can or put it in an area that isn’t accessible to him. Better yet, get the help of a trainer and teach that naughty dog to stay out of the trash!

Many dogs can get diarrhea when they’re stressed out. If your dog’s this kind of sensitive guy, obedience training him on your own or with the help of a trainer can be useful, since it will build his confidence and help him to deal better with stress. Try to keep a consistent schedule for your dog, since structure in his day will help him if he tends to get a bit rattled by change. Be sure to get your dog plenty of exercise, which will also help with his stress level. If these things don’t seem to help, you might want to try an over-the-counter or herbal anxiety reducer for dogs or call your vet for help with your dog’s anxiety issues.

If your dog seems to feel fine and his diarrhea is not accompanied by any more serious symptoms (fever, lethargy, vomiting, refusing food or water), there are a few things you can try to firm things up. However, if diarrhea is accompanied by any of the more serious symptoms or if the diarrhea lasts more than a day, take your puppy to the vet immediately. If your dog’s very young, very old or very small, he can become dehydrated quickly, so take him to the vet promptly if he has diarrhea.

When your dog has diarrhea, he’ll benefit from a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice; for a mild case of diarrhea, you can just add some plain, boiled white rice to his regular food. The rice helps to firm things up and in some cases, it’s all he’ll need to get back to normal.

Rice water can be used to get the same result. This is effective if your dog’s feeling too icky to eat. To make rice water, simmer 3 cups of white rice in water for 20 minutes, then strain out the rice and keep the liquid. Give the liquid to your dog every few hours when he has diarrhea.

Diarrhea control medicine is available online or at your local pet store. This is good to have on hand for occasional unexpected diarrhea episodes.

If your dog has frequent or regular diarrhea, an enzyme supplement or probiotic supplement given on an ongoing basis can also be helpful, but you need to try any treatment recommended by your vet first, since regular or frequent diarrhea definitely requires a visit to the vet’s office.

Help! What can I do about my dog’s gas problem?

First of all, please don’t invite me over for dinner until you’ve resolved this problem.

Dogs can have gas problems that range from mildly amusing to stomach-turning and stinky to dangerous and deadly. Of course, most gas isn’t dangerous to your dog, but it can make him a less pleasant companion for you (and anyone else with a nose).

If your puppy has occasional gas attacks, his gas is likely caused by something he ate. Figure out if he’s had anything unusual, like a new brand of dog food or treats, a new kind of chew bone, or some table scraps. If you’re able to find the culprit, of course, discontinue giving it to him (since it clearly doesn’t agree with his system). Occasional gas problems can usually be resolved by giving your dog an anti-gas medication for dogs. It’s a good idea to have some on hand, just in case!

If your dog has frequent gas problems, the first step is to consider a food change, since something in his dog food might not agree with him. Be sure to change foods gradually by mixing the old food with the new, since an abrupt change can make his tummy troubles even worse. You may also find it helpful to give him an over-the-counter probiotic supplement or enzyme supplement on an ongoing basis. Many owners find that adding plain yogurt with live cultures to their dog’s food will decrease the stink factor, if given regularly.

Although most cases of gas are just bothersome to us and a bit uncomfortable for your dog, gas can be a real problem, since it can be a sign of a more serious medical issue – especially if your dog is a big, deep-chested dog whose breed is prone to bloat or gastric torsion (a condition in which the stomach bloats and flips over inside a dog’s body, causing a medical emergency that can lead to death). If you notice that your dog’s gas leads to his stomach seeming extremely bloated or rigid, or if he seems to be in a lot of pain, you must get him to a veterinarian immediately. If your dog’s a large-breed dog, talk to your vet about whether he might be at risk for this problem
so you know what to look for.

Frequent or regular gas may also be a sign of other digestive disorders, so of course, it makes sense to consult with your vet if your dog has big gas problems.

Also, remember that a bit of gas can be a sign that your dog needs to poo, so it’s a good idea to give him a potty trip when you notice that he’s stinky.

My dog’s pee is leaving big brown spots in my grass. How can I fix this problem?

Contrary to popular belief, you can have a dog and still have a beautiful, green lawn. There are several possible solutions that’ll allow you to save your grass. The most obvious solution is to encourage your dog to urinate somewhere other than in the middle of your lawn. You can get into the habit of taking him for walks so he potties off your property entirely, or you can encourage him to go potty in one area of your yard – like a back corner or side yard – where his pee stains won’t be a problem. To teach him to go in one area, he’ll need to be on his leash every time you take him out. Take him directly to the area where you want him to pee, then let him run and play in the rest of the yard only once he’s emptied out in the appropriate area. You’ll have to be very consistent about accompanying him outside if you choose to do this training, and you’ll find that it works best if you start it early in training, before your puppy gets in the habit of using your whole yard as a toilet.

Another very effective way to prevent brown spots is to water down the spot where your dog went potty right after he goes. Keep the hose or a full watering can handy and water the spot immediately. This will dilute the urine and prevent it from burning the grass.

The easiest solution to this problem is to use a grass-saving supplement (with your vet’s approval, of course). These over-the-counter supplements are given daily in pill or powder form, and they’ll change the ph of your dog’s urine so it no longer burns your grass.

If your grass is already burned, you can treat existing spots with a lawn repair product that will help your grass to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

My dog gobbles down his food so fast, he throws it up after eating. What can I do to slow him down?

If your puppy is a canine vacuum when his food bowl hits the ground and you’re feeding him only once a day, you might try changing to two meals a day so he’s not famished when it’s time to eat. You’ll give the same amount of food, just split it into two portions instead of one.

Changing to a food with a different kibble size can also be helpful. If your dog doesn’t tend to chew his food, you might try larger kibble, since he’ll likely have to chew them more than he would smaller ones. If he already eats large kibble and swallows them whole, switching to smaller kibble might allow him to keep his food down, even if he’s not willing to take the time to chew.

Feeding your dog using a Brake-Fast Bowl will slow him down nicely. This bowl has raised plastic knobs in the middle of it, so your dog’s forced to eat around the knobs instead of just sticking his face in the middle of the bowl and inhaling his food. Or you can do what we used to do in the days before the “Brake-Fast” bowl… put a full soup can or a large rock or brick in the middle of your dog’s bowl for the same effect.

You say I should take stool and urine samples to the vet if my dog is having problems. How much do I need and how do I collect the samples?

Aaaah, one of the great joys of dog ownership – sample collection. Not everyone’s favorite pastime, but if you know how to do it, it isn’t so bad. The good news is that for most tests, your vet will only need about a tablespoon of urine or feces, which shouldn’t be too hard to get.

Stool samples are fairly easy to collect. You’ll need to get your sample from a fresh pile, so accompany your puppy to his potty area and collect as quickly as you can. Use a clean plastic bag turned inside out. Put your hand inside the bag and grab some poo from the top of the pile; you want a “clean” sample, so you don’t want to include the part that touched the ground, which can have dirt or plant material in it. If you see evidence of worms in your dog’s stool, try to include the worm in the sample you take to the vet. Turn the bag right side out, seal it and you’re done! If you can’t get to the vet right away, you’ll need to refrigerate the sample. We know you don’t particularly want poo in your fridge, so get to the vet asap!

Collecting urine samples is a bit trickier. Take your dog outside, preferably on-leash so you’re right there to collect the sample when the time comes. For female dogs (or male dogs who squat to pee), the best collection tool is a clean aluminum pie pan or a clean, shallow plastic food storage container. For leg-lifting male dogs, duct tape a clean plastic cup or a fairly deep food storage container to a broom handle or stick, so you get it into the urine stream when he lifts his leg. To get a clean sample, you don’t want the first few drops of pee to be included in the sample, so start collecting mid-stream. Seal the sample in a jar and you’re ready to go. Again, you’ll need to refrigerate the sample if you can’t get to the vet right away… if you need to do this, be sure to mark the sample clearly so nobody gets a surprise when looking for something to drink!

If you’re not able to collect a urine sample, contact your vet. Most vets will help you collect a sample. Allow your dog to have free access to water before going to the vet, then don’t allow him to urinate before he goes in. If you think you won’t be able to stop him from peeing when he gets out of the car, leave him in the car and see if a veterinary technician can meet you in the parking lot with a container to help you collect the sample. If that doesn’t work, you may be able to leave your dog at the vet’s office for a few hours until he’s ready to produce a sample.

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