By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Although the very notion may seem repulsive, Coprophagia or stool eating can be somewhat common in canines, especially puppies. It’s very important to know that medical issues must be ruled out first before seeing this as a purely behavioral matter.

Coprophagia occurs when important nutrients are missing from your dog’s diet due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies or from the inability to absorb those nutrients. Along with a healthy well-balanced diet daily, make sure to feed your dog the recommended amount, hunger plays a role in this issue as well. Parasites could also be the source.

Other medical reasons may include thyroid problems, Cushing’s disease, certain medicines such as steroids, etc. It’s important to have your dog thoroughly examined by your vet. If it is the stool of one dog in particular, that dog should also be checked by the vet to make sure the food is digested well.

Once medical reasons are ruled out, behaviorally there can be a number of reasons this activity takes place.

One is boredom especially in younger dogs. Give your dog daily exercise and mental challenges in the form of tasks and training cues.

Stress plays a large role especially if the dog ingests his own stool. It may have its roots in removing the evidence to keep from being punished. That’s why it’s important never to punish your dog, especially for soiling.

It may also have its roots in instinctive behavior such as the fear of being found by a larger predator or the primal need to keep their area clean. If your dog is eating the cat’s feces or that of another animal, it’s primarily due to the distinctive odor and texture. The best success is to avoid access to the area altogether by cleaning immediately. Teach your dog the “Leave it” task and if need be, spray the area with Bitter Apple spray.