Coprophagia (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh) is the term given when animals eat poop. It is one of the most common concerns especially for Shih Tzu owners. As there is actually little to no research done on this type of behavior, we’v have done an investigation based on different factors such as the frequency of this happening in Shih Tzu eating poop, the usual age that it starts happening, the usual age that it stops, and other information to better understand it and help you deal with it!

Types of Coprophagia (Poop Eating)

There are three commonly known types of Coprophagia in Shih Tzus

  • The Autocoprophagia, that is, when a Shih Tzu is eating their own poop.
  • The Intraspecific Coprophagia, which happens when a Shih Tzu eats the waste of another dog.
  • The Interspecific Coprophagia, one in which a Shih Tzu eats the dung of other animals such as cats.

Symptoms of Coprophagia

Below are some common symptoms of Coprophagia in Shih Tzus:

  • Bad breath
  • Your Shih Tzu urinates more than usual
  • Your Shih Tzu is more thirsty than normal
  • Shih Tzus that eat a lot lose weight instead of getting fat
  • Your Shih Tzu usually suffer from intestinal and stomach inflammation
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency can cause digestive disorders and insufficient absorption of nutrients.
  • The dog’s stools are smelly and soft with the presence of fat as a result of insufficient pancreatic lipase enzyme activity in the intestine.

Is a Shih Tzu Eating Poop Normal?

This is a question that every Shih Tzu owner has after discovering that their pets have begun eating their own or other animal’s manure. 

In general, it is common for dogs like Shih Tzus to become Coprophagous just like some species of insects who consider poop as an essential food source and without it, they won’t be able to survive. But unlike insects, Shih Tzus have various reasons why they display this kind of behaviour and depending on the reason, the treatment may vary.

 

COPROPHAGIA: AKA WHY DO SHIH TZUS EAT POOP?

WHY DO SHIH TZUS EAT POOP?

There are several reasons why Coprophagia happens in Tzus, the most common causes are; because of medical problems such as pancreatic insufficiency, pancreatitis, intestinal infections, malabsorption syndrome, or it can be just because of consuming too much fatty food.

Here are some reasons why your Shih Tzu Eats Poop

Why do animals who are not Coprophagous like Shih Tzu’s starts eating poop? Experts have several ideas to explain the reason behind this.

Coprophagia and the desire or need to eat poop is neither a pathology nor a sign of bad training. It is one of those things that often has an underlying cause but it’s not something to be overly worried about and it is something that can be changed. Make sure that your shih tzu is trained well.

It has different possible causes including the following: 

  • Seeking attention: When a Shih Tzu eats their own poo, the owner tends to pay attention to them to stop this habit (shocker!). Your dog is smart and attention is attention, good or bad, if you pay them more attention when they have a mouthful of poop, this is good for them.

This may be a reason why Coprophagia develops in a Shih Tzu. It’s possible that a Shih Tzu will continue this habit in order to get the attention they need from their owner. Just like a toddler seeking attention by throwing a tantrum, this could well be the Shih Tzu version!

Reasons of Coprophagia

  • Allelomimetic behavior: This happens when your Shih Tzu watches you pick up their poop and they do the same only using their mouth. The clever little sausage is trying to help and mimicking what you do.
  • Behavior Copying: It’s possible for your Shih Tzu to see other dogs eating poop and imitate them. It’s like when a child starts chewing their fingernails. We don’t usually have a need or drive to do it, often the child is copying another child or adult in the behavior. They can either learn this from the other dogs inside the house or around the places that your dog is usually in like on walks, pet dates and at the dog park.
  • Maternal behavior: A Shih Tzu who has just given birth may well be naturally practicing Coprophagia with her puppies. This is normal behavior that has several theories: one being that the mother is simply keeping her pups and their beds as clean as possible. This is a hygienic practice in the wild that helps the animals drive away predators. Another theory is that this practice is part of the stimulus necessary to trigger urination and defecation reflexes in newborn puppies.
  • Dominant behavior: There have been some cases of submissive dogs that eats the poop of the most dominant dog in the same house.There are also other examples in nature where docile members of a group develop these practices. So it could be a simple ingrained pack behavior if there are other dogs in the house together with the Shih Tzu.
  • Reinforcement: Sometimes, Shih Tzus think that poop looks tasty – that’s why they tend to take a bite out of it.
  • Frequency and Quality of Food: A lot of people only feed their Shih Tzu once a day, others give their Shih Tzu multiple meals throughout the day, and others just don’t have a set pattern or frequency. It’s important that the food you give your Shih Tzu is of good quality and that you give it to them at specific times. Aside from the fact that the lack of fiber in your Shih Tzu’s diet could lead to Coprophagia, your Shih Tzu can also develop this habit as a substitute when their meal schedules are not met.
  • Other reasons: Other reasons for Coprophagia includes the need for area cleaning in cases when the Shih Tzu is being neglected and the fear of predators which make it use Coprophagia to camouflage its odor. Kind of like they do to protect their puppies, adult Shih Tzus can do the same to protect themselves.

 

HOW TO TREAT A SHIH TZU WITH COPROPHAGIA 

If your Shih Tzu displays signs of Coprophagia, it’s best to take them to the veterinarian to have their health checked and know how to minimize or eliminate this bad habit. Just in case there is a medical reason behind it.

If it’s more behavioral then here are also some effective treatments that might help:

  • Meat tenderizers (digestive enzymes): Some people add enzymes to the diet of their Coprophagous Shih Tzu. Some articles say that when Shih Tzus don’t get enough enzymes, this may lead your shih tzu eating their own poop to get the right amount of nutrients that their body needs. By adding in these enzymes to their food, it corrects the imbalance and can stop their urge to eat poop. 


  • Taste Altering Powder supplements: There’s a powder supplement that you can add to your Shih Tzu’s food that is designed to stop the poop eating behaviour intentionally. The powder produces a bad taste in the stool, making it undesirable for your Shih Tzu. Although the effectiveness of this powder is not yet proven, it does stop some dogs from eating their excrement, it dissuades some but they work through the bad taste. However, others are not phased by the taste change. You’ll only find out if it works for your Tzu if you try it.


  • DIY Taste Changers: This is the most common treatment for Coprophagia. It’s the DIY version of the above and it simply means adding in your own flavoring to their food to stop them from eating poop.

Put spice on their poop, or something with a strong and unpleasant flavour and cover your Shih Tzu’s waste in the garden or yard with this. Make sure that your Shih Tzu does not like the taste or odor. It would surely succeed in making them avoid the waste let alone to eat it.

The main thing to remember is to do this consistently in order to change their behavior. They will associate its smell with an unpleasant taste. This must be used all the time to improve your Shih Tzu’s behavior. Each poop must have additives that your Shih Tzu does not find pleasurable in the taste buds.

  • Other additives: There are several chemical treatments that are aimed at preventing Coprophagia including Homeopathy remedies. There are also some natural remedies that might help such as pumpkin, mint, papaya, anise seed, and pineapple.

Understanding Shih Tzu Psychology behind poop eating

Making some physical changes to the excrement of the Shih Tzu to stop them from eating it is one thing. But Shih Tzu’s are an animal and physical changes alone is not enough to alter this negative behaviour They also have a psychology that needs to be understood, so here are some do’s and don’ts to help conquer your Shih Tzu’s desire to eat poop.

  • DO Take The right approach: To avoid negative behaviors such as poop eating, owners might get frustrated and shout or raise their voice at their Shih Tzus to stop them from doing it again. Punishments almost never work to reinforce or alter a behavior because your Shih Tzu wants to receive attention more than anything else (other than food, of course). You should keep in mind that shouting is bad when you tell them off because the Shih Tzu will be convinced that it’s a good thing to do since it is getting some attention which makes it promotes the bad habit even more. 
  • DO Ignore your Shih Tzu: After understanding that giving punishments to your Shih Tzu does not work, it’s best to alter their behavior with attention or with a reward. Better to ignore them than recognise the behaviour and accidentally promote it. Temporarily ignoring your Shih tzu (like sending the child to a naughty step) can work well on them to implement a more acceptable behaviour. Just don’t over do it. It’s a fine balance and you don’t want to cause your dog needless distress. 
  • DO – Try A Muzzle: If your Shih Tzu displays this behavior when they are out walking then a muzzle can be a practical solution to the problem. It’s not a punishment, it is creating a physical barrier between the dog and the poop. This may be one of the most effective ways to deal with a Coprophagous Shih Tzu that’s difficult to closely monitor.
  • DO – Collect the poop: This is a simple strategy to prevent your Shih Tzu from having any access to a poop. Quickly picking up their poop and preventing your Shih Tzu from eating their own poo during walks is usually enough, accept the fact that you need to be an attentive owner. 
  • DON’T – Let Your Tzu See You! – Also, whether at home or on walks,  do not let your Shih Tzu see you when you pick up their poop to avoid the possibility of mimetic behavior.
  • DO – Wait: In some cases, when Coprophagia happens to puppies, all you can do is wait for them to outgrow this behavior. This can and does happen, it’s a habit they can outgrow. This juvenile behavior will usually stop any time up to them being around 9 months old.
  • DO – Give Positive reinforcement: It’s about reinforcing positive behaviors in exchange of Coprophagia. When your Shih Tzu is about to eat their poop, use soft-spoken commands such as ‘Leave It’, ‘Come On’, ‘Sit’, or just throw them a ball or some other toy. The idea is to distract your Shih Tzu allowing you time to be able to pick up their stool without them seeing it. Hopefully, over time this will change the habit.
  • Combination Approach: One size does not fit all and it’s almost impossible to recommend a single treatment because the reasons why Shih Tzus develop Coprophagia is still unknown. It’s impossible to determine the best approach in modifying their behavior. It’s likely that a combination of these treatments is best in the treatment of Coprophagia.

POOP INTAKE COMPLICATIONS IN SHIH TZUS

POOP INTAKE COMPLICATIONS IN SHIH TZUS

There are characteristics that are difficult to predict especially for coprophagous Shih Tzus. It’s hard to understand why a dog would be attracted to eating their poop or the poop of other animals. 

Trust me, I know how frustrating it can be. I have a lovely little Shih Tzu, she does not eat her own stools or other dogs but when she sees a cow pat, it’s like an all you can eat buffet. So when walking in fields that have cattle, she simply stays on the leash.

Shih tzu eating poop is not solely because of their lack of vitamins and minerals as we’ve stated above, it is also because of their instinct to keep their environment clean. This behaviour can be corrected in a dog school where they are taught good behaviours so they won’t be too much of a problem for you.

Coprophagia annoys Shih Tzu owners and that’s completely normal. It can also be a worry as there’s a possibility of them getting internal parasites. Normally, this only happens if a Shih Tzu eats the poop of infected animals. 

Other parasites

it’s possible that other parasites such as Toxoplasma present in cat poop are transmitted. It’s important that you keep your Shih Tzu away from the sanitary tray of domestic cats when you have one at home. Deworming your Shih Tzu frequently will avoid the risk of contracting them. 

It’s also possible that a poop that has not been cleaned for a long time can be infested by larvae, bacteria, fungi, etc. Keep your Shih Tzu’s away from other stools that you find during your walk and remove any old poop as soon as possible if you have an outdoor area that your other dogs poops in at home. Some viral diseases can be transmitted by the fecal-oral route and the infection may result in Hepatitis and even Parvovirosis; two very serious ailments that can be transmitted in this way.

 

CONCLUSION

If you notice your Shih Tzu is showing signs of Coprophagia, we recommend taking them to the veterinarian so that they can test your Shih Tzu and try to point out the reason for the behaviour. A solution may be recommended for your Shih Tzu to change their eating habits.

After all, we must be aware of the habits and general conditions of our pets to avoid reaching such unpleasant levels. Do not be scared, just go to the veterinarian or a behavioral expert and examine the reasons behind your Tzu’s inclination to the succulent smell and taste of poop.