It is disturbing and frustrating for dog owners to see that their Maltese dog is attempting to or is eating feces. Why would a Maltese eat poop? Understanding why your dog is doing this, can lead to changes that will cease this action. The medical term for this is Coprophagia. While it may seem as if this is a behavioral canine issue, there are actually some medical issues that can cause a dog to do this. Medical issues must be ruled out first, before actions should be taken from a behavior standpoint.
Coprophagia can be cause by any medical problem that causes:
The dog's body to have difficulty absorbing nutrients
The dog to have gastrointestinal upset
If your Maltese is eating or trying to eat feces, it is very important to bring this to the attention of your dog's veterinarian and have a full medical checkup. The vet should:
Test your dog's stool
Evaluate your dog's diet
What Will The Blood Tests Show?
When a dog has a medical conditions such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease or thyroid disease...this can cause a dramatic increase in appetite...thus leading to that dog eating feces.
Why is the Stool Sample So Important?
Your dog's stool should be tested for parasites. However, the most important reason is that the stool exam will show if food is poorly digested by your dog's body. When a dog eats a diet that is of low quality dog food, this will cause many health issues, including Coprophagia.
A dog who is fed poor quality dog food will have vitamin and mineral deficiencies that cause the dog to seek out feces; usually of dog's who are fed a high quality food. A dog has no idea that the feces is not a food source...their body is simply craving needed nutrition.
This is more common with puppies than with adult dogs. In many cases of a puppy behavioral issues, the behavior will slow down and then stop as that puppy grows toward adulthood.
Some puppies, simply have a very strong urge to investigate things, feces being one of them. Owners, without realizing it, may be reinforcing the behavior. How? When a puppy does something that causes its owners to pay attention...this can cause the puppy to keep repeating the behavior in order to keep receiving the attention.
The best method to cope with this is to:
1. Never allow your Maltese to roam around outside by themselves ( A must for safety reasons as well). Your dog should be brought out on a leash and supervised while they eliminate. Once done, they should be lead away from that area.
2. The elimination area should never also be the dog's play area. Once a dog is done eliminating, if you wish to allow your dog some fresh air and to play outside...they should be led to a separate area in your yard.
3. Clean up feces as soon as possible. Using a water hose to wash down feces works well.
4. If your Maltese dog is prone to eat cat litter feces, do please be sure to rule out the above medical issues. Once you know that your dog is 100% healthy, it is then best to put the litter box out of reach of your dog. Since cats can easily climb and jump, it helps to put the litter box in a raised area where your Maltese dog will not have easy access.
5. Never use the inhuman and unethical method of "sticking the dog's nose in the feces". This serves no purpose and will not lead to better behavior.