There’s One (Or Two) In Every Bunch…

…depending on the size of your bunch.

Today I saw our vet.  I need to give him a name, since I’ll be mentioning him frequently in this blog.  I’ve decided to call him MVDVM, which looks like a kind of cool palindrome of Roman numerals, but which I actually mean to stand for, ‘Most Valuable Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.’

I saw MVDVM to pick up more antiobiotics for Grace, who’s on round four of this…nasty thing she gets.  She was to have had dental surgery today, but I rescheduled it because of the weather report.  When I got up this morning and saw that we’d hardly gotten any new snow, I regretted my decision to reschedule (the snow did come, though, much later in the day).  But when I saw that her nose was leaking green stuff again, I felt that we’d been lucky.

I’ve been watching Grace pretty closely, so that I can get her onto meds at the first sign of a problem.  Yesterday she had a poop issue, either diarrhea or just soft stool–I knew only because the area at the base of her tail was soiled.  Yesterday I didn’t jump to any conclusions, but when I saw the mucus this morning, I decided to get in to the vet’s office, before the weather worsened. 

First I called.  I had a few more observations to offer MVDVM, and things I wondered about.  He called back very quickly, and had a lot of time to talk, probably because, as I learned from the women at the desk, people had cancelled appointments, due to the forecast. 

I told him about the mucus.  Then I told him about the poop issue, and this time I told him that my gut was telling me that the soft stool was an important part of the equation, and not just the result of stress from having an upper respiratory infection, or because of the Clavamox.  After all, this time Grace was not taking Clavamox, and the soft poop had started before the mucus did.  Although I realize the infection could easily have predated the mucus, I still felt that the poop problem had happened first.

Bless MVDVM’s heart.  He said he trusted my gut (I hope he’s right), meaning he was ready to theorize that her gut was what was causing the underlying problem.  I wondered aloud whether the mucus could be being produced because of the intestinal infection he was postulating, and he said that it was possible.  I don’t think he thought it was likely, but I couldn’t really tell, and so I went on to tell him something that I hadn’t even planned to mention, trying to throw more clues onto the table.  Honestly, until that moment, I hadn’t even consciously considered it to be important.

What I told him (and I’m sorry to talk about it) is that, for the past few days, Grace had been trying to eat poop, almost as if she were desperate for it, and had even, possibly, gone so far as to poop just so she could eat it.  I’m sorry, again.

Then MVDVM asked me, ‘Do you know that roughly 1 in every 7 dogs has coprophagia?’  Well, I have ten dogs.  You do the math.  😉  The other one was Audrey, although she seems to have stopped, now that she has a steady supply of big meals.  She was starving when she arrived at her shelter, after all.  The lovely woman who boarded her until it was time for her transport warned me, and I kept watch, once she’d arrived.   

I wondered about Grace, though.  She certainly hadn’t been starving when I took her in–she was actually overweight.  And she hadn’t done it at first…I thought back, and I realized that she’d started to do it during the two episodes after she’d recovered from whatever infection it is that keeps hitting her.

During her recovery periods, her appetite got even more healthy (OK, greedy is actually a better word) than it had been when she was sick, and the portions I gave her didn’t seem quite big enough to stick with her for twelve hours.  I’ve been trying to be very careful with her portions, to allow her to lose some weight gradually, so her arthritis will be eased. 

Lately, since I’ve been searching for clues to what’s going on with her health, I’ve been able to make more deductions.  And I’m sure now that, when she’s in good health, her evening vocalizations are canine forms of, ‘Where the hell’s my dinner?’  She’s the only one of my dogs who has time to get truly hungry, before I deliver my crowded tray.  And the pre-dinner time is also when she seems to be fussing to get outside, for the purpose (as I figured out yesterday) of hunting for poop.

So today I decided that she really might be eating poop because she’s hungry, amazing as that seems.  And of course, it might have happened that way at her shelter, too, and I remember that her adoption write-up did mention her excellent appetite.  I don’t mean that she’s uncomfortably hungry, starving for food, but rather that she gets impatient and nervous before meals, and has developed this way of coping.

In fact, I just now realized that I’ve noticed a couple of the other dogs chewing on wood that’s lying ready for the stove, or even on the furniture, between the time I start their meal prep and actually serve it up.  Interesting.  These things never happened with the Six Pack.  You’re always learning something new, with dogs.  I think I’ll start serving dinner earlier, and see if they like it better that way.

I told MVDVM my idea about Grace, and he did think it was possible that being hungry makes Grace more likely to indulge.  And then he said something really interesting, which was that same-species poop eating could definitely cause a gastrointestinal infection.  I hadn’t really thought of it, before today.  He said, ‘I can’t even imagine what would happen to us, if we did that.’  And of course, that’s absolutely true.  When e. coli gets into water, even the dilute form can make people terribly sick.  Dogs are better equipped to eat filth, but of course there must be a limit.

And because she’s got the megaesophagus issue–food can get trapped in the ‘pouch’ formed by her elderly esophagus, which has lost muscle tone–it’s easy to see what could happen.   

Maybe, since Grace is a coprophagist with megaesophagus, she’s always going to be vulnerable to infections.  Wow, that’s a bit of a challenge.  I think I’m going to begin to tackle it by feeding her more, even if she stays chubby.  You gotta choose your battles, and a gastrointestinal infection trumps arthritis, in this case.

MVDVM made the very thoughtful suggestion that I might want to try plain amoxicillin once, instead of the much more costly Clavamox, which is ‘potentiated amoxicillin’, meaning that it’s got something added to it to really make the amoxicillin go to work.  Because he and I, and the woman at the desk, were interested, we compared the prices.  The two-week supply of Clavamox would have been about $57, and the plain amoxicillin was a few cents over $20.  I took the plain stuff, since it seems to me that Grace has a darned good ability to fight things, and since I knew I’d have time to get back to the office to exchange it for the high-test stuff, if I needed to.

And I’m very pleased, because Grace seems more comfortable even with just one dose.  I suppose it could be my imagination, but I don’t think so.  On the other hand, I’ve also given her two acidophillus capsules, and fed her 50% more for dinner, and that last factor might be the one most responsible for her comfort. 

Well, I hope Beloved F doesn’t feel the need to tell Beloved H about this coprophagia thing.  Or, if she does,  I really hope that Mazy is not the one out of seven.  There should be a rule that, for your very first dog, you get to have one who’s coprophagia-free.  😉

Update on March 13th:  a thoughtful reader sent me a very interesting article, and here’s the link:

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3 Responses to There’s One (Or Two) In Every Bunch…

  1. Anja says:

    Haha! You should have called this “Poop-blog part 2”!

    Well, anyone that has ever taken care of kids, cats, dogs, or people…. knows that poop matters. We don’t have to like it , but we have to accept that it tells a lot about health!
    I’ve had 3 dogs and they all went through a phase of eating poop. With them, it was definitely a sign of something being “off”. Panda’s digestive system is the most vulnerable of the 3 so when I saw her grab a snack that was not on the menu, it brought me one step closer to changing her diet.
    Knock on wood…. we’re doing good these days! I picked up some bones for her today….. that will be a test…. no diarrhea…. live is good! ; )

    Here’s another piece of wisdom I recently learned:
    Dogs need to chew after dinner! Chewing helps their body release enzymes that aid in digestion!
    Here we might get upset that we just fed the pooch and he goes on to “eat” our slippers… but he may just be following mother natures call.
    So, I’d say that’s why your dogs chew on the firewood while they are waiting for their dinner…. they’re preparing!
    Maybe you can find something safe and appealing for Grace to chew on?
    I know, people argue about the safety of bones, but I feel they are a very natural part of a dogs diet. Not all bones are equal and raw/vs cooked is up for debate…. but Panda was fine with them when I first got her…. and then she had issues…. but I think they were just the first sign of something going on, not related to the bones….

    • cellopets says:

      Let me answer that last part first, Anja. Grace can’t have bones yet, until she has her dental surgery–she has at least one badly decayed tooth that has to come out. The fascinating thing, and it’s part of what you wrote, which I’m in complete agreement with, is that I think her digestive issue, or whatever she’s got going on that causes this pattern, is at least partly why she’s got the teeth problem, and NOT the other way around, which is what I first thought. I’m still waiting to decide on that, but I’m pretty sure. Re. your thinking that they eat poop when something is out of balance, that is absolutely my instinct, too. She was not eating poop during her healthy interludes. But my vet, and you know how much I trust him, has told me a number of times that there is nothing in the research to date to indicate that poop-eating by DOGS has anything to do with a nutrient deficiency, or an imbalance or illness. He says that sometimes they eat dirt, and it can be a deficiency, and he mentioned one other example of that, and then he told me about rabbits, who do eat poop because they digest it better the second time. But he says that in dogs, there’s no evidence it suggests a problem. But if you ask me (and, apparently, YOU), in a few years they’ll have found something out. Grace has already stopped doing it, and she’s only had her amoxicillin for a few doses. Thanks for your insight–it gave me confidence! And re. the firewood, I’m sure you’re right! After all, they know I’m cooking, especially since I actually tell them out loud, OK, mommy’s going up to cook now. And I’m a big believer in feeding bones, in general, and I’m definitely going to try using chews as ‘after dinner mints’–thanks for that, too!–and Grace will get hers soon. Although I think she’s got something bigger to fix than simply needing to chew, I have hopes to get her in really good balance, and as soon as her teeth are sturdy, she can have bones whether she’s perfectly healthy or not.

  2. Pingback: How To Stop The Disgusting Habit Of Coprophagia (poop eating) | Dog Treat Recipes and Dog Health News

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