Study: Dogs Who Eat Poop Prefer Their Own Brand
So, have you ever been grossed out because your dog eats his poop? C’mon, we’re all friends here. You can admit it.
Scientists now believe they have a reason for it, and it goes back to the wolf ancestors of today’s domesticated dogs. They suggest that wolves participated in the delicacy that is poop-eating because it protected them from parasite prention, even though they obviously didn’t know that was the reason.
Eating poop is known as coprophagia, and a lot of mammals actually do so. Rabbits, rodents, elephants and non-human primates eat their own feces and most experts believe they do so to get all the nutrients they can from food–even the second-time around after it’s already been dropped as excrement. Researchers have even found domestic dogs to eat poop when they are nutritionally starved by diet or disease.
But even healthy, well-fed dogs eat poop, right? Scientists believe that puppies can learn this from their mama dogs, as mamas will lick their babies to encourage them to get rid of waste and clean them up after they’ve done so. The American Kennel Club says that most dogs will outgrow the poop-eating stage by the time they are around nine-months-old, but not all do.
The researchers think that dogs who DO continue to eat their own poop are interesting in that most dogs will typically try to avoid being in/near their own poop (a basis for kennel/crate training), and again, that behavior is most likely from wolf ancestors who tried to keep parasite-laden poop away from their living spaces.
The researchers gathered almost 3,000 survey responses (from two online surveys) of U.S. and Canadian dog owners, looking at habits of dogs who did and didn’t eat poop. One survey was specifically for the owners of poop-eaters, and looked at frequency and type of poop their pup preferred.
They found that in the general survey, sixteen percent responded that they’d seen their dogs eating poop, and not because they had psychological or dietary issues. Of those, 82% said that the poop they saw their dogs eat was never more than two-days-old, leading researchers to suggest that poop eaters are picky, and prefer fresh poop. In both surveys, the researchers found this to be true, and believe it goes back to wolvish behaviors from their ancestors.
In the Wild, wolves get rid of intestinal parasite eggs in their poop, and those eggs lay dormant for a few days bfore they actually develop into infectious larvae. If the wolves ate the poop fresh, they’d be getting rid of the risk of parasite infection, the researchers believe, with nature guiding their habit.
The researchers were sure to say that they’ve not observed wolves actually do this, so any conclusions are still tentative.
For those who have poop eaters, though? Maybe a bit of unwelcome news–the researchers found that in dogs who liked fresh poop snacks, it was not easy to take that taste away. Seems that the taste for poop is just too compelling.
More by Lori Ennis