July 17, 2016

The Dirty Truth About Why Animals Eat Poop.

aga ben in fores

Life was anything but dull the moment I rescued my four-year-old chocolate lab. Or maybe it was he who rescued me.

I first saw Ben in an ad posted by the Humane Society. Ben’s big brown eyes drew me in before even seeing him in person and in that moment I knew we belonged together. Three days later Ben was mine to bring home.

My heart flooded with joy, Ben and I had an instant connection. Our bond was deep, like we had known each other always. Ben didn’t skip a beat. Shortly after he settled into his new surroundings the shenanigans began.

Just like taking care of a kid, being a doggie mom was a full time job. In the blink of an eye, if one’s not paying attention, something serious could pop up. I learned this the hard way when a trail of shredded pieces of what was once a soft ball led me to a sick pup. This led to an emergency visit to the vet and a vow to keep a close watch on Ben moving forward.

Ben and I live an active lifestyle and exploring the trails behind my house is one of our favourite things to do. I can tell Ben is in his element by the way he manoeuvres through the forest. He roams the dead brush off the beaten path with a purpose. I let him explore freely.

It wasn’t long before I started picking up on Ben’s ‘quirks’. I’m just going to say it:

Ben loves dung; and by love I mean he devours it.

I didn’t see this dirty deed as an odd animal behaviour until a guy passing us on the trail one day, abruptly stopped in front of us. “Your dog is eating poop,” he said slightly disgusted. Without skipping a beat I smiled and responded with, “Well, there goes his third day of sobriety.” That’s when I pondered whether or not this was an odd behaviour even for an animal.

Ben was picky about his dung too. He preferred harder stool as opposed to a fresh, soft pile of poo. Curious about my dog’s love for dung and his preferred poo of choice, I reached out to my vet. There I learned more about stool than I ever wanted to know.

Luckily there is a lot of research already on the matter. A study done by Dr. Benjamin Hart on animal behaviour concluded this was an innate behaviour passed on from ancestral canids. According to this research, dogs and other animals eat poop to protect themselves from parasites.

For those still keeping up with me on this or for those concerned about their furry friends, here is a little more insight on the subject. Dr. Hart’s study found that 24% (1 in 4) dogs are habitual dung eaters. 16% of them classified as “serious” stool eaters, meaning they have been caught in the act multiple times. A female dogs and those that habitually steal food from tables are more likely to get down on the dung. The reasons can vary from parasites, diet deficiencies, malabsorption, Cushing’s disease, diabetes and other conditions that might cause an increase in appetite.

Fortunately, Ben is healthy and doesn’t have any of these conditions. The truth is Ben has likes and dislikes just like anybody; and for whatever reason, he’s into poo. Leave it to me to find the dirt on why dogs literally eat sh*t. For now, I dodge Ben’s smooches and hope that with behavioural training, supervised walks, and using treats for positive reinforcement that he will eventually kick this nasty habit.


Author: Aga Wyrzykowska

Photo: Taken by Author ; Flickr/Taro the Shiba Inu

Apprentice Editor: Alexis Alvarez

Editor: Erin Lawson

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