If you’re eating while reading, you might want to stop because we are about to discuss the science behind why dogs eat their poop. According to this icky yet informative video by Gross Science, the technical term for this disgusting doggie behavior is known as coprophagia. Attaching a fancy name to this habit doesn’t make us feel any better, but perhaps it’ll bring some clarity to confused pet owners who think buying a different dog food or treating their dog to Starbucks will stop this from happening.
So, whyyyy for the love of God must the animals we love to cuddle with partake in such a stomach-churning, er, tradition? As science journalist Anna Rothschild cheerfully explains, there are a multitude of reasons.
For one, scientists view mother dogs eating their puppies’ poop as “behavioral adaptation to avoid parasites in the wild.” Eating their offsprings’ fresh poop protects the little ones from parasite eggs that haven’t yet become infectious. Puppies go on to mimic this behavior, but as Rothschild notes, they typically grow out of it once they reach adulthood.
BUT THE GROSSNESS DOESN’T STOP THERE.
Other causes of coprophagia include but aren’t limited to adult dogs not getting enough nutrition; dogs attempting to get nutrients that weren’t absorbed the first time around due to digestive issues; stress; associating food with poop (double ew) and a few other gross reasons that will almost make you want to reconsider dog ownership. (Almost — we really lurve dogs.)
Sigh. Learning all of this is about as stressful as seeing your dog do the deed in question, especially because there’s not really a surefire way to prevent it, according to the video. Anyway, if this is causing you to have an unhealthy relationship with your dog, try taking to them to the vet to find out whether there’s a physical issue or cleaning up the poop before they get to it.
Above all else, try not to judge them for their bad habits because if they distanced themselves from humans based on our horrible habits, we have a feeling there would be a huge drop in the percentage of pet owners.