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We May Finally Know Why Your Dog Eats Poop

If you don't spend at least a small portion of every day wondering "why do dogs eat their own poop?" then you've been living a life I don't understand. About 16% of dogs enjoy eating their own fecal matter, and we can't imagine it's because the aroma is so alluring. Finally, scientists at the University of California-Davis have discovered a potential answer to one of mankind's oldest questions, and it involves our canine companions' wolf ancestry.

According to the study, wolves in a den would eat their own poop to eliminate intestinal parasites before they become infectious and affect the whole pack. As wolves evolved into dogs, many of their traits changed, but others lingered. Now, the scientists believe dogs eat their own poop because of an instinctual belief it will improve the overall health of their pack (us).

Elizabeth Krisch, who students animal cognition at Hunter College, commented on how other animals may eat their own feces for nutrients, but dogs need no such thing. She told Fatherly:

It's a really fascinating piece. It's normal to see coprophagy in a species, like rabbits, that require those extra nutrients, but in the case of dogs, this higher-order preventative and adapted intelligence is remarkable.

The authors of the study noted that "as of this writing, there were 11 commercial products specifically marketed for dealing with the problem," but the treatments are almost never effective. In fact, after conducting a survey of 3,000 dog owners, the survey concluded:

The results of their survey (while self-reported and thus limited) suggest that none of the commercial products on the market are effective, that 28 percent of dogs have eaten feces at least once, and that 16 percent of dogs have cheerily gulped down feces at least six times.

While some dogs couldn't get enough poo, and others were much more picky about their dinner, every pooch had something in common: if a "turd" was more than two days old, no one would touch it. The scientists had an explanation:

Leaving the feces alone would allow the ova to hatch into infective larvae that could be picked up on the hair of wolves and groomed off, thus transmitting the parasites. If the feces are consumed while fresh, however, within about 2 days, the larvae will not yet have developed.

So the next time you see your dog eating poop, don't see it as dumb or disgusting—see it as a noble hound living up to its ancient heritage!

H/T - Fatherly, University of California-Davis