A Tasteful Discussion
Like any companion or roommate, dogs — for all their love and cuteness—have habits we just don’t understand. One question dog owners often ask their pets: “Why? Why would you eat poop?”
When we polled* dog owners recently, most thought it was because a dog is lacking nutrients (49%), they’re anxious (43%) or they just think it tastes good (40%).
Dogs are significantly more likely to eat the droppings of another species (e.g., horses, rabbits) than their own.
But Why? Whyyyyy?
We held our noses and got to the bottom of the issue with the help of some experts.
Do Dogs Eat Poop Because They Lack Nutrients?
While those in our poll thought this was the number-one reason for the behavior, it has actually never been proven. “It’s a myth dogs eat poop because they’re seeking nutrients they aren’t getting. There’s no evidence to back this,” says
Opens a new windowDr. Jo Gale, BVetMed CertLAS MRCVS, Senior Manager, Global Science Advocacy at Waltham Petcare Science Institute.
Do Dogs Eat Poop Because They're Anxious?
Opens a new windowDr. Tammie King, Applied Behavior Technical Leader at Waltham Petcare Science Institute, “It can occur where there is lack of environmental enrichment. You see this often in dogs who are kenneled and have a lack of opportunity to exhibit normal canine behavior.” So if you need another excuse to get out and play with your pooch, this is a good one.
Do Dogs Eat Poop Because of the Taste?
Believe it or not, this is the main reason dogs eat poop. Dr. Jo Gale explains: “Dogs are scavengers by nature and use any opportunity to eat what they can, when they can. They consider it a ‘tasty snack.’” Dr. Tammie King adds that “[Dogs eating poop] is a learned behavior. They’ve done it, enjoyed it, and that behavior is repeated.”
We love our dogs so much that we’re willing to trust our best friends on this. Maybe we should come out with a line of doggie breath mints though. Hmm.
Is Eating Poop Harmful to Dogs?
“Ingesting feces from any animal increases potential for ingesting parasites and pathogens,” cautions Opens a new windowDr. James Serpell BSc, Phd Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. He went on to say, “[It’s] not something humans should ignore, but it's not worth getting too excited about it.”
All the experts we consulted said that if your dog occasionally eats poop, it’s nothing to be overly alarmed by. Just keep an eye on the frequency and their overall health. And as always, make sure they’re getting a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise and attention. If you have any concerns contact your vet.
Despite dogs liking the taste of poop, we’re going to stick with the healthy range of more traditional flavors offered in all IAMS dog foods.
*Surveyed U.S. dog owners, age 18+
Sample Size: n=201
Fielded May 8 to May 10, 2020
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adp_related_article_block275IAMS™ Company Statement on BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy)
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What Is Bloat?
Bloat is a life-threatening condition that acts rapidly and can lead to death within hours if not recognized and treated immediately. Unfortunately, the cause of bloat remains unknown at this time.
The scientific term for bloat is gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV. Bloat is characterized by rapid and abnormal expansion of the stomach with gas (dilatation). This can be followed by rotation of the stomach (volvulus). This rotation closes both the entry to and exit from the stomach. The blood vessels also are closed down, and blood flow is restricted.
What follows is an increase in pressure inside the stomach and compression of the surrounding organs. Eventually, shock will occur as a result of the restricted blood flow. Here are a few key facts about bloat:
- Bloat should always be treated as a medical emergency.
- Bloat can kill a dog within hours after onset.
- The cause of bloat is unknown.
- Bloat affects 36,000 dogs in the United States each year; 30% die as a result of this condition.
- Bloat can occur in dogs of any age.
- Certain breeds are more susceptible to bloat, particularly deep-chested dogs.
- The stomach rapidly expands with gas then rotates on the long axis. Entry to and exit from the stomach is prohibited, causing blood vessels to close and restriction of blood flow.
Signs of Bloat
Bloat is a true medical emergency, and early identification and treatment is critical to survival.
In the early stages of bloat, the dog will be very uncomfortable. You might see him pacing and whining or trying unsuccessfully to get into a comfortable position. He might seem anxious, might lick or keep staring at his stomach, and might attempt to vomit, without success.
Other indications of bloat can include weakness, swelling of the abdomen, and even signs of shock. Signs of shock are increased heart rate and abnormally rapid breathing.
If you notice these signs, call your veterinarian immediately!
- Inability to get comfortable
- Pacing or restlessness
- Pale gums
- Unproductive attempts to vomit
- Abnormally rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Pain, weakness
- Swelling of the abdomen (particularly the left side)
Helping Prevent Bloat
These suggestions could help you prevent bloat in your dog. However, they are based on suspected risk factors and are not guaranteed to prevent the onset of bloat.
- Feed small amounts of food frequently, two to three times daily.
- Avoid exercise for one hour before and two hours after meals.
- Don't let your dog drink large amounts of water just before or after eating or exercise.
- If you have two or more dogs, feed them separately to avoid rapid, stressful eating.
- If possible, feed at times when after-feeding behavior can be observed.
- Avoid abrupt diet changes.
- If you see signs of bloat, call your veterinarian immediately.
Another way you might help prevent bloat is to feed a high-quality, highly digestible food with normal fiber levels.
Feeding management offers the best method available for reducing risk until the exact cause of bloat can be identified. Although not 100% effective, these measures can reduce the number of dogs that face this serious, life-threatening condition.
- German Shepherd
- Bouvier de Flandres
- Great Dane
- St. Bernard
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Irish Setter
- Gordon Setter
- Irish Wolfhound
- Labrador Retriever
- Basset Hound
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