Dogs eat pooh because they are short of bioavailable nutrients and micronutrients (vitamins etc) in their diet. The sensation of hunger is the body asking for nutrients and micronutrients in their whole, natural form, with their natural enzymes attached, as they would be in nature. Cooking and processing destroy these precious enzymes rendering the nutrients and micronutrients in the food unavailable to the body. So even after eating, the sensation of hunger continues. This is the main cause of obesity in both the human and pet population.
Here Are The Two Main Reasons Why Dogs Eat Their Own Pooh
Firstly, fed a diet of processed food, the digestive system is unable to break it down and absorb it. Undigested food reaches the large bowel where most of the beneficial bowel flora (probiotics, ‘friendly’ bacteria) live. They will attempt to digest and break down this undigested food, releasing noxious gases (flatulence) as they do. This process continues within the faeces once they have been expelled from the body. So the pooh contains partially digested food and loads of probiotics, a very attractive prospect for a dog that is starved of micronutrients!
Adding digestive enzymes (Pet Plus) to the food will enable it to be digested, absorbed and utilized in the gut, reducing flatulence, so the pet’s pooh won’t contain anything like as much attractive nutrition!
Secondly, pets fed on a processed food diet will not be able to access the nutrients and micronutrients efficiently, so they will be hungry for these essential ingredients. As their pooh will be full of bacteria and undigested food particles, they will eat their own pooh in a desperate attempt to nourish themselves. Adding Pet Plus to their diet supplies those desperately needed micronutrients, so the pets no longer feel the need to eat their pooh to satisfy their hunger.
Of course, behavioral abnormalities can also account for this habit, but these are very very rare.
Why Does My Cat Not Eat Pooh?
Cats rarely suffer from this condition as they are much more careful about what they eat. Cats are obligate carnivores, whereas dogs are more adaptable carnivores, being happy to scavenge whatever they can. Also, cats usually have access to hunting, so can contribute to satisfying their nutritional needs by devouring the wildlife.
Who’s Pooh Are They Eating?
Dogs absolutely love to eat herbivores’ pooh because it is bursting with excellent nutrients. In the wild, carnivores would consume whole herbivores guts and all, so would naturally eat their pooh whist still warm inside their prey!
Herbivores eat grass and other vegetation and have the teeth to grind it up and the digestive system to digest and absorb this notoriously difficult substrate, whereas carnivores are very poor at digesting vegetation.
There are two digestion techniques in land based herbivores, depending on where the fermentation chamber is. Ungulates, like cows and sheep, have a huge fermentation chamber at the beginning of their digestive tract, the rumen (tripe), followed by three other stomachs, all involved in the digestion of vegetation. The rumen especially is full of healthy bacteria and other micro-organisms which digest and ferment the cellulose cell walls. The rumen contents are burped up and chewed again many times (eructation, chewing the cud!) aiding the bacterial fermentation process and, releasing the nutrients inside the cells for absorption by the cow, sheep or goat.
Their pooh is full of these wonderful bacteria and some partially digested vegetation, but you never see cows, sheep or goats or any other ungulates eating their own pooh! Their digestive system is so efficient, having the fermentation chamber at the beginning of the digestive tract and chewing the cud many times, that they don’t need to eat it all twice.
However, other types of herbivore like horses and rabbits have their fermentation chamber at the end of their digestive tract, so they actually have to eat their own pooh. This is called coprophagia and is an essential part of their digestive process. Horses and rabbits that are denied this activity suffer from severe nutritional imbalances.
Chewing and enzymatic activities do break down some of the cellulose cell walls, releasing a certain amount of the nutrients to be absorbed in the small intestine and utilized by the body, but many cells get through into the large intestine unscathed! The micro-organisms in the large bowel of the horse and rabbit ferment the partially digested food, breaking down more cellulose cell walls and releasing more nutrients, but much of this fermented food is lost at defecation. It is essential for the horse or rabbit to eat this special fermented food again so they can absorb the nutrients that have been released. Dogs love to eat this too as it provides them with partially digested vegetation, loads of probiotics and the prebiotics necessary for their health.
Can We Stop The Need For This ‘Disgusting’ Habit?
If your dog decides to vomit in the car soon after a bit of pooh eating, or to breathe on you or even try to lick your face as you’re taking your boots off, you certainly know that this is an unsociable activity! If you provide your dogs with all the nutrients and micronutrients they need, there will be no nutritional need to eat their own or anyone else’s pooh. So feed bioavailable food (raw meat, bone and liquidized greens) and a whole food supplement like Pet Plus to satisfy all their nutritional requirements. For more details, please see the diet sheet.