Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop & Grass and Other Nasty Stuff?

I am embarrassed to admit that my beautiful Bichon dog eats poop. Cat poop. She loves it like a kid loves candy. A vet once told me that she eats it “because it tastes good to her.”

And she loves toilet paper. With three bathrooms in my home, if I am not constantly monitoring the situation and creating bathroom barricades, she could probably down a whole roll, what with her travels throughout the house while I am out during the day. Or at the very least mutilate a roll to the point of making it unusable for us humans!

She used to chow down on copious quantities of grass, including lawn clippings if she got the chance, and occasionally enjoys a good graze to this day, but poop is truly her flavor of the moment!

So why do dogs eat grass and poop? If you asked 10 vets, you will likely get 10 different answers. I have read many articles on this subject and will try to give you the “poop” on the nasty things your dog eats.

Dogs cannot digest vegetable matter as horses and cows do, so it has no nutritional value for them. Yet they eat it. Much research has been done on this subject and grass has been found in the stomachs of up to 80% of wild dogs. It’s natural to eat it.

And that old wives tale that we’ve passed on from generation to generation telling us that grass settles a dogs’ stomach or that eating grass helps a dog who is ill throw up are also not true. Contrary to popular belief grass eating is not always followed by vomiting. My dog never vomits when she eats grass.

Studies have shown that in 80% of dogs who eat grass, less than 20% of them actually vomit afterwards. Conclusions showed that if a dog was ill before eating grass, he would be more likely to vomit after, case closed. A dog’s diet seemed irrelevant to grass eaters. It didn’t matter if they were fed raw, or kibble, or table scraps, or if their diet was full of fibre already. Bottom line? Eating grass is a common behavior in normal dogs.

As for poop eaters, females eat their puppies’ poop when they are newborns as part of the cleaning process, but that doesn’t explain why an adult dog would eat other dog or cat poop. Looking for vitamins and minerals or other nutrients? I think not.

Another theory is that dogs eat feces or grass because they have worms. This whole theory is actually backwards as dogs get worms from eating grass (larvae crawl up grass stems) or poop. They eat and get worms, not have worms and then eat.

Another suggestion is that dogs self-medicate: maybe plant and poop eating serve a biological purpose. Eating fibrous materials may actually help expel intestinal parasites? How smart are our dogs in this regard as in this day and age, we seldom see high worm loads in our dogs as we might if they were in the wild. NOTE: Be sure to worm your dog on a regular basis. It is relatively inexpensive and will protect your pet and yourself from the many types of worms they can pick up and pass along to us!

Basically, dogs are nosy. All dogs sniff in the great outdoors, especially puppies. They like to check things out and they do this primarily with their nose.

The thing to remember is that to a dog, eating grass or poop is normal. Every spring, my dog loves to go outside and chow down on the delicate shoots of fresh grass coming up in my front yard. And my neigbour’s rose garden is poop haven for the cats in our area. I try to stay one step ahead of my dog and keep her out of the poop buffet next door.

There are no easy answers for this disgusting behaviour. I did some research on dog eating disorders and found information about a dog eating disorder called “PICA,” which my dog clearly has. According to this article “PICA” is the eating of non-edible items, which can be caused by psychological factors. I like to think of myself as pretty stable and having provided my dog with a relaxed home to grow up and grow old in so I found this far-fetched. Besides, compared to some of my friends’ dogs who eat items like tube socks and panties, my dogs’ eating habits seem pretty normal to me.

Why do they do it? In conclusion, as my vet once told me years back, “Because it probably tastes good.” That answer doesn’t make it any easier for us to stomach though, does it?

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