It’s pretty gross to think about, and it seems like it would be incredibly unhealthy for the animal. But is it? Today we’re going to explore why dogs, rabbits, rodents and other animals eat their own (and sometimes other animal’s) poop.
That’s disgusting! Why do they do it?
Quite a surprising number of animals will eat their poop regularly. Animals like rabbits, rodents, gorillas, many insects (such as dung beetles and flies), and even man’s best friend – dogs. Some omnivores and herbivores (like rodents and rabbits) will consume their own feces because a diet of plants and vegetable material is hard to digest. Eating their feces gives them another chance to get more nutrients from their food. It’s very similar to a cow chewing cud, except that cows are able to re-eat their food without having to poop it out first.
So What About Dogs?
Dogs and other animals will eat their poop because it contains vitamins created by the bacteria that lives in their intestinal tract. They are unable to absorb those vitamins through their intestinal wall, but will be able to get at them by eating the feces after it has been passed. Another important reason is that poop contains a fair amount of undigested protein. If you own both a dog and a cat, you may have noticed your dog making a dinner out of the cat’s poop. This is because cat poop contains a considerable amount of protein. Worms and parasites can also cause a dog to eat its own feces. Those nasty little organisms can leech vital nutrients from a dog or other animal, causing it to eat poop.
- Bird poop is white because birds don’t urinate. Their kidneys extract waste from the bloodstream, and instead of excreting it dissolved in urine as we do, they excrete it as uric acid. Because uric acid isn’t very soluble in water, it is excreted as white goo.
- The average American male passes one-third of a pound (1.3kg) of feces every day. That’s just over a half a ton a year.
- Stool transplants are a real thing. A study released at the American College of Gastroenterology found that transplanting stool was an effective treatment for recurring diarrhea associated with a C. difficile bacterial infections. Stool transplants have also helped to treat inflammatory bowel disease.
While we’re on the topic, here is an informative infographic about – you guessed it, poop: