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Harp's avatar

(Gross Alert!!!) Is ingesting fecal matter less harmful to my dog than it would be to me?

Asked by Harp (19152points) July 24th, 2008

Given how they clean themselves, it seems inevitable that our pets will end up ingesting a fair amount of e. coli and other goodies. If I were to do the same (and I want to stress here that I do not), would I be more likely to get sick than they are? Sorry for the imagery

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14 Answers

charliecompany34's avatar

it’s ok for pups to eat their stool. as they were welped shortly after birth, the mother di the same to keep the area clean. young puppies crave pristine stool matter as it replaces nutrients his body needs. it’s a normal behavior, but with proper veterinary care and check-ups, it can be maintained and/or corrected. a home remedy, sprinkle adolph’s meat tenderizer on the dry food. and quickly pick up matter and discard. gross habit for humans, yes. pups? they’ll get over it.

marinelife's avatar

We are having to work with our grayhound who does this. (it is fairly common in ex-racing greyhounds.) It is a habit that you want to discourage. (not least because if they do it and breathe on you, it is gross!

This site goes through the causes (which vary) and offers some excellent suggestions. One I think is really important is to make sure you are feeding a high quality food.

Harp's avatar

I guess I’m mostly interested to know why dogs and cats aren’t keeling over from bacterial infections. We’re so conscious of preventing any avenues of fecal contamination to humans; why are we so much more vulnerable? Or are we, really?

marinelife's avatar

Oh, good, syz is posting. I know that I have read that dogs are more able to handle infections and bacteria. Their digestive systems. I cannot for the life of me find the reference right now.

syz's avatar

Coprophagia (eating fecal matter) is fairly common in dogs. There are varying theories on why dogs do it (maternal training, zinc deficiency, etc). It doesn’t tend to create problems but in some cases can cause diarrhea from a bacterial imbalance (and it certainly increases the chance of injesting intestinal parasites). For those with a pet with this quirk, there is a product called “Forbid” (it’s actually meat tenderizer) which, when sprinkled on the animals’ food, causes the poop to be unpalatable (hard to imagine that it was palatable in the first place). Of course, the product only works if they are eating their own poop.

As to why it doesn’t make them sick, I’m afraid there seems to be very little research and only anecdotal answers. In my own opinion, the fact that dogs are ominvores and opportunistic feeders would seem to require that they have a more sturdy digestive constitution.

My (even more out there) personal opinion is that we as humans have weakened ourselves through the use of durgs and antibiotics. If you read the history of modern medicine, you will find that (some) people would voluntarily hold still while having ivasive surgery such as gall bladder removal and appendix surgery without the aid of any anesthesia or pain control (because it hadn’t been invented yet). During the civil war, soldiers would have limbs amputated with rusty, bloody, fly covered instruments. In all of these examples, the surprising thing isn’t that many died, but that some survived.

I see dogs walk into the clinic with broken legs swinging freely and wagging their tails. I see cats that have fallen from windows and been pierced belly to back by a broken branch and survive. I have seen animals survive things that I know a human most likely would not. I think that they don’t have as many repercussions for doing something as questionable as eating their own fecal matter because they’re tougher than us.

Ok, done with my rant now….sorry.

kapuerajam's avatar

actualy (you probaly know this if you saw the bucket list) one of the best coffees is made from poop (animal eats beans then poops them out and we drink)

Harp's avatar

I did just find this study which indicates that humans do acquire immunity to e.coli by exposure:

“Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli strains represent the most frequent etiological agent of travelers diarrhea. Challenge studies with several of these strains were undertaken in volunteers to evaluate the mechanisms of disease-induced immunity. Seventeen students and other community volunteers were given 106 or 108 organisms of E. coli B7A (O148:H28), which produces heat-labile and heat-stable enterotoxins. Ten individuals developed diarrheal illness closely resembling natural travelers diarrhea; of these ten, rises in titer of serum antitoxin and anti-O antibody occurred in eight (80%). Eight of the volunteers who developed diarrhea in the first test agreed to undergo rechallenge 9 weeks later with 108 B7A organisms. Only one of these eight “veterans” developed diarrhea versus seven of twelve controls given the same challenge (P = 0.05). Despite clinical protection, all “veterans” excreted B7A after rechallenge. Four controls who developed diarrhea during the homologous B7A rechallenge test were rechallenged 9 weeks later with 109 organisms of E. coli strain E2528-C1 (O25:H-), which produces only heat-labile enterotoxin and possesses a different O, H, and pili antigen composition than B7A. Three of four “veterans” and two of six controls developed comparable diarrhea. These studies demonstrate that prior disease due to enterotoxigenic E. coli confers homologous immunity against subsequent challenge, and the operative mechanism apparently is not bactericidal and is not mediated by serum anti-O antibodies.”

I love the implied backstory of this dry scientific prose, namely that ten people in the first trial got diarrhea, then eight agreed to be re-infected. Doesn’t it make you think about what that internal dialog might have been like?

syz's avatar

@kapuerajam The coffee had been eaten and excreted by a civet (sort of a primitive precursor to the cat family). The thought is that the civets know which coffee fruits are exactly ripe and so every bean will be perfectly picked. (And the poop is thorughly cleaned off.)

I actually had to navigate the US Postal Service beaurocracy one time to “ship civet shit” (say that three times fast!). I worked at a facility that maintained a population of civiets in NC and I was contacted by an organization having an AIDS fundraiser in San Francisco who were was autioning off a lb of the coffee. They wanted some of the poop for a display.

Knotmyday's avatar

@syz- was it this kind of display?

sorry Ben…

newfluthermember's avatar

I actually have a question regarding eating fecal matter. I found my baby eating his own poop after only leaving him in his high chair for a few minutes…his diaper had come loose and that’s how he got access to his own poop. I immediately washed his face and mouth (first then washed him). I gave him a little bit of olive oil because my mom told me too but I was wondering if I should give him something else??? Does anybody know what I should do to help him (besides taking him to the doctor because I’m already doing that tomorrow morning)??? thank you

Knotmyday's avatar

newfluther: This actually sounds like a new topic. Why not post the question? While you are posting, here’s the same topic posted in Yahoo answers. Good luck!

Buttonstc's avatar

Your post is the funniest thing I have read in a long long time and this immediately popped (not pooped) into my mind. Should it be:

She ships civet shit by the seashore


She sells civet shit by the seashore?

:) :) :)

wilbert's avatar

absolutely. this is not weird for animals, because sometimes due to their digestive system, a lot of nutrient are loss so the consumption helps them regain or absorb nutrients that were loss while they discharged. Look at it this way, cow have 3 stomachs and are always chewing, not new grass, but cud, grass their bellies could not digest and basically vomit it up and chew again until soft enough for their bodies to absorb all nutrients. We don’t have to go so far to find examples of this, as many refugees will drink own urine as it is less salty than sea water and will prevent dehydration and keep them alive for the long trip here.

pinkparaluies's avatar

I love this post. My dog eats rabbit poop frequently. Makes you wonder..

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