When my daughter, still in diapers, was a year old, her father and I took a road trip with her and her sister across the country. While I prepared a snack for the non-nursing bodies in the car, I accidentally dropped one of the rice cakes that I had smeared with smooth, sticky almond butter. A small blob of the creamy, brown butter inadvertently plopped on my blouse which I quickly scooped up, finger-to-mouth, before passing the cakes around to waiting hungry mouths. Yum, yum, crunch, crunch, smack, smack…each enjoyed their mid-day nourishment before relaxing into a mesmerizing afternoon of moving scenery flying past our gaze.

After awhile, my little diapered darling signaled to me her need for a change. Efficiently, with motherly precision, I quickly accomplished the deed as she lay on my lap in the front passenger seat. (Those were the days long before infant car seats became a mandated, but safer, option.) I basked in the temporary satisfaction of clean booty and clean hands, while my little lap-child and I played patty cake together.  As our giggles increased, and I shifted our positions in the front seat, I noticed a small blob of almond butter on my skirt that had previously escaped my notice. Once again implementing my finger-to-mouth, keep-the-car-clean efficiency, I scooped up the insignificant little blob, and deposited it between my lips. Smacking tongue-to-teeth, I reacted almost instantly to the acrid sting of baby girl feces. Yikes!

From that day to this, I have tolerated being the brunt of well-meaning jokes in our family, “Mom has a poop-eating disorder!” Coprophagia is the medical term for the habit of eating poop. Well, that being said, it is an interesting phenomenon when mammals truly do develop this disconcerting behavior. Whether it be a bad habit stemming from a psychological cause, or a physical craving catalyzed by a nutrient deficiency, eating poop is a disgusting, but extremely common behavior in pets, especially dogs. I am warming up to the idea, for a future Wellness Cafe post, of exploring the topic as related to humans.

In the following video, holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker discusses this all-too-common problem for many dog and cat owners

There is actually one stage in a female dog’s or cat’s life when coprophagia is expected, that is during pregnancy. An underlying medical problem, or a dietary deficiency, can cause a dog to develop coprophagia. When the activity is long-standing and behavioral in nature, it can be difficult to eradicate the habit.