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Coprophagia is the consumption of feces. It is a practice common to several animals, including, in rare cases, humans (see below).

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Coprophagia in animals

Coprophagia is a behavior sometimes observed, with considerable disgust, by dog owners. Hofmeister, Cumming, and Dhein (2001) write that this behavior in animals has not been well-researched, and they are (as of this writing) preparing a study. In a preliminary online paper, they write that there are various theories explaining why animals consume other animals' feces. According to one theory, dogs might do this in order to get attention from their owners. On a different theory, dogs observe their owners picking up feces, and imitate this behavior. Other theories postulate that a dog might eat feces in order to prevent the scent from attracting predators, and that dogs might eat feces simply because they are hungry.

Young elephants eat the feces of their mother to obtain the necessary bacteria for the proper digestion of the vegatation found on the savannah. When they are born, their intestines do not contain these bacteria. Without them, these elephants would be unable to get any nutritional value from plants. Hamsters eat their own droppings (called coprophagia , and this is thought to be important as a source of vitamins B and K.

Coprophagia in humans

Coprophagia is a highly hazardous practice in humans, usually associated with coprophilia. Consuming other people's feces carry the risk of contracting a wide variety of diseases, including Hepatitis and AIDS. Note that even consuming ones own feces involves risk, as the bowel bacteria are not safe to ingest. The same advice applies to related sexual practices, such as rimming.


External links

  • [1] (http://www.metrokc.gov/lars/animal/Educate/cassidy/dog/dog15.htm) King County, Washington, Animal Control Section. "Eating His Own or Other Animal Feces."
  • [2] (http://www.thevet.com/vetbhv22.htm) Tomball Veterinary Clinic. "Coprophagia."
  • [3] (http://www.vetinfo.com/deatpoop) Michal Justis. "Coprophagia (eating feces) and other Feces Problems."
  • [4] (http://www.understandinganimals.com/coprophagia) Jocelyn Toner. "Coprophagia - the unfortunately palatable truth."

The behaviour is also seen in rabbits, and has a simple explanation: as they don't have the ruminant digestive system found in larger herbivores, they instead extract more nutrition from grass by giving their food a second pass through the gut.

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