We received a note from K9 Magazine reader Kerry. She was puzzled about a particular piece of behaviour her dog put on when they were out for a morning walk.
Here’s her email (which she has given us permission to publish):
This morning, Tina our nine month old pup encountered a fairly fresh pile of horse dung. At first she sniffed it and then she tried to eat it so I shouted for her to stop and then she started to roll around in it. My question is whether this is normal behaviour or does she have some sort of deficiency in her diet that would make her want to eat something nasty like that?
Well Kerry, your dog is neither strange nor sick. Many dogs appear to have this particularly unpleasant predilection for eating or rolling in horse mess.
First things first. You were right to try and prevent your dog from eating it. It’s not good. Horse dung can also include the presence of horse wormer so that’s even more reason to prevent your dog from doing it along with the fact that it’s just plain nasty!
The presence of equine parasite treatments such as Ivemectin can be very hazardous to dogs (breeds such as Collies, Staffies, Whippets/Greyhounds and Australian Shepherds are particularly vulnerable), so if you witness a dog that has recently eaten horse poop behaving strangely, consult your vet immediately and explain what’s happened.
Why do dogs eat horse dung?
Ever smelled a can of freshly opened dog meat? How about tripe that’s been hung for a while? What about an animal carcass that’s been in the sun for a few hours? Disgusting, right? Your dog will try to eat ALL of those things and don’t pretend otherwise. You know it, I know it, they know it. Let’s not try and deny the obvious, our dogs show a fondness for consuming some seriously smelly stuff.
What seems awfully off putting for us can serve as a delicious treat to our four legged pals. The smellier the better seems to be their motto. So horse poop is just another delicacy on the canine menu. To a dog, a fresh pile of horse dung is a high fibre breakfast meal with a particularly arousing odour. It’s like an enticing bowl of Weetabix, if the Weetabix came out of a horse’s bum. As stated though, if you don’t personally know the backside the horse it came from and everything that’s been given to that horse then you should be quick to stop your dog before they get too many mouthfuls down their neck – and even if you do know the horse in question, don’t let your dog scoff their delicious dung deposits, it’s just, you know, nasty.
You might be somewhat comforted to know that from our mini survey of dog owners, there wasn’t a single one of us who owned or had owned a dog that DIDN’T try to scoff horse muck. They seem to view it as free food that should be eaten as quickly as possible. Yuck!
Why do dogs roll around in horse poop?
There’s a school of thought that dogs smear themselves in pungent material (like horse poop) because it disguises their own smell. Well, they’re not wrong are they? You take the dog out for a walk smelling all fresh and reassuringly doggy and the journey home you find yourself holding your nose so as to not get a strong whiff of Stinky McStinkface who seems quite proud of himself as he showcases his fondness for eau de dung.
A dog might want to disguise his smell because somewhere, in the very back of the ancient part of his canine brain, he thinks by smelling like horse poop he’s gained an advantage over his predators and his prey. By smelling like animal excrement he’ll be less detectable and will blend in to his environment more. Now, quite why he’d want to do that when he lives in a nice detached house in Cheshire we can only guess. But he does. He still thinks he’s a wolf, bless him. Speaking of which, you won’t be surprised to learn that wolves do this to. They roll around in horse muck, buffalo dung and all manner of stinky animal carcasses. Wild wolves have the same penchant for coating themselves in smelly stuff as our domestic pet dogs which is just another reminder that domesticated canines, at heart, are never slow to show us they’ve got a few ancestral tricks up the sleeves of their designer dog coats even if some of those tricks happen to be, quite frankly, gross.
Rest assured Kerry. Your dog is 100% normal.