VCA La Mirada Animal Hospital

Why does my dog love to roll in stinky stuff?

Published: Oct 26, 2012

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Many dog owners will be familiar with this scenario: You're out enjoying a nice stroll with your canine companion, when suddenly, she takes off and starts rolling in something on the ground. The next thing you know, you have a happy canine who smells terrible. This behavior can be annoying, but it's common among all types of dogs, big and small. Understanding the motive behind this behavior may make it easier to prevent it from happening in the future.

According to Psychology Today, the jury is still out on exactly why dogs like to roll in smelly stuff, but there is one prevailing theory that makes the most sense. It's important to remember that though we may treat them as though they're equal members of the family, canines are still animals, and much of their behavior, including this malodorous tendency, is dictated by instinct.

Dogs are pack animals, and may choose to roll in things like dead animals or even feces in order to disguise their own scent. It might make you sick to your stomach, but your canine may think that by coating herself in rotting fish, she's more likely to be able to sneak up on prey in the wild. Of course, we know that most domestic dogs today do very little hunting, but canines will still act on their evolutionary instinct.

Dr. Stanley Coren, who penned the article for Psychology Today, presents another interesting theory on the matter. He thinks that some canines may roll in pungent things because they enjoy the stimulation they get from the smell. It's a well-known fact that dogs love to sniff, so literally throwing themselves into strong-smelling stuff may be their way of saying, "I like this experience!"

Whatever the reason, pet owners must make sure that this behavior doesn't end up putting their canine at risk. If you see your dog not just rolling in, but eating feces, then you have a more serious problem on your hands. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, dogs who eat feces may be exhibiting medical issues that will require a visit to one of the nearby vet clinics.

Coprophagia in dogs may be a sign that your dog is not getting enough nutrients in her diet. It can also be indicative of thyroid disease, diabetes, or Cushing's disease in dogs, reports VCA.

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Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

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