I chose an interesting word for today, being "Exotic Friday" and all. Today's veterinary medical term is "coprophagia". Any guesses as to what this word means? I'll give you some hints. It is something that small mammals like rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, and hamsters do. It's also something that some dogs do... but they probably shouldn't.
Still don't know? Let's break down the word. Copro- means feces and -phagia means to eat. Yes, there is really a medical term for this, but why? I know it sounds disgusting, but it is a very important part of life for some animals.
Small mammals have a very special and sensitive gastrointestinal tract. A small mammal's gut needs to be always on the move. This is why they are constantly eating and pooping. It's OK though since this is their job.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small mammals produce two kinds of poops. Pellets, which are the ones you usually see. They are firm and shaped like, well... pellets. The second kind are called cecotropes and are more commonly known as "night feces". Night feces are not usually seen because they are eaten immediately. This is typically done early in the morning, and most pet parents don't even notice. That is where they get the name night feces from. They are a soft grape-like cluster of stool.
These little furry critters' cecum is full of beneficial bacteria that is essential to their health and well-being. This bacteria is consumed with the night feces. The night feces provide small mammals with vital nutrients. Without them, they would become ill and suffer malnutrition. So don't stop it from happening! It is perfectly natural. I have witnessed rabbits and guinea pigs consuming their own fecal pellets, which is OK too.
As for dogs who like to eat snacks from the kitty litter box, that's a whole different story... So there's the poop scoop on coprophagia. Hope I didn't gross anyone out too much!