Your dog would probably eat you if you died. Something to ponder the next time you’re snuggling on the sofa with Bean Bag the chihuahua.
While domestication has seen humans turn mighty wolves into the humble pug, evidence points to ancestral traits such as "eating whatever meat is available to you" as having endured to today’s dogs. Though, curiously, where the meal begins differs between domestic and wild animals.
Survival instinct certainly has played a role in historic cases, including a 2007 case study detailing an incident involving the canine scavenging of human remains in an indoor setting. The case involved two domestic dogs that were found to have nearly completely consumed their owner's body after being confined inside a building with the remains for a month.
A chow and a labrador mix were found inside the home of a missing person, alongside human bones. Analysis of the scene revealed no signs of decomposition at the site of the human remains, nor any blood or pupal casings usually associated with a decaying corpse. The bones were almost completely clean of soft tissue apart from some ligament still attached to the long femur bones, and gnaw marks and punctures indicative of canine scavenging were seen.
Animals eating humans is far from a novel find, but as the authors of the paper detail, most research on the subject has been limited to wild animals in an outdoor setting. The culprits are also more commonly animals like coyotes and wolves rather than domesticated pets.
“While scavenging behavior has been observed for coyotes, wolves, hyenas and other canines in natural outdoor environments, little information is available concerning canine scavenging of human remains in an indoor setting,” wrote the study authors.
“While cases of canine scavenging of their owners are scant in the literature, this phenomenon is probably not uncommon.”
When it comes to eating human owners, it’s usually cats that get the blame – and, to be fair, they have been found to be partial to snacking on the human dead. In case you were interested, they tend to favor the face, targeting softer areas like the nose and lips.
They're not too selective about knowing the corpse either, as a body farm made a most surprising find when they realized that felines had been sneaking onto the property to feed on human remains being used for scientific research.
However, the rep is somewhat unfair, as the scant evidence surrounding dogs and their consumption of their owners indicates they’re partial to a face nibble too. A harrowing review from National Geographic details a few instances of this, including one case of a dog eating its owner's face within 45 minutes of his death despite there being half a bowl of food on the floor.
It seems scavenging on the part of pets isn’t always limited to situations of desperation, with several dogs having been found to have eaten their owners when alternative food sources were available. Furthermore, “good boys” are no exception, so the closeness of your canine companion won’t necessarily stop them from having a taste.
That taste might be the difference between mourning turning into a meal, as it’s possible the taste and scent of blood can be a trigger for carnivorous animals. As your pup protests your silence with an inquisitive nip to the nose, an innate compulsion to feed might take over and the deceased have few defenses in trying to stay off the menu.
So, it seems the answer to “will my dog eat me if I die,” is yes, almost certainly, but don’t let that make things awkward. After all, it’s only natural.