So, your dog was giving you some ‘welcome home’ kisses when you noticed something on his nose and around his mouth. Ew, it’s cat litter! Just thought of your dog sniffing around the cat’s litter box, let alone eating what’s in it, makes you nauseous.
Many dog owners encountered this problem at least once in their life.
So, why does a dog eat cat poop?
To find out why our four-legged companions eat cat poop, we researched and came up with useful information, so read on!
Last Updated: October 19th 2020
What Is Coprophagia?
Coprophagia or coprophagy is the scientific term for the consumption of feces. This term doesn’t only refer to dogs eating cat poop, but rather to all the animal species eating whichever poop, including their own.
Actually, some animal species eat feces as normal behavior, like lagomorphs, for example. By doing so, they digest rigid plant materials more easily as the food is passing twice through the digestive tract. So, yes, cute little rabbits eat their own poop as a regular part of their diet.
But what about dogs? Why do dogs eat cat poop?
Dogs eating cat poop is not a new phenomenon. This disgusting habit is quite common in canines. Did you know that new canine moms will lick their puppies’ bottoms to stimulate feces’ discharge? No? Well, we didn’t know that either. After that, they often eat what comes out to keep the den free from odors that might attract other predators.
Perhaps this is why many experts say that this particular dogs’ behavior is ‘natural,’ although not necessarily healthy. But why are they doing it? We will undergo all the possibilities, and maybe you could find some answers you are looking for.
Why Is My Dog Eating Cat Poop?
Before we list all the possible reasons dogs eat cat poop, we need to clear something up first. Dogs are omnivores, which means they do not strictly have to eat meat to survive. But do remember that dogs are primarily meat-eaters by nature, and a strict plant-based diet isn’t a good source of nutrition.
On the contrary, cats are obligate carnivores, which means they require meat in their diet and only little carbohydrates to meet their nutritional needs. Cat food and dog food are very different. Cat food is higher in fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. That’s because their bodies require high amounts of protein to operate. Cat’s digestive system works a bit differently than in other animals. It is focused on digesting so much protein, and as a result, their feces often contain a lot of food that hasn’t been fully digested.
Dogs can smell this, and to them, it smells an awful lot like food. However, this isn’t always a case. There are many other reasons why your dog may be eating cat poop.
Reasons Dogs Eat Cat Poop
Before you say ‘Yuck!’, we need to address some things. First of all, one of the reasons dogs don’t find cat poop disgusting may lay in the fact that they contain fewer taste buds than humans. Basically, they’ll put just about anything in their mouth.
Puppies tend to eat almost anything they can find in the environment and they tend to experiment. However, most puppies outgrow this habit over time, but for some, it can stick throughout adulthood.
Now, there could be other factors for coprophagia, like the ones of medical nature.
Another cause behind dog coprophagia might mean that they are experiencing vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Or perhaps the dog is not on the right diet regime; hence there’s a lack of nutrients.
Underfeeding or feeding a poorly digestible diet, digestive enzyme deficiencies (decreased absorption), and parasites could increase appetite, leading to possible stool eating. If you think that your dog is encountering nutritional deficiency, seek a professional opinion. Your vet might recommend adding some extra fiber, fat, or protein in order to balance out your dog’s diet.
Nowadays, nutritional deficiencies are not common because most commercial pet foods are specially designed to meet standard dietary profiles. However, if you’re home-cooking to your dog, it may be a cause since it is challenging to prepare a well-balanced meal without some vet guidance.
Other medical conditions
Conditions such as thyroid disease, diabetes mellitus, or Cushing’s disease can also cause increased appetite. Dogs with such conditions are excessively hungry, and that may lead to them eating stool. Even older dogs can start eating feces due to dementia or senility.
Scavengers by nature
Since dogs are scavengers by nature, eating poop is sometimes part of a natural instinct. Furthermore, dogs will eat just about anything - from garbage, socks, and carpets to rocks and more. So, to them, the cat’s feces is just another thing to scavenge and eat.
Additionally, if your dog is adopted, it means he probably spent a lot of time on the streets or in the shelter. Such dogs often starve and tend to eat anything they can grab on - even another animal’s feces.
Also, puppies can develop coprophagia because they often learn by example. Let’s say their mom or another animal in the house is eating poop - they will quickly pick up this habit.
Anxiety and stress
Dogs are sensitive creatures, and it may come as a surprise, but dogs can experience anxiety just like people. A stressful environment can cause dogs to act strangely, and they’ll likely do something crazy (like eating cat poop) just to alleviate the stress.
One of the common reasons behind coprophagia is just boredom. Dogs require regular physical and mental stimulation. If your dog is often left alone at home, he may start doing some things out of boredom. Coprophagia can quickly turn into a habit, but luckily, it can be fixed. Give your dog more walks, make him run more, and buy him some toys. Hopefully, this will make your dog forget about the litter box for a while.
Is this particular dog’s behavior bad for your cat?
If your dog is regularly sniffing around and eating out of the cat’s litter box, it can bother your cat a lot. Cats love their privacy and need to have some sense of security and peace whenever they’re doing their thing. So, by letting (or not knowing), your dog is eating out of your cat’s litter box will disturb your cat and prevent a harmonious environment among them.
Is Cat Poop Bad For Dogs?
It can be. Your cat poop may contain dangerous bacteria and parasites, and your dog can easily get sick through eating it. Even if cats aren't showing any signs of infection, that still doesn’t mean the microorganisms aren’t hiding in the feces.
Your dog can contract several different parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and roundworms. Bacteria like Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridia, and Toxoplasma Gondi can also be present in the cat’s poop.
Watch Out For These Symptoms:
- Diarrhea, with or without blood
- Dry fur
- Weight loss and poor appearance
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle weakness or complete paralysis
- Eye infections
- Skin inflammation
It is essential to react immediately, and even if it turns out to be nothing serious, it is better to be safe than sorry. For example, Parvovirus Canine (Parvo) is one highly contagious and dangerous virus that can affect all dogs. If your dog eats cat feces contaminated with this virus, you have less than 72 hours to react before it’s too late.
Another thing to consider is cat litter. By eating cat poop, dogs also ingest litter along with it. In large quantities, cat litter can cause blockage and general stomach upset such as diarrhea, vomiting, etc.
Prevent Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop
Hide the litter boxes or eliminate access
The most straightforward way to prevent your dog from eating cat poop is to eliminate access to it by hiding it or placing it somewhere your dog can't reach it. You can use a baby gate, cat door, or even purchase litter boxes with a covering over it. Your cat will have access to it by installing one of these, but your dog won’t.
If your dog is eating poop from stray cats, you can either supervise them or include more leash walks.
Change your dog’s diet
As we’ve already mentioned, eating cat poop can indicate your dog lacks some vitamins and minerals. Visit your veterinarian and ask them which food or supplements you should add to your dog’s diet. Moreover, consider feeding your dog a raw food diet, as some dog owners did. Raw food diets will mimic dog ancestors’ diets, which may be a good way of preventing a bad poop-eating habit.
Add mental or physical activity
If your dog is eating cat poop out of boredom, try adding extra activities like additional walk throughout the day or running. A tired dog won’t have the energy or will to search for cat poop. You can also provide your dog with some toys, and if it’s interesting enough, rest assured he will play hours with it.
Alleviate the stress
The important thing is to find the root cause of stress and anxiety. Sometimes, it can be from a lack of attention or environmental changes (moving to another place, new family member). If that’s the case, spend more time with your dog. Anxiety has to be addressed at the root as it can lead to other behavioral issues.
What Happens If You Let Your Dog Eat Cat Poop?
If you let your dog eat cat poop freely, it can lead to severe health issues. Not only is it harmful to your dog - it can be dangerous for you also. Some bacteria and parasites like Salmonella can easily be transmitted from animals to humans. Bear that in mind the next time your dog licks your face.
Another big issue here is the monkey-see-monkey-do behavior. If your dog regularly eats cat poop, other animals in the house may pick up that bad poop-eating habit.
When To Visit The Vet
You don't have to distress over your dog if he only ate cat poop once. That could easily be a mistake or just a result of boredom, for example. However, if your dog is always searching for the litter box, and you frequently catch him in the act of eating cat poop, it is time to visit your vet.
This may or may not be a medical concern or just a bad poop-eating habit. Nevertheless, your vet will do a thorough physical exam and do some blood work to determine the cause. If the reason is a vitamin deficiency, the vet will prescribe some supplements or particular food to add to your dog’s diet. Make sure your vet also checks your dog’s feces for any potential parasite or bacterial infection.
Lastly, your dog can get seriously ill from eating cat poop, so it is crucial to react right away and stop it from happening again.