Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

By Jennifer Dempsey / October 11, 2018

If you’re reading this article, chances are you just witnessed (wo)man’s best friend doing something pretty unpleasant… eating cat poop. While it certainly isn’t a conversation we love having, dogs eating poop is by no means a new trend and is something that should be discussed. In fact, it is so common that there are blogs all over the internet attempting to uncover why in the world your precious four-legged companion is eating cat feces.

In this article, we’ll cover all of the reasons why your dog may be eating cat poop. Additionally, we’ll discuss why you’ll want to nip the nasty habit in the butt straight away. Finally, we’ll go over several ways to prevent the event from happening in the future… an idea that we all can get behind. Let’s get to it!

why do dogs eat cat poop

What is Coprophagia

Coprophagia is the scientific term for eating poop. The term doesn’t solely refer to dogs eating cat poop but rather any species’ feces, including their own. The habit, although disgusting, is quite common in dogs. It is considered by many experts to be a “natural,” although not necessarily healthy behavior. But still, the question remains, why in the world are they doing it?!

Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop

In order to stop this issue and prevent it from occurring in the future, pet owners must get to the bottom of what is causing it in the first place. When it comes to a dog eating cat poop, there are a number of behavioral and environmental circumstances that may be contributing to your dog’s undying love for cat feces.

Dogs are Scavengers

One of the most common reasons behind coprophagia is that it is simply a natural instinct. Experts suggest that your dog’s wild ancestors (coyotes, wolves, and other wild dogs) would eat the feces of other animals if they didn’t eat enough prey or other food that day. Furthermore, all dogs are scavengers by nature and are quite the opportunists when it comes to food. In other words, they will eat just about anything. From the stuffing of your new sofa to shoes or rocks, if your dog is like most, they are an equal opportunity eater. If a cat’s litter box is available for snacking, you better believe your dog will seize the chance to eat cat poop.

Boredom

Another reason why your dog may be eating cat feces is out of boredom. Most dogs need a decent amount of both physical and mental stimulation. If your dog is left home alone for hours at a time, they may explore your cat’s litter box merely to add some excitement to their day. Luckily, this reason behind coprophagia is an easier fix than others (more on that in a moment). However, a habit is a habit. If your dog is constantly bored and therefore consistently reports to the cat litter box, it can quickly develop into a habit that is difficult to reverse.

They Like the Taste

This may be a hard pill to swallow for many dog owners. However, the truth of the matter is that dogs love the taste of cat poop. The smell alone has many dogs actively seeking out the cat’s litter box and the continued action of eating cat poop leads experts to believe that dogs can’t get enough of the taste. We know… it’s nauseating to think about. Yet again, if this is the cause behind your dog eating cat poop, it’s one of the easier ones to resolve.

why do dogs eat cat poop? they like the taste!

Nutritional Deficiency

Another cause behind dogs eating cat poop is that they are experiencing a vitamin deficiency or perhaps they are not getting enough calories per day.. If you feel that your dog’s habit may be triggered due to a nutritional deficiency, it is important to speak to your veterinarian regarding dietary changes that may help to resolve the issue. Your vet may recommend adding fat, fiber or protein in order to make sure your dog’s diet is balanced. Nutritional deficiencies are not as common nowadays since most commercial pet foods are formulated to meet standard nutritional profiles. Home-cooked diets are more likely to be the culprit as it can be difficult to prepare a well-balanced diet without the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist.

Environmental Stress

We likely don’t have to tell you that dogs are highly sensitive creatures. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that dogs can experience crippling bouts of anxiety, just like people. Interestingly enough, large amounts of stress can cause Fido to act in strange ways, such as developing a habit like coprophagia.

Behavioral Trigger

In some cases, particularly if your dog spent time in a shelter or on the streets, eating poop may be a way to ensure they won’t go hungry. This is primarily a cause when the dog is eating their own poop. However, veterinarians have reported that dogs who once didn’t know where their next meal was coming from may be inclined to go to great lengths to make sure they won’t starve, including eating the poop of other animals.

Additionally, if puppies witness the behavior from their mom or from another animal in the house, they often learn by example and they too can quickly develop the poop eating habit.

Other Medical Conditions

Conditions such as diabetes mellitus or Cushing’s disease can cause polyphagia or an increased appetite. These pets may eat poop since they feel excessively hungry. These diseases also cause an increase in water consumption. Pica, or eating non-food items with no nutritional value, is also a reason for coprophagia. Liver disease and anemia can be major causes for pica. Older pets can also start eating feces due to a decline in cognitive function, also known as dementia or senility. 

Is Cat Poop Bad For Dogs

The first thing many dog owners wonder (after they reluctantly accept their dog’s new, nasty habit) is whether or not eating cat poop can cause serious harm to Fido. According to experts, the answer to this question is “possibly.” We’ll explain.

Some dogs may eat cat poop from time to time and be totally fine. Of course, we as dog owners may refuse to get close to their mouths and avoid slobbery kisses, but the dog’s health may not be at any risk.

Poop Can Contain Bacteria and Parasites

However, in other cases, eating cat feces can lead to your dog contracting dangerous bacteria and parasites, some of which can be transmitted to humans. Additionally, intestinal parasites, such as worms, can invade your dog’s system without showing any symptoms until the problem is severe.

Cat Poop = Cat Litter

Furthermore, eating large quantities of cat feces from the litter box, in turn, means also consuming the litter. Cat litter can lead to gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. We likely don’t have to tell you how miserable it would be for your dog to be vomiting cat poop.

cat litter

Preventing Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop

If you weren’t fully convinced to rid the habit before, that last sentence probably put you over the edge. For more reasons than the ick factor, coprophagia should be stopped and prevented from occurring in the future. If you’ve noticed that your dog has been making frequent trips to your cat’s litter box, you may have a fairly good idea that the habit may be a difficult one to break. However, it is possible (and necessary).

Remove the Possibility

First and foremost, dog owners should remove the temptation. Simply make sure that your cat’s litter box is in a place where your dog is unable to reach it. If you have a small dog, you may want to put the litter box higher up on a shelf. If you have a large dog, consider putting the litter box in a small place where only your cat can access it.   Another option would be purchasing a self-cleaning litter box that automatically removes the poop immediately after use.

You may also want to look into installing a “cat door” that your dog is unable to get through. Or, for larger dogs, installing a baby gate may do the trick and be a relatively easy fix. Whichever method you choose, as long as you make sure that you develop a dog proof litter box, you can ensure the poop eating habit will come to an end.

Add Mental and Physical Activity

Next, if you feel as though your dog is eating cat poop out of boredom, it is important to implement additional mental or physical activity. Simply placing the litter box out of reach will not resolve the boredom issue and your dog will quickly find another way to entertain themselves, some ways which may be more destructive than feasting on cat poop.

Experts recommend adding in an extra walk in the morning or evening. Additionally, dog owners can purchase interactive toys that can keep their dog busy when they are home alone. Finally, consider hiring a dog walker or introducing your pup to doggy daycare. Boredom may seem like an easy fix but it is one that should be handled appropriately as it can often lead to the development of additional behavioral issues.

Change Up Your Dog’s Diet

We cannot stress enough the importance of your dog’s diet. If your dog is eating cat poop, it may be due to an inadequate amount of vitamins and nutrients in the current dog food you are feeding them. We recommend talking to your veterinarian regarding supplements that you may want to add to their food in order to ensure your dog is receiving all of the goodness they need in their meal.

Additionally, pet owners may want to consider implementing a raw food diet. Experts developed the concept of raw diets to mimic the diets of the dog’s ancestors. Of course, your domesticated dog has substantially evolved since their wolf days and a raw food diet may not necessarily be mandatory, but it is something to look into if the poop-eating habit doesn’t resolve quickly.

Preventative Medication

The product called FOR-BID has been on the market for over 40 years and is labeled for prevention of coprophagia. It is a packet of powder that contains vegetable protein and sodium glutamate and is added to your pet’s food. It deters pets from eating feces by changing its flavor. However, it must be given to the pet whose feces are being ingested. 

Anxiety & Stress Relief

Finally, we previously mentioned that, like people, dogs can suffer from anxiety and stress. Extreme amounts of anxiety can lead to a slew of concerns including the development of behavioral issues, such as coprophagia. If anxiety is at the root of your dog’s unfortunate habit, it will require a bit more than simply putting the litter box out of reach. Anxiety is a condition that must be addressed at the root as it will certainly lead to additional behavioral issues once the poop-eating habit is addressed.

It is imperative that dog owners recognize what is causing their dog’s stress. Is it separation anxiety? Or anxiety due to new environmental changes such as a new family member or a change in the household? Again, dogs are highly sensitive animals. You can safely assume that if something is causing you to feel anxious, your dog is picking up on it and it is likely affecting them, too.

why do dogs eat cat poop? because they're stressed!

Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop: The Bottom Line

As you get your ‘welcome home’ kisses, it’s probably better to not think about where your dog’s mouth has been that day. While dogs are perfect to us and we love them more than life itself, they can be pretty gross if the opportunity strikes. While the habit of eating cat poop is one that may not cause any health issues, most dog owners will do whatever it takes to make it stop. Luckily, there is hope. By making a few simple changes, we feel confident that you will find a positive change in your dog’s unpleasant habit.

As always, all dogs are different. If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding why your dog is eating cat poop, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian. Additionally, if for any reason you feel as though your dog may have contracted intestinal parasites or worms, veterinary attention will be absolutely necessary.

At the end of the day, we know that you want the very best for your four-legged companion. Spoiler alert… the very best does not include a cat poop snack. Don’t panic, you got this! We wish you the best of luck in breaking this common, yet nasty habit.

Sources

https://www.honestpaws.com/blogs/pet-care/raw-dog-food

https://www.petsbest.com/blog/3-reasons-dogs-eat-cat-poop-from-the-litter-box/

https://iheartdogs.com/ask-a-vet-why-does-my-dog-eat-poop-2/

https://pets.thenest.com/dogs-eat-cat-feces-5660.html

https://www.honestpaws.com/blogs/pet-care/separation-anxiety-in-dogs

About the author

Jennifer Dempsey

Dr. Jennifer Dempsey is a small animal veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) She has resided in the Orlando area since graduation and has gained years of experience helping cats and dogs live happier and longer lives. As a general practitioner, she has found client education to be one of the most important aspects of day to day life in veterinary medicine. Medical writing has helped her to connect with a larger audience and make sure that pet owners are fully aware of their loved one’s medical condition. She currently shares her home with two rescued mixed breed dogs named Primo and Morgan.

  • Belinda Land says:

    Thank you for the information I will surely try these suggestions.


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