Although dogs are exceptionally smart and cleanly animals, sometimes, their behavior is really shocking. Probably, one of the most disgusting dog habits is coprophagia. In simple terms, this is eating feces of other animals, primarily, cats. The first reaction of dog owners who see it is shock and abhorrence. However, eventually, they ask themselves whether poop eating is dangerous for dogs or not. In fact, this can be either a variation of a norm or a sign of a serious pathology depending on the situation. In the framework of our guide, we’ll single out the possible reasons for cat poop eating by dogs, review the dangers, and tell about possible solutions. Keep on reading for details.

Table of Contents:

The Science behind Why Dogs Eat Cat Poop
Reasons Dog Eat Cat Poop
Is Cat Poop Bad For Dogs?
How to Stop a Dog from Eating Cat Poop
Frequently Asked Questions
The Final Thoughts

The Science behind Why Dogs Eat Cat Poop

Though it may sound surprising, eating poop is a sort of natural for canines. Historically, the ancestors of modern dogs used to be scavengers. It means they ate literally everything they could find – from live prey to dead animals, their bones, feces, other organic remnants, and even soil. Moreover, they used to eat prey whole, with all the inward parts of the body, including the guts. By doing so, they consumed semi-digested and digested food from the stomach and bowels of the animal. So, to some extent, eating cat feces is nothing special for all the canines.

dog eating soil

What Is Coprophagia?

Coprophagia is a medical term used to describe the phenomenon of eating feces. It is typical for several animal species, including canines. Thus, mother dogs may lick their babies’ stomachs and then eat their poop in order to eliminate the odor, which can attract predators. This is an ancient instinct, which lies at the back of modern dogs’ minds. However, domestic pups can, sometimes, eat fresh feces of other animals, for example, cats. This phenomenon is not always explained by instincts. They just consume it as if it were food. In the following sections of our research, we’ll review other potential reasons for coprophagia.

Reasons Dog Eat Cat Poop

The reasons for eating cat poop by dogs can be divided into two large groups: pathological (i.e. associated with certain health problems) and non-pathological (psychological or behavioral). This is what you need to consider when choosing a strategy for the correction of your pup’s behavior. It’s crucial to know the particular reason, as it may happen that your dog needs medical treatment.

Boredom

Yes, it’s that simple. Frequently, the core reason for doing such a terrible thing as eating poop is quite trivial – boredom. For a pup that has to stay in all day long, eating cat poop is just another way to entertain himself. It’s like chewing furniture or tearing wallpaper. After all, when you have absolutely nothing to do, you have snacks much more frequently than usual, don’t you? 

when dog is bored

Don’t forget that dogs are omnivorous animals, and cat feces can serve them as a kind of a snack. Physiologically, cats have a short digestive tract, so their excreta often consists of semi-digested food. For a dog, it smells and tastes almost like cat food.

Nutritional Deficiency

There are certain health conditions, which cause a ravenous appetite in dogs. Dogs suffering from these disorders eat literally everything they can reach. Commonly, such conditions are associated with metabolic disorders or poor or incomplete nutrient absorption. Here are the most common of them:

  • diabetes mellitus;
  • intestinal malabsorption or maldigestion;
  • Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism);
  • intestinal parasites.

Luckily, all these diseases are quite rare. Meanwhile, some specialists believe that even healthy dogs can suffer the deficiency of certain nutrients, due to the prevalence of dry commercial food in their everyday diet.

Thus, wild dog ancestors used to eat live prey (small animals) whole. The digestive tracts of these small animals contain special enzymes, which improve the process of food digestion. Domestic dogs fed with processed food only may lack these enzymes, so they try to get them somewhere else, for example, in cat feces.

Stress and Anxiety

Just like people, dogs can be stressed, frightened, and depressed. This often happens when a pooch faces serious changes or something goes wrong. Stresses often result in compulsive behavior, which can include chewing or eating something unusual. For example, the following situations can cause stress in a dog:

  • adoption of a new puppy or kitten by his owner;
  • moving to a new home;
  • his owner’s illness or death;
  • separation from someone he loves, etc.

Some pups suffer from separation anxiety every time their humans leave for work. When staying alone, these dogs can do weird and unexplainable things – tear carpets, chew furniture and flowers, and eat soil or feces. This is a so-called behavioral coprophagia, which is easy to recognize. If your dog suddenly began doing something he showed no interest in before, try to remember what changed in your life recently. 

Stressed dog

Survival Instincts

All the instincts come from ancient times when animals used to live in the wild nature. Wild canines ate feces for several reasons. Firstly, they ate their kids’ poop to eliminate the odor, which could attract larger predators. Secondly, they could eat the feces of other animals to make sure there is no danger for their kids. Thirdly, they used to eat feces when there was little food for them in order not to die from hunger. Modern dogs have preserved some of these instincts.

Taste

It may sound strange, but some dogs like the taste of cat feces. This is especially true for those pups who love cat food. Depending on the cat’s diet, the feces can contain a good share of proteins and fats. As we’ve already mentioned, canines are scavengers, which means they can taste whatever they see, though their choice may seem shocking.

Other possible reasons for coprophagia can include the fear of punishment and seek attention. If you often punish your puppy for making a mess in the wrong places, he can try to cover up the “crime” by eating the poop just because he believes this is a bad thing. If the dog is seeking his owner’s attention, he also can do it in such a strange way.

 

Is Cat Poop Bad For Dogs?

Eating cat poop can be OK for dogs, but it can be bad for them as well. Generally speaking, cat poop itself is not dangerous to dogs; i.e. it doesn’t cause death or serious illnesses. Of course, we are speaking of healthy domestic dogs and healthy domestic cats. 

At the same time, eating cat poop can be bad for dogs. That’s not a secret that feces contains tons of bacteria. Some (not all) of these bacteria can cause various infections and make a pup sick. Keep in mind that even if a cat seems absolutely healthy, it still can have dangerous bacteria in her guts. 

The second problem associated with poop eating is intestinal parasites and their eggs. Some kinds of parasites can affect both cats and dogs. Some people believe domestic cats are worm-free, but this is a misbelief. It goes without saying that eating cat poop and soil in the yard or in the street is twice as dangerous.

The third problem is cat litter. Sometimes, dogs, especially puppies, eat cat poop with litter from a litter box. The latter can be dangerous for canines. For example, clumping clay litter can form solid balls with sharp edges, which can hurt the digestive tract. Any clumping litter eaten in large quantities can swell in the stomach, which may cause a blockage. In this cage, a dog requires emergency vet help.

Finally, eating cat poop is disgusting from the point of view of a dog owner. This is why many people would like to stop this terrible habit for aesthetical reasons. As it always happens with bad habits, it can take you much time and effort to get rid of it. However, it is not impossible.

How to Stop a Dog from Eating Cat Poop

If you faced the problem of eating cat poop by your dog, the first thing you should do is to find the reason for this behavior. If there are no obvious reasons (stress, serious illness), you may take your pup to a vet just to exclude potential hidden risks. Once you’ve made sure the problem is purely behavioral (not medical), you may try to take advantage of the following basic strategies.

Add Variety to the Dog Diet

The best food for dogs is raw meat. Of course, in modern circumstances, few people can feed their pups with fresh raw meat for various reasons. However, you may search for commercial dry food made of raw meat ingredients. If changing the food seems not a good idea or it doesn’t help, try to enrich your dog’s diet with digestive enzymes. The best source of these enzymes is raw green tripe. Also, adding probiotics is a good idea, as they stimulate food digesting. There are plenty of probiotic-containing food supplements to choose from.

Get Dog-Proof Litter Boxes

If your pup gets cat poop right from the litter box, the best solution is to revise the litter box construction. Choose a dog-proof option, which will keep the contents protected from dog attacks. Dog-proof litter boxes are the ones with small entries or small top openings for cats. That said, they may not work for tiny dogs or small puppies. 

Alternatively, you may try to place the litter box so that your dog couldn’t reach it – on or behind the furniture, in a narrow niche, and so on. Again, this will work only for larger dogs. Keep in mind also, that the litter box must be placed conveniently for a cat; otherwise, she will ignore it. 

Finally, you can consider using a self-cleaning litter box. These ones are emptied automatically. However, some pups are smart enough to raid these boxes before they are cleaned.

A dog-proof cat litter box

Use Fences to Keep Dogs Away from Litter Boxes

An e-fence is a smart electronic system that helps set borders for dogs without using a rope or a chain. Once a dog tries to cross the preset border, he gets a warning signal, usually sound or vibration. If he doesn’t stop, he gets a static shock – painless but unpleasant. Using an e-fence is an effective method of dog training, which helps to prevent undesired behavior quickly and with minimum hassle. 

When it comes to eating cat poop by a dog, an e-fence is just another way to keep the litter box out of the reach of a pup. It may be combined with other methods or used separately.

Clean the Litter Box ASAP

Keeping the litter box clean and tidy all the time is the most reliable way to protect it from a dog. It is also the simplest method. At the same time, for many pet owners, it is unacceptable just because they have to stay away too often. If you can’t control the state of the litter box constantly, then you have to look for alternative ways of keeping your dog away from it, for example, use dog-proof or self-cleaning options.

Add Black Pepper or Hot Sauce in the Litter Box

One more solution is making cat poop unattractive for a dog. The easiest way to slacken the dog’s appetite is to use something he hates. For example, pups can’t eat a hot pepper, and most of them can’t stand even its smell. So, if you add some hot sauce or black pepper to the litter box, your dog will keep away from it. Keep in mind, though, that this method is not perfect, as cats may avoid pepper too. We recommend trying alternative methods first.

Teach Your Dog the ‘Leave It’ Command

Ideally, all dogs must know this command, though this is primarily applicable to those pups who walk outdoors. If you don’t know how to train your dog correctly, consult a professional dog trainer. In some cases, it makes sense to use a leash and/or a lead for walks. This will provide better control over the dog. A well-trained dog never picks up anything without permission.

Keep Your Dog Busy

The best way to prevent boredom is to stay busy all the time. Make sure your dog has enough physical activity every day. Choose to play and exercising instead of quiet walks. Many domestic dogs lack movement severely. Make sure your pup gets tired every time on the walk. This will make him quieter; moreover, he just won’t have time to pick up various stuff like cat poop from the ground.

If you can’t resolve the problem on yourself, don’t be lazy to consult a veterinarian, a dog trainer, or an animal behaviorist. Though eating poop is usually not dangerous for dogs, this habit is really annoying. You can wean your dog off it by altering his everyday diet or correcting his behavior. Just be patient and persistent. Don’t punish your four-legged friend for his improper behavior, as punishment can make it even worse.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many dog owners get seriously concerned about eating cat feces by their beloved dogs. This problem is quite delicate and a sort of specific. No surprise there are some myths around this topic, which have nothing to do with the reality. We’ve gathered answers to the questions frequently asked by dog parents. Check the information before taking your pooch to a vet.

✅ Q: Are Dogs That Eat Cat Poop Malnourished?

A: Maybe yes, and maybe no. Of course, hunger can be one of the reasons for eating cat poop, which smells like cat food. However, this is not the only possible reason. In any case, if there are no other obvious reasons, it makes sense to revise the everyday pup’s diet. Make sure he regularly gets enough high-quality food. If your dog is on dry commercial food, try to add some raw ingredients with a high content of digestive enzymes or special food supplements. Consult a specialist if necessary – maybe, you just need to increase the food portion size.

✅ Q: Can Dogs Get Sick From Eating Cat Poop?

A: Yes, they can. Cat feces contain a lot of bacteria, which can be harmful to dogs. Some bacteria may cause various infections. Also, beware about the risks of catching parasites by getting parasite eggs. They can also be present in cat poop. Of course, it doesn’t mean that this will happen to your dog, however, the risk is high.

✅ Q: What Happens if We Let Our Dog Eat Cat Poop?

A: In general, eating can poop is not as dangerous for dogs as their owners tend to believe. Cat feces mainly consists of digested and semi-digested cat food, which even may include some essential nutrients. However, if a cat has hidden infections or worms, a pup can get infected too through eating its feces. Additionally, this habit is rather annoying and disgusting. That is why you’d better stop this as soon as possible.

✅ Q: When to See the Vet?

A: Consulting a veterinarian is always a good idea. However, you should see a specialist immediately in the following situations:

  • your dog looks sick or has any symptoms of an illness;
  • you can’t resolve the problem on yourself by simply correcting the diet and training;
  • the dog has eaten the feces of a sick or infected cat;
  • the dog has symptoms of intestinal parasite infection.In other words, if you see that something goes wrong and you can’t do anything about this, you’d better consult a vet.

The Final Thoughts

Dogs are wonderful creatures and reliable friends – smart, faithful, and devoted. However, sometimes, their behavior is weird and hard to explain. Coprophagia or eating feces of other animals is, probably, one of the most disgusting and shocking dog habits. 

Despite being really revolting, this habit is not too dangerous. Dogs are scavengers, which means they can eat almost anything and stay healthy. Still, most dog parents would like to prevent or stop coprophagia as soon as possible just because it looks so terrible. Happily, this is not impossible if you do everything correctly.

Find out the true reason for eating cat poop by your dog. Make sure you feed him with the right food and provide enough physical activity to him. Prevent boredom and anxiety in the pup. Finally, consult a vet or an animal behaviorist to resolve the problem. We hope our recommendations will help you to work out the right approach.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coprophagia – What is coprophagia

https://www.tendercareanimalhospital.net/dog-coprophagia.html#:~:text=Overview,and%20a%20few%20kind%20words. – Coprophagia in Dogs 

https://www.quora.com/Why-do-dogs-like-to-eat-cat-feces – Why do dogs like to eat cat feces?

https://www.newsbreak.com/new-york/new-york/news/1606183769002/why-do-dogs-eat-cat-poop – Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

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