You’re probably going to discover that your dog eats cat poop once in a while.
Maybe your dog did it on purpose, or it accidentally gobbled up something it shouldn’t have.
A dog may eat cat poop for many reasons, just as it may eat other things.
Here, you will learn why a dog eats cat poop, how to prevent them from doing so, and how cat poop affects your dog’s health.
Is Eating Cat Poop a Normal Behavior for Dogs?
The eating of cat poop is up for debate. Some people think it’s normal for dogs to do this, while others think it’s unhealthy.
Most often, a dietary deficiency results in the habit of eating poop, known as coprophagia.
Veterinary researchers at the University of California, Davis, surveyed thousands of dog owners and found that 16 percent of dogs frequently eat other canines’ stool.
Moreover, their owners spotted them doing it more than six times. 80% of the dogs preferred fresh poop not more than two days old. Crazy, right?
Because cats are hyper-carnivores, they have trouble digesting certain foods, especially carbohydrates. The dog will be able to sniff out partially digested food and assume that it’s still edible.
Sometimes dogs eat other animals’ poop or even their own. This is why changing this behavior can be challenging.
At the same time, it is important to remember that not all dogs will eat cat poop – just as not all cats will eat dog poop. While some dogs may be more inclined to do this than others, it is not necessarily something that should be considered flawed.
Reasons Why a Dog Eats Cat Poop
Dogs eat feces for a variety of reasons, veterinarians know. Some dogs eat their feces to aid digestion and to fix gastrointestinal problems.
Other dogs eat other dogs’ feces as a social challenge—and who can blame them?
Pet owners agree it’s gross, but what’s the real reason?
Let’s find out!
Dogs are Scavengers
Dogs are opportunists—if they can sniff out an easy meal, they will.
Cats are considered to be predators, while dogs are scavengers. This means that cats hunt and kill their prey, while dogs feed on the leftovers of other animals. Yeah, cat poop too.
In fact, some dogs will even eat their feces if given the opportunity.
Historically, dogs’ ancestors would eat fecal matter of other animals if they did not find prey or did not feed on anything that day. So it is an instinct for dogs.
Dogs Do It Simply Out of Boredom
Dogs eat poop because… well because they are bored.
They eat feces to explore their environment, learn about their surroundings, and poop serves as a fun activity.
So nothing is stopping these dogs from exploring the cat poop.
Dogs Dig the Taste of Cat Poop
Usually, dogs mistake cat poop for cat food. The smell of regular cat food smells nice to dogs, which is probably why dogs are often willing to eat cat food out of the litter box.
Like many other animals, dogs have a highly developed olfactory sense, and scientists believe that cat poop has a “delicious” smell that attracts dogs like moths to a flame.
They Lack Nutrition
Dogs eat cat poop because they lack an essential vitamin found in cat feces.
Since this vitamin isn’t found in dog food, dogs can only get it by eating their fellow dog’s feces.
While this may seem gross, it’s a completely natural thing for dogs. You don’t have to worry about it unless your dog starts showing other signs of deficiency.
Just out of habit
Dogs may eat cat poop as a way of getting their owners’ attention. Usually, when a dog eats cat poop, its owner will scold the dog and take it for a walk. In turn, this reinforces the dog’s behavior, making him more likely to eat cat poop in the future.
Although it’s fine to let your dog eat some cat feces every now and then, you shouldn’t make it a habit. The unhygienic practice can also lead to health problems in the long run.
Some people believe that dogs do this to get revenge on their owners for not feeding them enough or punishing them for something bad that happened in the past.
However, this theory has never been proven, and there’s no evidence to support it.
What happens if a dog eats cat poop?
It might not seem like a big deal, but what happens if a dog eats cat poop? Not a big deal, usually. Nevertheless, pet parents should remember a few things.
There is no danger in eating cat poop for dogs, but it can have digestive issues. Those who eat cat feces regularly may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Cat poop may also carry a small risk of parasites. Dogs and cats are both susceptible to these parasites.
Getting your pet tested for parasites and other diseases by a veterinarian is important if they have been eating other animals’ feces.
Can my dog get sick from eating cat poop?
If your dog eats cat poop, he will wind up with intestinal parasites. Coprophagia can transmit Roundworms, Hookworms, Giardia, and Whipworms that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and weight loss.
Have your pet go to the veterinarian every month to prevent intestinal parasites. Occasionally, dogs can become ill if they consume large amounts of cat litter because it absorbs a lot of moisture, which can cause constipation and bowel obstruction.
Most dogs who eat litter away from the cat do not get sick afterward. Prevention beats cure, though.
Long Term Effects
To be infected with worms, dogs have to eat eggs containing feces when they’re in the infectious stage. Toxascaris Leonia larvae take a week to shed their eggs. The infective stage of hookworm larvae takes 4-7 days. They can stick to your dog’s paws.
Even if you clean your cat’s litter box regularly at home, you can’t keep it clean when it uses the outdoors. If your cat has roundworms, the eggs will survive together for years. Hookworms, however, tend to die in freezing temperatures within a few months.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Cat Poop
It’s time to stop coprophagia and to stop the dog from doing it. Your dog eating cat poop is a sign that you need to take action.
Find out why
Before you can start treatment, you need to determine the underlying cause.
A checkup at the vet is the first step. They can rule out any medical issues that might be causing the behavior and recommend treatment.
Take that chance off the table
If you have observed your dog making trips to the cat’s litter, then simply remove the litter box and place it somewhere else where your dog cannot reach.
If you have a small dog, try placing the litter box higher up on the shelf and if you have a big dog, consider putting it in a small piece where only your cat can reach.
Try putting up a cat door, a baby gate, or a fence. You will be able to eliminate your dog’s poop-eating habit with this approach.
Get active with your dog
You’ve got to keep your dog entertained and mentally occupied as a responsible pet owner.
This is especially true if you have a cat since dogs like to eat their feces when left unattended.
Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to keep your dog busy, so he won’t resort to such desperate measures:
- Provide plenty of toys for your dog to chew on and play with. Bones, kongs, and interactive toys are always a hit.
- Make sure your dog has a place to play, such as a fenced yard or park.
- Give your dog plenty of exercises so he’s too tired to waste time on the cat’s litter box.
- Sign them up for obedience classes or agility.
- Take them for walks.
Boost their diets
Most dogs eat cat poop because they don’t have a balanced diet.
When dogs don’t get enough protein from their food, they’ll start looking for other sources – like cat poop.
You can do a few things to help improve your dog’s diet:
- Make sure your dog eats high-quality dog food with plenty of protein. Additionally, you can give them food that is specially designed to reduce stool-eating. The best person to ask about diet is your vet.
- Get them some high-protein food, like cooked beef or chicken, eggs, or cottage cheese.
- Supplement their diet with pet vitamins and minerals.
- Exercise your dog a lot; a tired dog is less likely to scavenge.
Teach them the ‘Leave It’ command
If your dog can’t get over cat poop, you need to teach it the ‘Leave It Command.’ This command tells your dog to leave whatever it is eating.
Start by saying “leave it” firmly, then give your dog a treat when it stops and comes back to you. Repeat this several times until your dog understands what the command means.
Then, start using the command when your dog is around cat poop. If your dog tries to eat the poop, say “leave it” and give it a treat when it stops.
If he doesn’t stop, try commanding in a firm voice. You’ll have to practice a few times until your dog understands the command, so be patient and keep trying.
Clean the Litter Right Away
Dogs will often eat cat poop if left in the litter box for too long.
If you clean up the poop right away, your dog won’t smell it, and they won’t want to eat it.
If you’re unable to clean your cat’s litter box every time it becomes dirty, you may want to invest in a self-cleaning litter box. These boxes come equipped with a mechanism that cleans and refreshes the potty by itself, so you don’t have to worry about it.
You can find self-cleaning litter boxes in all shapes and sizes, so you can find one that’s right for you. Plus, they’re cheap, so pet owners on a budget can get them.
If you’re considering getting a self-cleaning litter box, here are a few of our favorites:
- PetSafe ScoopFree Automatic Self Cleaning Hooded Cat Litter Box
- Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box
- Omega Paw Elite Self Cleaning Litter Box
Purchase Stool Deterrents
A stool deterrent may help if your dog eats your cat’s poop.
There are a few types on the market, but they all work by making the smell or taste of cat feces repulsive to dogs.
No matter what product you choose, follow the instructions carefully and watch your dog when he’s first trying it out.
Remember, no deterrent is 100% effective, so be prepared to take other steps if necessary.
Install a motion-activated sprinkler system
You can deter your dog from eating cat poop by installing a motion-activated sprinkler system close to the litter box.
When the dog gets too close, the sprinkler will go off, spraying him with water. This will startle him and hopefully discourage him from eating the cat’s poop again.
Here are some motion-activated sprinklers that you might want to consider:
- Havahart 5277 Motion-Activated Animal Repellent & Sprinkler
- Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion-Activated Sprinkler with Day & Night Detection Modes
- Hoont H928 Motion Activated Jet Blaster
Tips to Keep the Dog Away from the Litter Box
- Always use positive reinforcement instead of punishing them.
- Clean the litter box regularly, especially before you leave the house.
- Purchase a covered litter box.
- Throw some black pepper or hot sauce in the litter. Dogs won’t go near cat poop if they smell hot sauce and pepper.
- Put citrus peels in the litter box.
- Always put the dog on a leash when you take them for a walk outside.
- Try adding olive oil to your cat’s food.
- Try giving your dog treats like peanut butter so that they do not munch on something else.
Do Dogs Ever Grow Out of Eating Cat Poop?
There’s a good chance your dog has eaten cat poop at some point. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 80% of dogs have sampled their housemate’s feces at least once.
But does this mean dogs are natural-born coprophages (feces eaters)? Or do they simply develop a taste for it due to improper potty training?
The answer is a little bit of both. Dogs are typically drawn to cat poop because of its high protein content and smelliness. And while some dogs may grow out of this habit as they mature, others will continue to eat poop regardless of how often it’s scolded.
So does this mean that all dogs will eventually stop eating cat poop? Not necessarily. Some dogs may grow out of it, while others may continue to do it throughout their lives. The best way to find out is to ask your veterinarian.
There can be many reasons why a dog might eat cat poop, but fortunately, there are also ways to stop it.
Whether your dog is scavenging for food or experiencing a nutritional deficiency, correcting the underlying cause should stop the behavior.
You can help break your dog’s cat poop habit if it eats it out of boredom or figures it gets him attention by providing plenty of physical activity and good reinforcement.
If nothing works, try motion-activated sprinklers and stool deterrents. By using patience and diligence, you can train your dog to not do this.