Dogs can get up to some pretty interesting shenanigans, but few canine capers can cause the levels of ‘ick’ as when a dog eats poop.
Many new dog parents are horrified and concerned when it happens. But the reality is that it’s a common, and very natural behavior. Coprophagia, the official name for eating poop, has several possible causes and solutions.
If you’ve ever found yourself in the unenviable position of having a pup snacking from the litter box, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out why dogs eat cat poop, why puppies do so, and the all-important, how to stop your dog from it.
Reasons dogs eat cat poop
Ok, so, you caught Fido snacking from the cat’s litter box again. What does this mean? Why do dogs eat cat poop? It’s a frustrating – and frankly, gross – situation with various potential causes.
The good news is that, while it’s pretty disgusting by human standards, it is quite normal in dog circles, and a natural canine behavior in the wild. Here are some possible reasons why your dog is doing it.
Before we dive into more complex or scientific causes of why your dog eats cat poop, we’ll start with taste.
Cats eat a diet that’s higher in protein and fat than dogs do. While they usually absorb most of the protein and fat, some of it can be expelled in their poop which is highly attractive to your pooch. Also, artificial flavors in cat food may pass into cat’s poop. This means, cat’s poop basically tastes similar to cat food.
Doggos are always getting into things that they shouldn’t – the garbage, litter box, flowers' beds. They live in a highly sensory world where their sense of smell leads them into all kinds of mischief.
Cat poop, in the words of Legendary Anchorman Ron Burgundy, “stings the nostrils”. The formidable scent of cat poop can be irresistible to canines.
A medical reason for why dogs eat cat poop is that they may be compensating for a deficiency in their own diet. Cats generally eat a very high protein diet which may make their poop highly attractive to dogs who may have a deficiency.
In the wild, dogs have even been known to eat the poop of herbivores to supplement their diet with vitamins they couldn't get otherwise.
If your dog eats cat poop frequently, you may want to visit the vet to check for any nutritional deficiencies that may be causing this behavior. It could be something simple to remedy, like improving the quality of your dog’s diet. Or it may something trickier, like an inability to absorb certain nutrients.
It’s important to have your pooch checked out to make sure that they are living the healthiest life possible. Ignoring a deficiency can lead to other problems down the line, so getting Fido to stop eating poop is really just treating the symptom in this case.
A bored dog will find ways to entertain themselves. Usually, their chosen methods for beating boredom involve getting into all kinds of mischief and eating cat poop is just one example.
Anxiety or Stress
Dogs are highly sensitive creatures. A dog that is severely reprimanded for a small accident on the carpet can develop a trauma response to poop by trying to ‘hide the evidence’ by eating it. Also, dogs that are frightened and stressed may act out in ways to get your attention.
Pica is a disorder in animals that causes them to consume objects that are not traditional food items. We’re not talking about chewing shoes here. We’re talking about chewing and swallowing shoes. And rocks, and wool, and socks, and just about any non-food item you can think of. Including poop.
Read More: Pica in Dogs: Why Your Dog Eats Rocks, Dirt, and Clothes
Why is my puppy eating poop?
If adult dogs are curious, then puppies are curious times fifty. As they grow, puppies learn about their world through taste and smell. And of course, poop fulfills both those criteria well.
Just like human toddlers put everything they encounter in their mouths, so do pups. This is why puppies are notorious for chewing on everything.
How to stop your dog from eating cat poop
Whatever the reason is that your dog is eating cat poop, it’s a behavior that needs to be stopped. Not just because it grosses you out, but because it can be harmful to your dog in the long term.
Cat litter is not something that dogs should be consuming regularly. It can cause severe intestinal blockages over time. Clumping litter is particularly problematic. If your dog has consumed some, he will probably be ok, but keep an eye out for changes in his poop.
Another reason to put a stop to your dog eating cat poop is that cat poop can contain a variety of harmful bacteria and parasites. This is less of a concern for indoor cats as they aren’t encountering any bacteria or parasites that the doggo isn’t already exposed to in the home. Can dogs get worms from eating cat poop? You bet!
So how do you stop your dog from eating cat poop?
A bored dog will find things to entertain themselves with. Often this includes snacking from the litter box. Get ahead of the problem by ensuring that your dog is kept busy with stimulating toys and activities.
Snuffle mats, treat-dispensing toys, and plenty of regular walks and exercise will ensure that your pooch is suitably stimulated and kept out of mischief.
If your dog can’t stop eating cat poop, the most obvious-sounding solution is to make it harder for your dog to access the cat poop.
One way to do this is to ensure that you keep the litter box as clean as possible. Once your cat is done doing its business, make sure to clean up the poop before your dog can get to it. That said, we also understand that you’re not always home or able to clean up promptly.
Look into purchasing a dog-proof litter box that is specifically designed to keep your pooch from the poop. You could also invest in a self-cleaning litter box that automatically removes the poop before your dog can get to it.
Ensuring that your dog is well trained and responsive to commands like ‘leave it’ is essential. Next time you’re out on a walk and Fido finds a cat poop (or anything you don’t want him to eat), you can ensure it isn’t consumed.
Always make sure to get the best quality dog food that you can afford. High-quality food will ensure that your canine companion gets a balanced meal made from high-quality ingredients that offer all the essential nutrients that your pooch needs.
Ensuring nutritional needs are adequately met will go a long way in eliminating deficiencies and thereby minimizing the desire for your dog to go foraging for feces.
You can find a range of products that are designed to put your dog off from eating cat poop. These can be in the form of sprays that are used around the litter box to repel dogs using an odor that is unappealing to doggie noses.
Another option includes a stool deterrent that is ingested by the cat and functions by making the poop less appealing to dogs.
How to stop your dog eating cat poop: Home remedies
First things first, we recommend running any home remedies past your vet just to be sure. If you have access to Petcube’s Online Vet, it’s as simple as popping a message to one of the qualified vets who are available to answer your questions or concerns 24/7 at the click of a button.
Some home remedy suggestions include common household ingredients to alter the taste of your cat’s poop so it isn’t as appealing to your dog. These include supplementing your cat’s diet with pineapple.
Pineapple is generally not harmful to cats but keep an eye out for any potential signs of allergy. As cats are carnivores, getting Sir Pounce to eat the pineapple might prove difficult. We suggest that you use dried pineapple and crush it into your cat’s food.
Other suggestions include options that will deter your dog from the cat’s litter box. Such as, using black pepper or hot sauce thrown in with the litter to repel dogs. Although, it is unknown how cats feel about using such a spicy smelling toilet.
Dogs will bring endless love and joy into your life. Their loyal nature, steadfast companionship, and goofy nature will ensure there’s never a dull or lonely moment in your life.
They will sometimes also bring perplexing and odd behaviors like eating cat poop into your otherwise ordinary world. Initially, you might be horrified, but once you get to the bottom of why your dog is feasting on feces, you can tackle the problem head-on.
There are solutions to this problem, and it can be overcome. Rule out dietary deficiencies first with a visit to the vet to make sure that your dog is healthy and getting all the nutrients it needs.
Once you’ve ruled that out, you can tackle modifying the behavior in a number of ways.