Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop? What You Need to Know

Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop? What You Need to Know

July 01, 2024

Have you ever caught your dog eating cat poop? Many dog owners are surprised and concerned when they see their pets eating something that was once part of another pet's diet.

That said, this is actually a common behaviour known as canine coprophagia. Dogs are natural scavengers, which means their curiosity often causes them to explore and eat all sorts of things, including faeces.

While it might seem harmless, eating faeces can pose significant health risks for dogs, such as gastrointestinal infections and parasite transmissions.

In this article, we will help you understand why dogs engage in such behaviour and give you tips on how to prevent it for their well-being and your peace of mind.

4 Reasons Why Dogs Eat Cat Poop

Dogs eating poop is a common problem that concerns many pet owners. Understanding why they do it can help you create a plan that encourages your dog to cease this behaviour.

Below are a few main reasons why dogs eat cat poop in particular.

Natural Instincts and Scavenging Behaviour

Dogs are natural scavengers. Their ancestors relied on scavenging to survive, which led to exploring and eating various commonly available items, including faeces.

Puppies are especially curious and will put anything in their mouths when exploring their environment.

Nutritional Deficiencies

If your dog's diet lacks certain nutrients, they might resort to eating cat poop. This is because cat faeces contain fats, fibres, proteins, and vitamins that a dog might seek elsewhere if it cannot find them in its current diet.

Connected to that, if you are not feeding your dog enough, they might also turn to eating cat poop as a readily available source of sustenance.

Attraction to Smell

Cat poop smells like cat food to dogs. Since cat food is high in protein, its smell makes cat faeces appealing to them. This attraction is more potent in canines because dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell, leading them to seek out cat litter boxes.

Boredom and Lack of Stimulation

A lack of mental stimulation or exercise can even push dogs to eat cat poop out of boredom. They might find it entertaining or rewarding, especially if they know it is off-limits.

Boredom and a lack of stimulation can also cause dogs to foster attention-seeking behaviour. As such, some dogs may eat cat faeces to get a reaction from their owners. Negative attention, such as scolding, can sometimes reinforce the behaviour.

Coprophagia can also become a habit from learned behaviour through imitation, especially by puppies, where they notice other dogs eating cat poop without repercussions.

The Risks of Eating Cat Poop

Dogs might treat eating cat poop as a way to pass the time, feed their curiosity, or make up for a bad diet. However, this can expose dogs to various health risks, such as those listed below.

  • Parasites: Cat faeces can contain Toxoplasma gondii and various worms.
  • Harmful Bacteria: Pathogens such as E. coli can lead to infections.
  • Digestive Obstructions: Clumping litter ingested with faeces may cause intestinal blockage.
  • Nutritional Imbalance: Consuming cat faeces can interfere with a dog's regular diet, leading to nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.
  • Secondary Health Issues: Eating cat faeces can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, and other gastrointestinal problems.
  • Spread of Diseases: Dogs can contract diseases from pathogens present in cat faeces, which can also be transmitted to humans.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Cat Poop

If you suspect your dog has eaten a cat's poop, stay calm, and assess the situation and your dog's condition. Follow the tips below to help minimise the possible damage caused by eating poop.

  • Remove Access: Immediately remove any remaining cat faeces to prevent further consumption.
  • Monitor Your Dog: Watch for any signs of illness or discomfort, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, or changes in behaviour.
  • Check for Parasites: Look for signs of worms in your dog's stool.
  • Hydrate: Ensure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water, especially if they experience diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Clean Their Mouth: Wipe your pet's mouth with a damp cloth or gently brush their teeth to remove any remnants of faeces.
  • Consult Your Veterinarian: Contact your vet for advice, especially if your dog shows any symptoms of illness or if you are concerned about potential health risks.
  • Consider a Fecal Test: Your vet may recommend a faecal test to check for parasites or infections.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Eating Cat Poop

Preventing your dog from eating cat poop protects their health and gives you peace of mind. Implement the strategies below to manage this behaviour effectively.

Place The Litter Box Away from Your Dog

Reposition the kitty litter box in an area where your dog cannot go. This can be on elevated surfaces, behind a baby gate, or in rooms with doors that have cat flaps.

Covered or top-entry litter boxes also prevent dogs from accessing them.

You can even place deterrents (like pet-safe sprays or citrus peels) around the cat's litter box area to make it less appealing to dogs.

Balance Your Dog's Diet

Ensuring your dog's diet meets all their nutritional needs reduces their attraction to cat faeces.

A well-balanced diet should also have the right portions to prevent hunger that might push your dog to resort to cat poop.

You can consult your vet for specific dietary recommendations.

Train Your Dog Well

Training reinforces boundaries around cat litter areas. Teach them commands like "leave it" or "no," and consistently use them when your dog approaches the litter box.

Rewarding positive behaviour to build a pattern of obedience is also a good idea.

Even if you have trained your dog, you should still monitor their behaviour. This is especially the case when they are around areas where the cat's litter box is located so they do not start to develop the bad habit of eating cat poop.

Keep Your Dog Busy

Boredom for long periods can lead to undesirable behaviours, including eating cat poop.

As such, provide mental stimulation through toys, puzzle feeders, and regular exercise. Engage them in activities that satisfy their natural canine behaviours, like scavenging games.

Keeping your dog occupied makes them less interested in exploring the litter box.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dogs eating cat poop may be common, but it is still a concerning behaviour. Below, we have answered a few more questions regarding it.

Is It Bad for Dogs to Eat Cat Poop?

Yes, eating cat poop can expose dogs to worms, harmful bacteria, and lead to nutritional imbalances.

How Do I Clean My Dog's Mouth After Eating Poop?

To clean your dog's mouth after eating cat faeces, wipe it with a damp cloth (ideally dipped in doggy mouthwash), brush their teeth using dog-friendly toothpaste, and offer dental chews or water to help freshen their breath and remove any remaining debris.

Can a Dog Get a Bacterial Infection From Eating Cat Poop?

Yes, a dog can get a bacterial infection from eating cat poop. This is because it may contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli, which can lead to gastrointestinal issues and other health problems.

Key Takeaways on Why Dogs Eat Cat Poop

Some reasons behind coprophagia include scavenging instincts, nutritional deficiencies, and boredom.

Understanding why dogs eat cat poop will allow us to know how to address this behaviour effectively.

It is also essential to be aware of the health risks a dog may face if they eat cat poop. You should also have an action plan on what to do in case you suspect your dog has ingested cat poop.

You should also have preventive measures like securing litter boxes and ensuring a balanced diet to prevent your dog from wanting to eat cat poop.

Do not hesitate to consult a veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about coprophagia.