Dogs will eat anything, sometimes even another animal's poop. And they really don't care where it comes from! It might even belong to the family cat! But why do dogs eat cat poo?
Why is my dog eating cat poop?
As strange as it sounds, eating poop is pretty normal for many animals, including our dogs. The scientific term is coprophagia, which literally means “to eat faeces.” It's hard to get our human heads around it, but poop eating is a natural part of a dogs instinct - particularly when it comes to mums cleaning their puppies. As domesticated as they might seem, dogs carry the same DNA as their wild ancestors. It is a natural behaviour for a mother dog to eat their puppies’ poop and wee, in order to keep the litter clean. Some researchers think that dogs might do the same when their living environment contains poo.
Dogs are also very curious. This is a common trait in successful scavengers. After all, the more places you look, the more options you consider, the more likely you are to find some food. And dogs really will look anywhere, including a cat’s litter box.
A peculiarity of cat poop is that it is very high in protein. Indeed, cats are obligate carnivores and their protein needs are much higher than that of dogs. Consequently, cat food is very protein oriented, and accordingly, their poop contains much more protein than the poop of other species.
Why do dogs eat cat poop? And is it bad for them?
We can agree that eating poop is pretty gross, but is it dangerous? According to some experts, it just might be.
The poop itself is not the problem. Dogs have very strong digestive systems; they can tolerate things that would make a human very sick. Their iron stomachs are an essential part of being a successful scavenger. However, cat poop can contain bacteria like salmonella. Your dog might be able to deal with this, but you certainly can’t. Salmonella can be transmitted from animals to humans, and it makes us very sick. However, this bacteria can only be ingested from faecal matter, so good hygiene is essential when you’re cleaning your cat’s litter box or picking up after your dog.
Poop munching can also spread parasites. These are treatable, but they can lead to other health complications, some of which are very serious. Some of these parasites can be passed from animals to human, in the same way that Salmonella can.
Think about where your dog is finding the cat poo. Some might go digging in the garden, while less refined dogs will eat it right out of the cat's litter tray. They could end up eating the actual cat litter. If they eat it in large quantities, it will cause a very uncomfortable blockage.
And remember that dogs love to lick people. They even like licking our faces. This means that whatever has been in their mouth is now on your skin, or even inside your body!
How to stop a dog from eating cat poop?
Poop eating can be a difficult habit to break, so start with the most practical options. In other words, if your dog can't find poop, your dog can't eat poop. The simplest thing to do is put the litter tray where your dog can't get to it. Try keeping it in a separate room, or restrict your dog's access by using a baby gate.
You can also invest in a dog proof litter box. You can find this at any decent pet store or online.
Remember to keep your garden or outdoor spaces cat poop free. Most felines bury their poop in the ground, but others will leave it out in the open. Clean it up as quickly as possible. Again, if it's not there, your dog can't eat it.
Training a dog to stop eating cat poop is pretty tough. Training works best when it's based around rewarding good behaviour. It doesn't work well when its focused on punishment. You can't really reward your dog for not eating cat poop. You'd need to keep an eye on them 24/7, and another eye on the areas where the cat likes to poop. Then you'd need to catch your dog in the act. Then distract them from the poop. Then reward them for ignoring the poop. This is possible, but very tricky.
On top of the methods of prevention mentioned above, the main thing to remember is that you shouldn’t make a fuss over your dog’s behaviour because your attention would feel like a reward to him. Your dog may also be eating poop out of boredom, so make sure he has lots of environmental enrichment to keep him occupied.
In most cases, eating cat poop won't do your dog any harm. However, there are some health risks for both you and your dog. And it's also pretty gross! All things considered, it's best to help your dog kick the poop munching habit.