If you live in a multi-pet household, you know that dogs and cats love to get into each other’s things. The cat cozies up in the dog’s bed: the dog runs off with the cat’s toys: and don’t even get me started on the food and treats! But most disturbing of all are the dogs that eat cat poop.
These litter box snackers are not only unkissable; they are potentially putting their health at risk. Let’s explore why dogs eat cat poop and what you can do to stop this nauseating behavior.
Dogs are natural scavengers.
Let’s face it; dogs aren’t exactly picky about what they put in their mouths! Rocks, leaves, dirty clothes, used tissues; it’s all fair game. While it is gross to us, it is perfectly natural to your dog. As scavengers, they are always in search of their next snack.
Additionally, an important component of their powerful sense of smell is located near the roof of the mouth. When dogs lick or pick up an interesting object in their mouth, it does not necessarily mean they intend to eat it. It could be that they are simply bringing it closer to their vomeronasal organ in order to investigate it further.
Dogs like the smell/taste of cat poop.
The greatest reward to a scavenging dog is a protein-rich morsel, and that’s exactly what cat poop is. Since felines are true carnivores, their food—and therefore their poop—is packed with delicious protein. The scent draws your dog to the litter box, and the taste keeps him coming back for more.
Dogs may eat cat poop when they have a health condition.
Some people believe that poop-eating indicates your dog is missing some vital nutrient from his diet. There is little evidence to support this, but a few medical conditions may lead to coprophagy (the fancy term for eating poop).
Cushing’s disease, diabetes, or intestinal disorders that make it difficult to absorb nutrients from food can make your dog feel hungry even when he’s just eaten. In this state, he may tear into the garbage, steal food from the table, or even eat cat poop to satisfy his rumbling tummy.
If your dog seems abnormally hungry or has suddenly begun eating cat poop, see your veterinarian to rule out these conditions.
All feces contains large amounts of bacteria, some of which can cause illness if ingested. Cat poop may also contain parasite eggs that can hatch inside your dog, causing an infestation. Just because your cat’s stool appears normal and she is acting healthy does not mean her stool does not contain something harmful.
Ingesting cat litter can cause even bigger problems, especially if your dog takes in large quantities. Clumping litter absorbs moisture and forms large, firm lumps. If this occurs inside a dog’s digestive tract, it can lead to a life-threatening blockage.
Monitor your litter-snacking pup. If he continues to have normal bowel movements (speckled with cat litter, of course!) he is probably fine. If he is vomiting, straining to pass stool, or acting painful in his abdomen, see your vet right away.
What can you do to stop your dog from eating cat poop?
The most effective way to stop your dog from eating cat poop is to restrict his access to the litter box. Buy a covered model with an opening too small for your pup. You can also try a self-cleaning litter box or placing boxes in locations your cat can access, but your dog cannot. This can be achieved by elevating the box, using cat doors, or setting up baby gates.
If these methods do not work, try hiring a professional dog trainer to teach the “Leave It” command or use a deterrent product like For-Bid.