While it may sound disgusting, dogs eat cat poop as a result of natural dog behavior. When it comes down to it, dogs like to eat something with a strong smell, like that of cat poop, or even better, cat food.
The Science Behind Why Dogs Eat Cat Poop
Many dogs enjoy eating all kinds of poop, much to our disgust. This behavior is totally natural; dogs are scavengers by nature. That being said, dogs eat all kinds of things: garbage, carpet, rocks, and more. Cat poop is just another thing to scavenge and eat.
While you might think cat poop smells gross, it probably smells like cat food to your dog. Since normal cat food appeals to a dog’s sense of smell, and many dogs love to eat it, this is one of the reasons why they’re often ready to snack out of the litter box.
Eating poop, a habit called coprophagia, can be the result of a dietary deficiency, but in most cases, it is just the product of exploration, which can become a bad habit. The Merck Veterinary Manual states, “as part of exploratory behavior, many dogs are attracted to and may ingest feces, compost, and prey (dead or live).” Additionally, normal maternal behavior for dogs includes the consumption of feces and urine of young puppies.
Is Cat Poop Bad for Dogs?
It’s gross, but is eating cat poop actually bad for dogs?
It can be. While many dogs eat cat poop, and they’re fine, eating any poop carries the potential for the dog to contract harmful bacteria and parasites. Some of these bacteria, like salmonella, for example, can be transmitted to humans.
Furthermore, dogs can contract several different species of internal parasites from cat poop. And just because your cat isn’t showing signs of a parasite infection, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Additionally, cat litter can be problematic for dogs if they eat it in large quantities. The good news is that most dogs would have to eat a lot of litter before it could cause a blockage. If your dog has eaten cat litter or clumping cat litter, keep an eye on him. If he has normal bowel movements, he’s probably fine. But if he appears to have difficulty pooping, does not poop, or if his poop is abnormal, you should call your veterinarian.
Despite these risks, in most cases, your dog won’t suffer any health consequences from eating cat poop. However, for you and your dog’s health, eating cat poop is one habit your dog definitely should kick.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop
The easiest way to prevent your dog from eating cat poop, according to veterinarians, is to place the litter box in a spot where your dog can’t access it. Baby gates are great at keeping dogs out without getting in your cat’s way and can also give your cats space of their own.
If you can’t keep your dog away from the litter box, you can invest in a litter box with a closed top or a “dog-proof” litter box that makes it hard for dogs to get in.
Sometimes, the cat poop in question is out of your control. If neighborhood cats are pooping in your yard, there is little you can do to prevent your dog from eating it. If this is the case, take your dog in for regular visits to the veterinarian to make sure he has not contracted any internal parasites from his scavenging.
Coprophagia is disgusting, but eating cat poop does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with your dog. This natural behavior does come with some risks, however, so do your best to prevent it by using these tips, and contact your veterinarian for further advice.