If you’re reading this right now, the chances are that you just witnessed your canine companion do the unthinkable – eat cat poop! While this is not a conversation you want to be having, especially where food is involved, dogs eating cat poop is no new news!
You would be surprised how common this is, so hang in there; you’re not alone in this! But the main concern is, why the hell is my four-legged companion eating cat poop in the first place?
And yes, it is so common there is a scientific term for it: Coprophagia. This term refers to dogs and any other species’ eating feces, including their own. Although disgusting, this habit is quite common and is considered ‘natural’ by many experts.
Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?
To prevent this from becoming a habit, we first need to get to the bottom of what causes it in the first place. Several environmental and behavioral circumstances can contribute to this underlying situation.
Naturally, Dogs are Scavengers
The most common reason behind your dog eating pop is simply a natural instinct. All dogs are quite the opportunists and scavengers by nature, especially when it comes to poop. And you should know by now that dogs will eat just about anything they come across. From stuffing your new shoes, sofa, and even rocks.
Since dogs are opportunity eaters, if there is a cat litter box available for snacking, best believe that your pooch will most like the size the chance to eat it up.
If the dog’s diet is lacking in nutrition it can all lead to coprophagia
Dogs are highly sensitive animals. Like people, dogs also experience crippling bouts of anxiety, and large amounts of stress can cause your dog to act in strange ways, like start eating cat poop.
Dogs who start eating cat poop are probably experiencing a vitamin deficiency or are not getting sufficient calories per day. If you suspect that a nutritional deficiency is triggering this new habit, consult your vet about dietary changes that could help solve this problem.
Your veterinarian will probably recommend adding fiber, fat, or protein in your dog’s diet. You are also going to make sure that you are feeding your dog a balanced diet.
Home-cooked dog foods are most likely the primary culprit because it can be hard to make a well-balanced diet for your dog with supervision from your vet nutritionist. Luckily, most commercial pet foods in the current market have been formulated to meet set nutritional profiles for pets.
In some cases, especially if you took in a stray dog or if your pooch has spent time on the streets or in a shelter, Coprophagia may be a way to make sure they don’t go hungry. This is especially the case when the dog is eating his own poop.
Dogs who have no idea where their next meal will come from are more inclined to go to whatever lengths to ensure they don’t starve, including eating their own poop and that of other animals.
Another behavioral trigger could be if the pup witnessed their mom doing the same thing or from other dogs in their neighborhood. Like humans, dogs, too, learn by example, and hence they can develop Coprophagia just as fast.
Bored or frustrated dogs may make their own amusement, which includes seeking out and eating cat poop
They Enjoy The Taste
I know this is a hard pill for dog owners to swallow, but yes, your dog probably loves the taste of cat poop. The smell of cat poop alone is enough to trigger dogs and have them actively seeking out the litter box.
If your dog can’t get enough of the taste, then the continued action could proceed. It’s nauseating to even think about it, I know, but is this is why your dog is eating cat poop; this is the easiest problem to solve.
Even in humans, boredom can make us do things we couldn’t imagine. Your dog could probably be eating cat poop due to boredom. Boredom can be eradicated by giving your dog a decent amount of mental and physical stimulation.
If you leave your pooch alone for prolonged periods, they are likely to explore the cat’s litter box in an effort to add some excitement to their boring day. Luckily, this reason is also easier to fix than others.
That said, a habit is still a habit. So if your dog has been continuously seeking out the cat’s litter boxes every time they are bored, then they’ve probably developed a habit, in which case would be tougher to reverse.
Medical conditions, such as Cushing’s disease and diabetes mellitus, can cause an increase in appetite or polyphagia. Your dog could be eating cat poop because he feels excessively hungry. These conditions also cause an increase in water consumption.
Eating non-food items that have no nutritional value (Pica), could also be a trigger for Coprophagia. Anemia and liver diseases are also major causes for this. Older dogs with declined cognitive function (dementia/senility) could even start eating cat poop.
Sometimes it is best to help your dog by eliminating the temptation to misbehave
Is Coprophagia Bad for Dogs?
It can be.
Even though most dogs are still fine after eating cat poop, this habit puts dogs at risk of contracting harmful parasites and bacteria. Bacteria like Salmonella, for example, can be transmitted to humans.
They can also contract different species of internal parasites from feline poop. Even if a cat may appear healthy and shows no signs of parasite infection, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not there.
Cat litter can cause problems for your dog when eaten in large quantities. Luckily, eating cat litter can only cause blockage when a dog eats too much of it. Your dog is probably fine if they still have regular bowel movements.
However, if your pooch appears to have difficulty with his bowel movements or doesn’t poop, you should call your vet.
On the plus side, besides these minimal risks, dogs don’t suffer severe health consequences from eating cat poop. However, it is better than this habit to be a one-off thing for both yours and your dog’s health.
Consult your vet once you notice that your dog is experiencing bowel issues from eating cat poop
How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop
Remove the Temptation
The first thing you need to do if you notice your dog is eating cat poop is to remove the temptation. You can ensure this by eliminating the possibility. Place the cat litter box somewhere your dog can’t reach it.
Small dog owners should place the litter box high up on a shelf while large dog owners should consider putting the litter box in a small-spaced place where only the cat can access it.
You can also buy a self-cleaning litter box that removes cat poop automatically and immediately after use. You should also consider installing a “cat door” that your pooch can’t pass through. Or install a baby gate if you have a large dog.
Whatever method you select, make sure that your dog proof the cat litter box to make sure this habit comes to an end.
Consider making the cat feces less appealing by making them unpleasant
Anxiety & Stress Relief
As mentioned earlier, dogs, like people, also suffer from anxiety and stress. If your dog is experiencing extreme amounts of anxiety, he could eventually develop behavioral issues like Coprophagia.
If this unfortunate habit in your dog is being triggered by anxiety, you will have to do more than just placing the litter box where your pooch can’t access. Unless anxiety is addressed at the root, it will eventually lead to other behavioral issues even when the poop-eating dilemma is addressed.
Dog owners must get to the bottom of what is causing their dog’s stress. It could be due to separation anxiety or due to new environmental changes like change in the household or changes as a new family member.
It could also be that your dog is picking up your anxiety. Dogs are highly sensitive creatures; hence if anything is affecting you, it will probably affect them as well.
Mental & Physical Stimulation
If the main reason your canine companion is eating cat poop is boredom, it is crucial to include mental and physical activity. Putting the litter box out of your dog’s reach won’t resolve boredom issues, your dog will most likely find something else to entertain himself with, and some ways can be more distracting than Coprophagia.
We recommend adding in extra walks in the morning or evening. You should also consider buying interactive toys to keep your dog mentally stimulated when left alone. Also, consider introducing your pooch to doggy daycare or hiring a dog walker.
If not handled appropriately, boredom can be hard to fix and will often lead to additional development of behavioral issues.
This habit could be a sign that your dog has health or behavior problems that need to be addressed
Change Up The Dog’s Diet
The importance of your dog’s diet can’t be overlooked. Your pooch could be eating cat poop due to inadequate nutrients and vitamins in his current dog food diet.
Consult your vet regarding supplements you can include in their food to make sure they are receiving all the nutrients in their meals. Here are food additives you should consider to stop cat-poop-eating atrocities:
For a while now, For-Bid has been the only anti-coprophagia treatment brand on the market. It is a mixture of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and wheat gluten. It is available in powder form that you can sprinkle on your dog’s food and is available for both dogs and cats.
This product is also a mix of MSG and B-complex vitamins. It is available in granules you can spring in their food and is available online. MSG is the active ingredient and is meant to cease your dog from eating poop from the cat litter box.
Ensure that your adorable pet does not get bored
This is a soft and chewy treat also meant to stop your dog’s Coprophagia. This product could be a bit harder to feed your cat because it doesn’t sprinkle on the food. However, if your cat loves cat treat, you could be in luck.
It is a roast beef-flavored snack that is laced with MSG, an enzyme called cellulose, and other inactive ingredients. You can find this treat in stores that sell pet supplies or online.
If you don’t want to give your dog or cat extra MSG, you can give Only Natural Stool Eating Deterrent. It is an all-natural blend of digestive enzymes, brewer’s yeast, yucca, parsley, Cayenne, and Chlorophyll.
This product doesn’t rely on MSG but on a mixture of super greens, enzymes, and vitamins that make cat poop unpalatable.
Teach Your Pooch the ‘Leave It’ Command
If your dog keeps invading the cat’s litter box, it’s time you teach him the ‘leave it’ command. You have to be very diligent when doing this.
Every time you see your pooch wandering near your cat’s litter box, you know exactly what he is up to. With a firm tone, address him and say, “Leave it!” each time they listen to you, give him a treat.
If they disobey, repeat it, and louder. Since dogs don’t understand our vocabulary, they can at least sense commands. If your dog is new to this command, it could take a few times before the command works. All you have to do is keep repeating the command until they understand.
If you manage to stop the dog from eating cat poop outside or at home, then your pooch will not face any severe health problems.
While we love those “welcome home” kisses from our four-legged friends, it is better not to think about where their mouths have been during the day. While our canine companions are perfect and we love them like our own babies, when Coprophagia strikes, it can turn out to be pretty gross.
Even though eating cat poop doesn’t result in any serious health issues for your dog, dog owners will stop at nothing to make this habit stops. Luckily, just by making a few simple changes, positive change can occur.
However, not all dogs are the same. If you have further concerns or additional questions regarding Coprophagia, consult your veterinarian. Do the same also if you feel that your pooch has contracted intestinal worms or parasites.
All we want is the very best for our canine companions, and that doesn’t include cat poop snack.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.