Whether you have a cat in your home or you come across neighborhood felines pretty regularly, keep an eye on your dog! Contrary to popular belief, dogs and cats can get along. They're not always at each other's throats like the movies would suggest.
However, dogs have a knack for exhibiting some pretty disgusting behaviors involving the mess that cats leave behind.
That's right: Many dogs enjoy eating cat poop!
The act of consuming feces is referred to as coprophagia, and it's surprisingly common in dogs.
It's something that sends shivers down the spines of many, but your lovable pooch won't hesitate to gobble up litter box leftovers if it strikes their fancy.
Obviously, this behavior is not something you should condone or ignore. Not only is it disgusting, but eating cat poop can lead to a whole host of health problems. So, what can you do?
The first step in stopping this behavior is figuring out why dogs eat cat poop in the first place. Once you unlock that piece of the puzzle, you can address it and put an end to the coprophagia.
Here are some common reasons dogs eat cat droppings and solutions you can use to stop the behavior.
#1. - A Taste for Protein
Believe it or not, but some dogs eat poop simply because they like the taste. Canines do a lot of things that we humans would never imagine doing.
They rummage through the trash, roll around in the mud, and sniff each others' behinds. While you might view your dog as a dainty little sweetheart, they probably do a ton of disgusting things. Is eating poop really that far of a stretch?
In most cases, protein is the biggest attraction for dogs. Canines thrive on protein and will do everything they can to get a taste. Cat droppings are filled with protein, so the connection isn't too farfetched.
What You Can Do
If your dog simply loves the taste of stool, you have to get a little more creative about deterring coprophagic behavior. The goal here is to limit access to the feces or make it as unappealing as possible.
To try the former, pick up cat poop as soon as possible. That's a bit harder if you and your dog encounter droppings during a daily walk, but you can manage litter box cleanings for cats you have in the home.
You can try investing in a self-cleaning litter box or one that's purpose-built to keep dogs out.
Another option is to use stool deterrents. These products are food additives that don't affect the taste or nutritional value of the meal.
In fact, most cats won't even notice that you added anything. They will, however, dramatically alter the taste of the stool.
Deterrents make the poop wretched even for a dog's palate!
With one taste, most dogs will spit it out and never attempt to eat the poop again.
* Try spreading black pepper or hot sauce in the litter box if you want a more straightforward solution. Doing so will agitate your dog's senses and drive them away naturally.
Just make sure that you don't overdo things to the point that your cat won't want to use the box!
#2. - A Lack of Nutrients
Another common reason why dogs eat poop is nutritional deficiencies. Dogs don't always know what's going on with their bodies. But, they're more tuned into their health than most owners realize.
If your dog isn't getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy and survive, it'll find ways to get them. Unfortunately, that means they're more than willing to turn to disgusting means. Canines will consume poop to fulfill their dietary requirements.
In many cases, a lack of Vitamin B1 or Thiamine is the culprit. However, a lack of fats and proteins will drive dogs to eat poop, too.
In addition to gobbling up cat poop, you might observe your dog eating its own droppings.
What You Can Do
If you suspect that nutritional deficiencies are to blame, it's time to take a good hard look at the food you're providing.
Take a look at the ingredients list and make sure that it can provide a balanced meal. There's a good chance that it doesn't if your dog is resorting to coprophagia.
Consult with your vet about potential dietary changes. They may recommend a food with more protein, better fats, or more fiber.
Take time when choosing the best dog food for your canine companion. You'd be surprised by how much of a difference high-quality food can make.
#3. - Pure Boredom
Dogs are curious little creatures that can quickly get into trouble if left to their own devices. They exhibit a lot of strange behaviors. Many people don't realize this, but many of those oddball quirks result from sheer boredom!
Canines need mental stimulation. They're one of the more intelligent beings in the animal kingdom. If they're unable to keep their brain occupied, dogs will resort to unwanted behavior.
Many turn to aggression or destructive tendencies. Others look to eating cat poop! It's all part of what makes these animals unique.
If your pup is left alone all day without anything to do, don't be surprised if they look towards the cat's litter box for stimulation.
What You Can Do
The solution here is pretty simple: Find ways to keep your dog busy! Now, we understand that most owners can't stay home all day to play with their dogs. Even if you want to, it's not always feasible.
However, there are ways to let your dog have fun in your absence. Invest in some mental stimulation toys.
Something as simple as a puzzle feeder or automatic ball launcher is more than enough to keep their minds racing. Sometimes, a simple chew toy is all it takes!
Experiment a bit and see what works for your pooch. Once you find a suitable toy, they won't even realize that the cat poop is nearby.
Another option is to wear your dog out. Go for an intense run before you leave for work. If your dog is all tuckered out, it'll focus on sleeping rather than poop-eating.
#4. - Emotional Distress
Like boredom, stress and anxiety can make your dog do a lot of weird things. Dogs can be sensitive animals when they're in unfamiliar territories.
New environments or experiences are a lot to handle! So, they look for anything they can to find solace.
Even if your dog is comfortable in your home, they might not be OK with being there on their own. Separation anxiety is pretty common with young dogs.
Those anxious feelings often manifest themselves in destructive behaviors, poop-eating, and other unwanted actions.
What You Can Do
We recommend contacting a trainer or canine behaviorist for help here.
The easiest solution to stop poop-eating is to simply put your dog in a kennel while you're away. However, doing so can cause even more stress that only serves to exacerbate the problem.
You need to find ways to help your dog find peace on its own.
That could involve comforting toys, calming sprays, or even a shirt that smells like you. However, it should also include training.
Dogs need to understand their limits and learn to find peace when you're not around. Trainers can do a lot to help with those distinct challenges.
#5. - Survival of the Fittest
Survival instincts can make your dog eat cat poop as well.
Canines will often eat their poop in the wild if they don't hunt enough prey to stay satiated. It's a way to stay full in harsh environments.
I know what you're thinking: Your dog has never had to fend for itself once in its life. Even dogs in the lap of luxury will turn to raw instincts when the going gets tough!
Some dogs will learn this behavior from others, too. For example, many mothers eat their young's poop to keep the den clean before the pups are strong enough to fend for themselves.
Young puppies might observe that behavior and think that it's necessary to survive.
What You Can Do
The best course of action here is to provide enough food to fill your dog's stomach. There's a delicate balance between providing too much food and not providing enough.
Some dogs will continue eating until they can no longer move, so you have to be somewhat vigilant about portion size.
Consult with your vet for some guidance. You may want to get in touch with a trainer to overcome the hurdles of any learned behaviors.
Additional Tips to Stop Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop
Are you still looking for solutions to your dog's poop-eating problem? Here are a couple of additional techniques that can serve you well regardless of your dog's reason for eating cat poop.
Teaching the "Leave It" Command
The "Leave It" command is an excellent catch-all training technique that your dog needs to know. It's a great way to curb your dog's curious behavior and get them out of trouble whenever you find yourself in a pickle.
Teaching this command is pretty simple. Whenever your dog starts investigating a pile of poop or the litter box, provide the vocal command. Say "Leave It" in a solid and authoritative tone.
That alone should catch their attention and pull focus from the poop.
If they follow your directions, provide a treat and plenty of praise. Be vigilant with this command, as it can come in handy during many difficult situations.
If all else fails, you can establish some physical boundaries.
Now, keeping your dog away from cat poop all the time is not easy when you have stray felines in the neighborhood. However, you can do your part to limit the temptation.
Avoid droppings as much as possible and pull your dog's focus if you come across any on your daily walk.
For cats inside the home, make the litter box inaccessible. Place it in a different room that your dog can't access. That might require purchasing a gate or a kitty-sized door, but the investment is well worth it.
You can also find dog-proof litter boxes and other tools to create some much-needed separation between your dog and your cat's poop.
Don't ignore your dog's poop-eating behavior. Cat poop is unsanitary and offers no nutritional value whatsoever. Not only that, but it has the potential to harbor disease-causing pathogens.
Stray cats are also notorious for carrying parasites like tapeworm that could easily transfer to your dog after they ingest the feces. All of these issues can impact your dog's health and well-being.
Take steps to end the nasty behavior once and for all! While it can be challenging, proper training and adequate safety precautions can make it much more manageable.