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My Dog Ate Cat Poop: Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Iulia Mihai

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Dr. Iulia Mihai

DVM MSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Ingestion of fecal matter, or coprophagia, is common in dogs. They may eat the feces of other animals or their own.

Many dogs that eat cat poop are healthy and do not get sick. However, cat poop is a source of bacteria and parasites, and your dog can become ill. To ensure that your dog stays healthy, even if they consume cat poop, deworm them regularly, and monitor any clinical signs that may occur (soft stools, diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, etc.). If any of these appear, take your pet to the vet.

To prevent the occurrence of coprophagia, you must understand or find out the cause of this behavior. For this reason, talking to a vet is the most recommended first step because coprophagia can have several causes (boredom, stress, diet, digestive problems, internal parasites, etc.).

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The 7 Possible Reasons Your Dog Ate Cat Poop

The consumption of feces can begin at any age, though it is more common in puppies. Coprophagia has mainly behavioral roots, but can also occur due to medical issues.

Dogs adopt this behavior for the following reasons.

1. Copying

This behavior in dogs is native. A mother dog will eat the feces of her puppies to keep them and the bedding clean, as well as to protect her offspring from possible predators that might be attracted by the smell.

The mother does this from the moment that the puppies are born until they are weaned. The puppies are in the process of learning and developing and will imitate their mother naturally in everything she does. They can continue this behavior of copying their mother until they reach adulthood.

Even if your dogs were born and are living indoors, they may still adopt this (evolutionarily primitive) behavior, which is instinctive.

dog smelling poop
Image Credit: xtotha, Shutterstock

2. Poor Digestion

Your dog may have problems with their digestion and not be able to digest food properly. Digestion problems can occur when the food that your dog eats does not have enough digestible nutrients or they suffer from a medical condition. Also, cat poop can smell like cat food (many dogs love cat food), and your dog will be tempted to taste it.

Switching to premium dog food can help your pet get rid of this behavior. If the new food does not help your pet, an evaluation by the veterinarian is recommended.


3. Boredom, Stress, and Anxiety

Boredom, stress, and anxiety can be other causes of coprophagia. If your dog is left alone for a long time, you have just moved to a new house, or a new family member has appeared, they may develop this behavior as an anti-boredom, anti-anxiety, and anti-stress method. Therefore, you should not induce more stress on your dog by punishing them when you observe this behavior.

If their food is of good quality and your dog is healthy but still develops this behavior, contact your veterinarian.

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4. Exploration

Coprophagia as a learned behavior, along with natural curiosity, is what causes dogs to smell, taste, and even eat their own feces or that of other animals, including cats.

Dogs explore the environment through the senses of sight, smell, and taste. You will often see your dog taking something from the ground with their mouth to feel what it is. This can also happen in the case of cat feces, being a way to explore and discover their environment.


5. Hunger

Intestinal parasites feed on the nutrients that your dog consumes, often leaving them hungry. Therefore, your dog will try to complete their diet with anything else they can find to eat, including poop.

Dogs that do not receive enough food can also develop this behavior. If they receive insufficient meals per day, they may start eating poop. Therefore, puppies and adult dogs should receive several meals per day to stay healthy and develop harmoniously.

dog and cat eating at home
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6. Pleasure

Sometimes, dogs eat cat poop because they like the taste. Cat poop typically smells like cat food, which attracts dogs.

Other times, puppies and adult dogs may continue this behavior simply because they like to do it. There isn’t always a satisfactory explanation, and the best thing that you can do to try to stop your dog from doing it is to distract them and then remove the feces from their mouth.


7. Attention Seeking

Dogs may eat cat poop to get your attention because they know that when you catch them with the feces in their mouth, they will get a reaction from you (good or bad, it doesn’t matter because they perceive it as special attention). To prevent this from happening, spend more time interacting with your dog.

dog and cat
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What Can Happen and What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Cat Poop?

In most cases, nothing happens when dogs eat cat poop, though, their breath will likely smell after eating it. However, there are cases in which dogs get sick and develop gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, loose stools, or diarrhea). Fortunately, these are often mild and can be treated with meals of rice, vegetables, and boiled chicken.

In severe cases of continuous diarrhea and vomiting, your dog can become dehydrated, which can be life threatening. So, if your dog has eaten cat poop and develops severe gastrointestinal signs, take them to the vet as soon as possible. In some cases, dogs may require hospitalization and intravenous fluids to recover.

It is also possible that cat poop contains intestinal parasite eggs. If your dog eats cat poop infested with parasites, they will also become infested. Parasite eggs are not always visible to the naked eye in cat poop. So, even if you do not see them in your cat’s feces, do not assume that they are not infested. For these reasons, if you know that your dog has a habit of consuming cat or another animal poop, deworm them regularly.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop

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Preventing this unwanted behavior depends on the circumstances. For example:
  • If your dog eats poop from your cat’s litter box, the best way to prevent this behavior is to place the box in an area where your dog can no longer access it (e.g., move the litter box to another room or set up baby gates).
  • If your dog eats cat poop when you take them out for a walk, wearing a muzzle will stop this unwanted behavior.
  • If you have puppies that you want to give up for adoption or sell, you must clean up after them every time because otherwise, they may develop this habit, which their new owner likely won’t appreciate.
  • If your dog does not consume quality food, change their diet to a premium one, rich in essential nutrients.
  • For puppies, it is recommended to give them several meals a day.
  • Deworm your dog regularly (intestinal parasites could be a cause).
  • Spend quality time with your dog or get a dog sitter if you are away from home for a long time.

If your dog continues to eat cat poop despite all attempts to stop the behavior, consult a veterinarian to identify the problem.

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Conclusion

If your dog exhibits this behavior, it does not mean there is something wrong with them. The causes of coprophagia are multiple and include boredom, anxiety, stress, pleasure, diet, and intestinal parasites. While it is a natural behavior, it may have a few risks, though it usually does not lead to severe health problems. That said, in some cases, dogs can develop gastrointestinal disorders or become infested with parasites. It is best to try to prevent this behavior and contact your veterinarian whenever something is wrong with your pet.

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