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Why Do Dogs Eat Rabbit Poop? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

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

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Most dogs will eat almost anything —including things they shouldn’t, such as rabbit poop. Aside from being revolting, you want to nip this in the bud ASAP due to hygiene and safety reasons.

But why is it happening in the first place? Read on to learn the most common reasons why dogs eat rabbit poop and what you can do about it.

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The 6 Reasons Why Dogs Eat Rabbit Poop

1. Coprophagy Can Be More Common In Puppies And Young Dogs

Coprophagy is the scientific name for the habit of eating feces.1 It may sound horrifying to us humans, but it’s normal and essential for some animals.

For example, guinea pigs practice a specific form of coprophagy called cecotrophy. These animals produce two types of feces: hard, dry pellets and softer cecotropes,2 which are rich in nutrients, vitamins, and beneficial bacteria.

By eating the cecotropes, guinea pigs can extract more nutrition from their plant-based diet, as their digestive system has a limited capacity to break down fibrous plant material.

On the other hand, dogs have no need to eat their feces or that of other animals. However, it’s possible for them to develop the habit, especially if they see their mother or littermates engaging in it. Nursing mother dogs will clean and lick her puppies as a way to stimulate them to defecate and urinate, and will eat their feces in the process. Puppies and young dogs will more often eat rabbit poop, as using their mouth and trying out new tastes is a way to explore their environment.

dog smelling poop
Image Credit: xtotha, Shutterstock

2. Nutritional Deficiency and Medical reasons

Dogs who don’t get enough nutrients in their diet may try to eat rabbit and any other poop as a result. However, a study from 2018 has found no link between a dog’s diet and the habit of coprophagy when it comes to dogs eating their own or other dogs’ poops.1 But food-motivated pooches were more likely to do it. This can also be seen in dogs fed an inadequate, insufficient, or calorie-restricted (in cases of obesity) diet, or in dogs with specific medical conditions that decrease absorption of nutrients from the food. This leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and can consequently increase a dog’s appetite. Some of the illnesses that could lead to coprophagia due to increased feeling of hunger are deficiency in the digestive enzymes, parasitic infestations, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, thyroid disease, or treatment with steroids or anti-seizure medications.

If your dog has suddenly started eating their own poop or poop from rabbits and/or other animals and is showing changes in their appetite or drinking habits, they should be promptly checked out by your vet to rule out any of the above mentioned and other illnesses.

3. Curiosity and Exploration

In some cases, your dog may be eating rabbit poop because they’re simply curious! Dogs explore the world around them using their senses, and they often investigate unfamiliar objects by sniffing or even tasting them. As disgusting as poop is to us, for your dog, it has many appealing properties, based on the odor, consistency, and taste.

If it’s the first time your dog has come across rabbit poop, they might be intrigued by its unique scent and decide to sample it out of sheer curiosity.

white puppy eating animal feces
Image Credit: namenattawat, Shutterstock

4. Boredom and Stress Relief

Lack of mental and physical stimulation can cause dogs to engage in unusual behaviors, including eating rabbit poop. In other words, they’re doing it as an attempt to ease their boredom, anxiety, and stress.

5. Seeking Attention

Sometimes, dogs will eat rabbit poop because they’ve learned it gets a reaction from their owner. This is especially true if they’re often left on their own. In this situation, being scolded for eating rabbit poop may actually feel rewarding for the dog. Never overreact or punish your dog for eating poop, instead with time and patience teach them to drop it or leave it by rewarding the desired behavior with treats or praise.

german shepherd dog with his owner at the park
Image Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

6. Your Dog Developed a Bad Habit

Some dogs will over time develop a compulsive habit of eating rabbit or another animal’s poop, to the point that walking them outside will be very challenging. It’s best to get them checked by your vet to make sure there are no underlying medical reasons for this behavior. When these are ruled out, consider our tips on trying to stop your dog eating rabbit poop, or seek professional help from a certified canine behaviorist.

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How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Rabbit Poop

  • Consult your veterinarian to make sure there are no medical reasons or illnesses that have led to this behavior. Aside from ruling out nutritional deficiencies, they can help you figure out what’s going on and offer more solutions.
  • Remove all access to rabbit poop: If you keep rabbits as pets, you’ll want to prevent your dog from accessing their poop in the first place. Consider barricading your dog’s access to the coop, or if you keep your pet bunny indoors, make sure your dog can’t get anywhere close to their pen. Rabbits are prey animals, and they do not enjoy the presence of predator animals, such as dogs.
  • Use a deterrent spray: Use a pet-safe deterrent spray on areas in your garden where wild rabbits frequently defecate. This will make the feces less appealing to your dog. You can buy deterrent sprays from pet stores or make your own with things that dogs dislike. Try mixing water with orange peels and a very small amount of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Dogs hate this stuff, particularly the smell of lemons, but concentrated juice can contain high amounts of citric acid that is toxic for dogs, so dilute it well with water. Observe your dog and make sure they are not trying to lick the product, as some dogs will want to taste everything. Stay away from essential oils.
  • Reevaluate their diet: If eating rabbit poop has become a habit, consider replacing their current dog food and speaking to your vet about changing their diet or adding supplements to their food.
  • Provide exercise and mental stimulation: Is your dog getting enough walks and playtime every day? Does your pup get quality time with you? If not (or your schedule is too demanding), think about hiring a pet sitter or a walker. Get your dog some interactive toys and puzzles to wear out their minds. And once you have time to spare, spend some of it with your best bud!
  • Positive reinforcement training: Teach your dog to stop eating rabbit poop or to drop it on command by rewarding them with a treat, praise, or their favorite toy. This is especially useful if you live in a rural area with wild rabbits around. You can start by training your dog to respond to “leave it”, “no”, and “come”. Never punish your dog, as this will just cause them to run away and still eat the poop, while negatively impacting your trusting relationship. Consider seeking help from a certified canine behaviorist.
  • Supervise outdoor time: Keep a close eye on your dog when they’re outside, especially in areas where rabbit feces may be present.
woman talking to vet
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

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Stopping your dog from eating rabbit poop starts with identifying the reasons behind the behavior. It’s also a good idea to work with your vet in this situation because it may be rooted in health issues or behavioral problems.

Regardless of the reason, there are several ways to stop your dog from engaging in this behavior by managing their environment, improving their diet, positive reinforcement training, and more.

Featured Image Credit: Barna Tanko, Shutterstock

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