Have you caught your dog eating cat poop? Having cats and dogs in the same household poses a unique set of challenges. Namely, keeping the kitty litter box and food bowls away from any dogs. While your dog eating cat poop may be disgusting, it can also be downright dangerous.
But why does your dog eat cat poop and how can you stop it? Read on for the scientific reasons behind your dog’s behavior, as well as how it could be affecting their health.
You’re not alone if you ever found yourself asking, “Why does my dog eat cat poop?” Poop eating, called coprophagia, is usually just your curious dog exploring.1 Dogs are naturally scavengers and love to snuffle through and eat trash, feces, food, and just about anything else they can find. Puppies are especially curious and will put literally anything in their mouths. Dogs even eat their own poop.
Although dogs are known for eating everything in sight, there are three primary reasons they may be specifically eating cat poop:2
- The smell: To dogs, cat poop smells like cat food. Since they love to eat cat food, it stands to reason they’d be attracted to the poop too.1
- A nutritional deficiency: Sometimes dogs eat cat poop because they’re malnourished or have a vitamin deficiency. This often happens when they’re on homemade diets and are not getting all the nutrients they need. Cat poop contains fats, fiber, protein, and vitamins that your dog may be craving. Plus, it’s filling and tasty to them.2
- Boredom: Whether your dog is left alone for long periods of time, or doesn’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation, they may start finding ways to fill their time. Unfortunately, eating poop from the cat’s litter box gives them something to do, especially when they know it’s off limits. Then they have to be extra sneaky, which almost makes it into a game for them.2
Dogs can generally eat small amounts of cat poop and be fine or have a slight upset stomach. But there’s always a risk they’ll get sick from a few different things. If your cat has intestinal parasites or is on medication, your dog may contract the parasites as well or be affected by the medication. Both of these are dangerous and may require a visit to the vet.2
There’s also the risk that the cat litter itself poses. When dogs eat cat poop right out of the litter box, they tend to ingest some of the litter with it. Kitty litter is absorbent and designed to clump up when wet. These properties can cause inflammation and even intestinal blockages in your dog’s digestive system if they eat too much of it.1
If your dog eats cat poop, don’t panic. They’ll likely be okay. If you know your cat has worms or is on medication, then you may want to call your vet. If not, you may be able to simply monitor them for any abnormal symptoms over the next 24 hours.
Here are a few symptoms to watch out for if your dog eats cat poop:3
- Stomach pain
- Low appetite
So how can you help your dog break this gross habit? The best way to prevent your dog from eating cat poop is to keep the cat poop away from your dog. If that’s not realistic, there are a few other things you can do to cut down on the behavior. Here are a few tactics:2
- Keep the litter box away from your dog. Try keeping the litter box in a room your dog doesn’t have access to. This may be as simple as putting a safety gate up to keep them out.
- Invest in a dog-proof litter box. If it’s not possible to keep your dog away from the litter box, look for dog-proof litter boxes they can’t get into. Some have top entry options, so your cat can jump in.
- Clean the litter box often. Cleaning litter boxes both removes the actual poop, as well as cuts down on the smells that may be drawing your dog to the box in the first place.
- Try adding spicy things to the litter. Misting and mixing black pepper or hot sauce into the kitty litter may help keep your dog away. One taste of the spicy litter may scare them away from eating it in the future.4
- Balance your dog’s diet. Ensure that your dog is getting enough to eat with nutritionally complete meals.
- Train your dog. Admittedly easier said than done, but it is possible to train your dog not to eat cat poop. You can either teach them to avoid it altogether, or give them a “leave it” command.
- Keep your dog busy. Help your dog get enough exercise by taking them on walks often, playing with them, and otherwise providing toys. Mental stimulation like puzzle toys are a great way to keep them busy when you’re not there.
Prevention can be a good way to keep your dog healthy. Whether preventing them from eating kitty poop or putting them on parasite prevention, you’re actively contributing to their health.
MetLife Pet wants to assist pet parents as they keep their cats and dogs healthy. Our dog insurance can provide coverage for treatments for injuries and illnesses, as well as offer two add-on plans that provide additional assistance.5 The Wellness Plan and Preventative Care add-ons may cover parasite prevention, parasite treatment, routine appointments, vaccinations, and more.6
Start protecting your dog today with a free quote from MetLife Pet Insurance!