Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

Updated on June 1,2020

While we already know most dogs are not picky when it comes to their choice of snacks, some dogs will truly eat anything! Discovering your dog’s interest in the litter box can be shocking, and may leave you wondering why on earth they are participating in this behavior. 

dog eating cat poop

In this article we’ll dive into why some dogs eat cat poop, and ways you can prevent it from happening in the future!

So why do dogs eat cat poop?

Unfortunately, there is no scientific reasoning behind this odd behavior that can be magically resolved. Some dogs simply enjoy eating poop of all kinds, even if it does disgust us. Dogs are scavengers, and they are hardwired to sniff out and search for snacks at any given chance. Your cat’s litter box is just another treasure chest at the end of their search for food, even if it seems gross to us. 

Are dogs missing something in their diet if they eat cat poop?

There has long been talk about dogs turning to eating poop when they are missing key components in their primary diet. After much debate, it’s been proven that most dogs that are  interested in eating cat poop are doing so due to an interest in scavenging for food options. Though some cases of coprophagia (the term for dogs that eat stool) have been tied to dietary deficiencies, this is often rare. 

Not only does cat poop often have a profound odor that calls out to our dog’s noses, it can often smell like the cat food our feline friends consume each day. Though we wish we had a different answer, it turns out that some dogs simply like to eat gross things!

Is eating cat poop bad for dogs?

Not only is it gross when our canine friends break into the litter box, it’s also potentially dangerous. Cat poop contains harmful bacteria that will make its way into your dog’s digestive system when it’s consumed, leading to the possibility of your dog becoming ill. Harmful bacteria in the gut can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and more. 

Aside from the threat of harmful bacteria is the ability to transmit intestinal parasites through stool consumption. Most intestinal parasites shed eggs each time your cat poops, meaning these parasites can be passed on to any dog that eats the stool. Some cats can be symptomatic for these critters, meaning you may have no idea that your cat is passing on harmful parasites to your canine companion. 

One forgotten possibility when it comes to dogs eating cat poop is the potential for litter to become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract. While you may think your dog would choose not to consume the chalky chunks of litter, it’s not always the case. Unfortunately, my dog has a personal experience with this situation. 

What Happened When My Dog Ate Cat Poop

As a Licensed Vet tech, I’d like to think I am diligent about keeping my pup safe. While I certainly try my best, accidents can always happen. I try to arrange the two litter boxes in my home to face the wall in order to keep my pup from reaching inside. At some point I must have forgotten to turn the litter box around, as my dog, Ellie, found her way into the box and ate enough litter to cause some serious problems that followed. 

By the next day, she began to act a bit strange. Once she started to vomit, I knew something was wrong. I rushed her into my job at the animal hospital to discover a shocking sight once we performed routine X-rays. Her intestines were glowing!

litter obstruction

The glowing intestines you see on her X-rays are the clumps of litter that were impacted in her bowels. The blockage was causing her to vomit, as well as make her abdomen extremely painful. I had no choice but to hospitalize her on IV fluids and hope that she could pass the chunks of litter. If she couldn’t then she would need surgery. 

Thankfully after 48 hours on IV fluids she was able to pass the obstruction without surgery! Though she managed to avoid a serious abdominal surgery, it was still incredibly scary. I learned an important lesson on being extra careful, and just how essential it is to keep our canine companions away from cat poop!

How To Prevent Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop

There are a few ways to keep your pup from your cat’s litter box and prevent them from following through on this unpleasant habit. Some easy ways to prevent your dog from eating cat poop include:

  • Purchase a litter box that is covered. Covered litter boxes are much harder for your dog to access, and often deter most dogs from the habit.
  • Keep your litter box in an area that your dog can’t access. This can be behind a piece of furniture, in an elevated spot that your dog can’t reach, behind a gate that has a small point of entry for your cat, or any other spot in your home that your dog can’t gain access to. 
  • Install a baby gate or some kind of barrier around the litter box. Some baby gates or pet gates have a small opening that will allow only your cat to fit through. 

dog eating cat poop

Some pet owners have to get creative in order to keep their pups away from the litter box. As long as your tactic is safe, there are multiple at home barriers that you can create. 

Summary

Now that you know your dog’s desire to scope out the litter box is simply due to their need to scavenge, you can begin to eliminate this unpleasant habit in your home. Be sure to review the tips we’ve listed above to keep your cat’s litter box protected, and your dog will be protected from any potential risk!

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