Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Feces?

Puppies may learn to eat feces from their mothers.
i mother dog with puppy image by Phaedra Wilkinson from Fotolia.com

As disgusting as it seems to humans, eating cat feces is pretty typical for dogs. This behavior, known as coprophagia, can happen for a variety of reasons, but it's not healthy for your pet.

Medical Issues

Take your dog to the vet right away. His taste for feces might be triggered by intestinal or pancreatic issues. Any medication he’s on could also be a culprit. On the other hand, a prescription might help him if the coprophagia comes from severe anxiety. Even if your vet doesn’t find a medical cause, your dog might have picked up parasites—such as coccidia, giardia, roundworms or whipworms—from eating cat poop. The vet can test for these and prescribe deworming medication.

Inherited Behavior

Eating feces—those of cats and other animals—might be an inherited and even genetically programmed behavior. Wild canines, such as coyotes and wolves, sometimes scavenge poop if they can’t find or catch prey; they can actually get some essential vitamins this way. Access to cat litter might bring out the same instinct in your dog, even if she’s getting a balanced, nutritious diet. Also, when domestic and wild dogs have pups, the mother licks her babies to stimulate their bladders and bowels. She then eats the waste to keep the puppies’ environment sanitary. Seeing it modeled by their mother, some puppies try coprophagia, too.

Other Causes

Your dog might just like the taste of cat feces. He could also be anxious, bored or trying to grab your attention. If you’ve put the litter box in a spot he can access without much trouble, he might have become intrigued by the smell. He might even be hungry. It’s possible, though, that you won’t ever know exactly why he eats cat poop.

Stopping the Behavior

The easiest way to keep your dog from eating cat poop is to remove the opportunity. Put the litter box in a spot she can’t reach, or try a covered litter box. Some pet stores sell products you can mix with your cat’s food to make the feces taste disgusting—even to your dog. Sprinkling cayenne pepper, chili pepper or Tabasco sauce in the litter box might also deter her. Make sure she knows and obeys the “Leave it” command, and keep an eye on her in case you need to use it. Whatever you do, don’t punish her for the coprophagia—this can stress her, which might actually make the behavior worse.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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