As a dog owner, it can often feel like no item or substance is off-limits to your curious canine. From socks and toys to leftover food, your dog might seem willing to eat anything. Unfortunately, this curiosity can sometimes lead them to less appetizing items such as insects, rabbit droppings, or cat feces. Dogs can come across cat poop in a variety of situations such as during walks, backyard exploration, or even while sharing living spaces with a feline friend. It’s essential to understand the potential risks associated with this behavior and to know what steps to take if it happens.
Is Cat Poop Dangerous for Dogs?
In short, yes, cat poop can be harmful to dogs. While it’s not always detrimental, it carries a risk of causing health issues, and it’s best to prevent your dog from indulging in this unsavory habit.
Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?
Coprophagia, or the consumption of feces, is a behavior observed in approximately one fifth of domestic dogs 1. This seemingly repugnant practice can be traced back to the habits of their wild counterparts, and may even be an evolutionary remnant. Wild canids have been noted to eat feces as a territorial behavior, and mother dogs might consume their puppies’ excrement to protect them from parasites – a practice called den sanitation. However, these specific motivations aren’t as applicable to our domestic pets.
Research suggests that dogs might indulge in coprophagia for various reasons, including recuperating lost nutrients, garnering attention from their owners, or dealing with stress and anxiety. Some dogs might consume feces to supplement their diet with nutrients they failed to absorb during digestion, much like humans take vitamins. Other dogs may eat feces as an attention-seeking behavior, especially if this behavior has received an emotional response from the owner before. Finally, stress or anxiety, often exacerbated by harsh punishments, could prompt dogs to eat their own poop as an attempt to hide the evidence of what they perceive as wrong behavior. Importantly, coprophagia is rarely indicative of any serious health disorder or deficiency. It’s typically harmless, albeit unappetizing to us, and may simply be a remnant of their ancestors’ practices.
What Variables Influence How Dangerous Cat Feces Are to Dogs?
The danger presented by ingested cat poop can depend on several variables. These factors may include the general health and immune status of your dog, the amount of feces consumed, and the level of pathogens present in the feces. Dogs with compromised immune systems may be more susceptible to developing illness after consuming cat feces.
The danger of cat feces for dogs lies primarily in the potential for disease transmission. Cat feces can contain various pathogens, like bacteria, viruses, and parasites, some of which are transmissible to dogs. The most common parasite found in cat poop that can harm dogs is Toxoplasma gondii, causing toxoplasmosis 2. The parasites’ eggs, passed through cat feces, can survive in the environment for long periods, posing a risk to dogs if ingested.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
When Should I Contact a Professional?
If your dog has consumed cat feces and begins showing signs of illness, it’s important to contact your vet promptly. Depending on the symptoms and their severity, your vet might recommend specific treatments or tests to ensure your dog’s health.
Keep in Mind: Dogs and Cat Poop
While the occasional consumption of cat feces by dogs may not always result in significant health issues, it’s a behavior that should be discouraged due to potential risks. Understanding these risks and being able to recognize the symptoms of illness can help ensure your canine companion’s well-being. Remember to contact your vet if your dog shows signs of sickness after ingesting cat poop.
B.L. Hart, Behavioural defences in animals against pathogens and parasites: parallels with the pillars of medicine in humans. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. [Biol].36, 3406-3417 (2011).
Toxoplasma gondii infections in dogs: 2009-2020, (2023).
Frequently Asked Questions
Dogs might eat cat poop due to a variety of reasons, including nutritional deficiencies, curiosity, or boredom. It’s crucial to provide a balanced diet and plenty of mental stimulation to help curb this behavior. It can, depending on the pathogens present in the feces and the dog’s immune status. Chronic infections or severe cases of illness can potentially lead to long-term health problems.
You can use strategies like maintaining a clean yard and litter box, using deterrent products, or even training commands to discourage this behavior
If you catch your dog in the act, try to remove any remaining feces from their mouth without risking a bite. Monitor your dog for any signs of illness and contact your vet if needed.
It can, depending on the pathogens present in the feces and the dog’s immune status. Chronic infections or severe cases of illness can potentially lead to long-term health problems.