Why? Why? Why? Ugh.
What smells disgusting to us smells yummy to dogs–cat poop (any poop, really), dead frogs, soiled laundry, whatever happens to be in the gutter as you walk past. The grosser, the better, but what causes a human to grimace makes a dog say, “So yummy. Must do a taste test!”
Eww! What’s Wrong with My Dog?
Pets fed a balanced diet are not likely to be eating cat poop because of malnourishment. However, there are a couple of serious health problems–diabetes and Cushing’s disease–that can cause extreme hunger in dogs, causing them to ingest anything they can find to quell it. Other troubling symptoms do accompany these diseases, so if you notice increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, or odd weight fluctuation, definitely visit the vet to pinpoint or rule out any possible health problems.
Usually, though, nothing is physically wrong with a dog that snacks on cat poop. It might be stress or boredom, but in all likelihood, your pet is just doing yet another gross or indelicate dog thing. Don’t think less of him or her for sampling such aromatic gifts of nature.
So It’s Normal?
But It’s Poop. It Has to Be Bad, Doesn’t It?
It’s not great. Coprophagia–eating feces of any type–should be discouraged. Even though there is a high probability that your dog will be fine, risks do exist for both you and your pet. Feces can transmit worms (super fun) and other internal parasites, and it can harbor harmful bacteria, such as salmonella. In addition, consuming copious amounts of cat litter along with those delicious little gifts left by kitty can cause an intestinal blockage.
What Can I Do to Stop It?
First of all, be calm in your response to the behavior. Yelling in horror or scolding will probably just make your dog sneaky about the habit, which is not the outcome you want. A dog trainer may be useful if the cause is boredom or stress. By visiting your home and learning about your dog’s environment and any possible stimuli, a trainer may be able to suggest helpful changes and tactics.
There are also dietary supplements that some pet parents and trainers claim work. These include products like Forbid and Naturvet Coprophagia stool eating deterrent. The reason the reviews on these products are mixed is because different dogs engage in this behavior for lots of different reasons and thus no one product works in every case. Forbid in particular has been around since 1960.
If the neighborhood felines turn your yard into a cat poop buffet, there is not much to do about the problem short of turning the whole area into a concrete wasteland or constantly patrolling your yard to find the poop before your pet does. If you are serious about preventing any culinary indiscretion, the only solution may be keeping your dog on a leash when you go outside.
If the problem is the litter box in your home, make it completely inaccessible to your dog. A baby gate may be the solution, as long as your cat can get past it but your dog cannot. Since cats are acrobatic geniuses, you might try putting the litter box up higher than your dog can reach. If that proves unworkable, a different type of dog-proof litter box may be your answer. Alternatively, sprinkling your cat’s food with a deterrent could work. Harmless to your cat, it will make their poop taste as bad to your dog as it smells to us.
Dogs Will Be Dogs
Whenever your pet is indulging in a morsel of cat poop, enthusiastically humping a friend, licking its own hind parts, sniffing unmentionables, or eating cat poop, remember: your dog is still your bud, a person’s best friend, warts and all.