Why Does My Dog Eat Cat Poop? Reasons and How To Stop It · The Wildest

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Why Does My Dog Eat Cat Poop?

Yes, we have to talk about it.

by Dr. Amy Fox, DVM
March 26, 2024
Puppy dog with guilty look lying on the floor.
Petra Richli / iStock

There is nothing more disturbing than your dog bounding up to you, tail wagging, with a nose covered in kitty litter; the tell-tale sign that they have been snacking on cat poop again. There is certainly a major yuck factor for us and also some legitimate health concerns that arise if your dog is making this a regular habit. But why in the world do dogs eat cat poop?

More importantly, how do we stop them? There are many possible reasons for a dog to eat cat poop, including physical or behavioral problems that may create the urge to eat non-food items, or — even worse — they might even like the taste. Getting to the bottom of why they are doing it is an important part of finding solutions to break the habit. 

What is coprophagia?

Coprophagia is the medical term for eating poop, whether that is one’s own poop, or the poop of another animal. Yes, some dogs eat their own poop, too. The reasons for this can be very similar to reasons why a dog might eat cat poop, or even wild animal poop that they find outside.

When a dog is eating non-food items the general term for that is pica. Pica can have many different causes, some of which are related to medical problems, while others are behavioral. 

Reasons dogs eat cat poop

Dogs may be tempted to eat cat poop for a number of reasons. Some of the most common include: 

1. Attraction to the taste or smell

This one may be the hardest to accept because to us, it is just so gross. And yet, many dogs genuinely seem attracted to the smell and/or taste. 

2. Physical abnormalities

Certain physical conditions can lead dogs to crave non-food items or to eat things to try and soothe pain or discomfort. This is common with digestive disorders like food allergies or parasites, as well as with certain deficiencies like vitamin B12 or anemia.

Some medical conditions and medications will also increase a dog’s appetite, making them more likely to eat non-food items, such as with diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and steroid medications. Sometimes neurologic problems can also lead dogs to eat non-food items too.

3. Behavioral causes

In other cases, dogs eat non-food items like poop due to a compulsive disorder, anxiety, and/or boredom. It is important to rule out physical problems first in order to be sure the cause is behavioral

Is it unhealthy for my dog to eat cat poop?

We can all agree that snacking on cat poop is gross, but can a dog get sick from eating cat poop? Yes, they certainly can. If the yuck factor wasn’t enough reason to deter them from eating cat poop, there are also medical reasons why they should not be devouring these cat, uh, truffles.

Some of the most common risks include: 

  • Parasites: There are many intestinal parasites that can be transmitted from cats to dogs, especially through the feces. If your dog is eating your own cat’s poop and your cat is a strictly indoor cat that has been routinely dewormed, this is much less likely, but never a zero-risk situation. It is much more risky if they eat cat poop from stray cats outside, or from indoor/outdoor cats that are more likely to have parasites themselves.

  • Impaction from litter: If your dog is hitting the kitty-litter buffet, you also have to worry about them ingesting cat litter, which is not digestible. It can cause digestive upset including vomiting or diarrhea. If they eat a lot of it, it can also cause intestinal blockages, or severe constipation, known as impaction. 

  • Toxins in kitty litter: While most kitty litters are non-toxic, some may have added ingredients to control odor or absorb moisture that are not safe for your dog to eat. Be sure to double check the labeling on your cat litter and contact a pet poison hotline if you have any concerns. 

Signs my dog has been eating cat poop 

Sadly, you usually know right away when your pup has been eating cat poop. Either you find evidence like a kitty litter mustache, or that unmistakable scent on their breath, or you notice the litter box has been tampered with and is mysteriously empty. If you don’t happen to catch them in the act, you may not always know.

In many cases, they won’t have any symptoms at all if they just ate a small amount. If they did contract intestinal parasites, they might not show any signs at all, or the signs may take a while to show up, such as bloating, diarrhea, or weight loss. In the extreme case where your dog ate a lot of kitty litter and has an intestinal blockage or impaction, the signs are more obvious as this is a medical emergency. They may be vomiting, not eating, straining to poop, and/or have a painful belly. In these cases, they need immediate veterinary attention. 

How normal is it for dogs to eat cat poop?

It is fairly common for dogs to eat cat poop, especially when it is readily accessible in their home. If your dog is obsessively seeking it out and/or eating lots of other non-food items, this is abnormal and may be a sign of an underlying problem. It is important to speak with your vet and get to the bottom of why they are doing so.

First, physical problems should be ruled out to ensure that your dog does not need medical intervention for an underlying problem. This requires a thorough work-up with your vet to test for many of the common causes of pica.

If your vet doesn’t discover any medical issues, your dog may be engaging in these acts due to a behavioral problem. Work with your vet and/or a behaviorist to identify these issues and create interventions to solve the problem in other ways.

How to stop dogs from eating cat poop at home

A big part of stopping this behavior is getting to the bottom of why your dog is doing it in the first place. For this reason, working with your vet to identify any physical or behavioral problems that are leading them to eat cat poop is a very important starting point. Targeting those specific problems will be the most effective way to combat this.

Other proactive steps you can take include: 

1. Proper litter box management

Be sure to keep the litter box as clean as possible to remove temptation. Clean the box daily, plus anytime you know your cat has just pooped. If there is no poop to eat, your dog can’t get into trouble. 

2. Create barriers to the litter box

If your dog cannot access the litter box, they cannot eat cat poop. Some ideas to keep your dog out may include a covered litter box, one that is confined to a closed room with just a kitty door for access, or one that is up high enough that they can’t reach it. Whatever barriers you choose, be sure that they are acceptable to your cat and that they don’t deter your cat from using the box. Cats can be sensitive about this and when deterred, they may pee and poop outside of the box.

3. Training and redirection

This can have multiple benefits, especially if you suspect your dog is eating cat poop for behavioral reasons. Working on training techniques to help them feel mentally engaged and to teach them what you expect can help alleviate boredom and anxiety. In addition, teaching specific cues, like “ leave it,” or mat training your dog will give you a way to redirect them if you catch them sniffing around the litter or on walks. 

4. Enrichment and exercise

In addition to training, be sure to provide your dog with many constructive outlets for their mental and physical energy. When people say, “a tired dog is a good dog,” that is true on so many levels. If they are getting lots of physical exercise every day and has toys, food puzzles, opportunities for socialization, and fun training sessions, they are less likely to suffer from behavioral problems related to boredom

Are there supplements that can help?

In most cases, supplements are unnecessary and will not prevent your dog from eating cat poop. If they are eating cat poop strictly because they like it, they are bored, or have other behavioral issues, those problems can be addressed directly in many other ways.

If your dog has a specific medical problem that is causing them to crave non-food items, there may be specific medications or supplements that will help, however, this should only be used in consultation with your veterinarian and based on a specific diagnosis.

When should I take my dog to the vet for eating cat poop?

If your dog is obsessively eating cat poop and/or other non-food items, it’s important to have a thorough work up with your vet to determine if there is an underlying medical cause for their pica. This is especially important if you notice other physical problems like vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, an insatiable appetite, or lethargy.

It is also important to see your vet if your dog eats a large amount of cat litter, or any other non-food items. These foreign objects can cause serious digestive problems including intestinal blockages or impactions, so it is important to seek treatment right away.

For dogs that have had a thorough medical work up but continue to eat non-food items frequently, it is important to also speak with your vet about behavioral interventions that can help. This may include a combination of training techniques, medications, and using a basket muzzle to keep your dog safe from ingesting dangerous objects. 

FAQs (People also ask):

Can my dog get sick from eating cat poop? 

Yes; dogs can get intestinal parasites, and/or bacterial infections from eating poop and kitty litter can also make them sick.

Can a dog get worms from eating cat poop?

Yes. There are many intestinal parasites that can be transmitted from cats to dogs through their feces.

How can I clean my dog’s mouth after they eat cat poop?

Try to encourage your dog to drink water, and brush their teeth if they will tolerate it. 

Can my dog get sick from eating kitty litter?

Yes, kitty litter can cause digestive upset, intestinal blockages, or impactions. Some litter may also contain toxins when ingested.


Amy Fox

Dr. Amy Fox, DVM

Amy Fox, DVM is a small animal veterinarian in New York City. A lifelong animal lover, Dr. Fox studied biology in college and then worked as a veterinary nurse before pursuing veterinary school at Cornell University.  She has worked in many different settings including shelter medicine, emergency medicine, general practice, and animal cruelty and forensics. She is especially interested in nutrition, preventative medicine and care for senior pets. Dr. Fox also enjoys writing about veterinary medicine and teaching. In her free time she loves to cook, garden, and go for long runs. 

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