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Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

Does your dog love to do a deep dive into the cat box every once in a while and come up with a mouthful of cat poop?

This behavior may be challenging for some owners to tolerate and may even agitate cats, who are often protective of their litter boxes.

So why is your dog eating cat poop?

There are many possible reasons, each of which can be managed if you understand them fully.

They Like It: Hard to Imagine

If your dog eats cat poop continually, there’s a good chance that they just like the taste of it.

That might seem hard to imagine for some dog owners.

However, it is crucial to understand that dogs have different taste buds and senses of smell than people.

What smells bad to you often smells very good to them because dogs have a powerful and capable sniffer.

For example, your dog might smell the underlying cat food that makes up the bulk of a cat’s poop.

Rather than noticing the potent odor that drives you away, they detect this alluring aroma and can’t help but want to eat cat poop.

This situation often requires you to condition your dog away from the area, such as spraying a “poop spray” around the area.

Unfortunately, this spray produces a potent odor designed to annoy dogs.

dog eating in grass

Scavenging Instinct: Eating Because It is Available

Wolves and coyotes may seem like majestic and beautiful hunters, but they also tend to be opportunistic scavengers.

In other words, they eat what they can get when they can get it.

The life of an apex predator is never easy to maintain.

So, even wolves and coyotes will eat poop if they find it, simply as a way of adding to their sometimes limited dietary options.

And what is your dog but a very small and somewhat goofy version of a wolf or a coyote?

They possess many of the same instincts as their evolutionary cousins, mainly scavenging.

So, even if you feed your dog a healthy blend of food every day, their instincts to scavenge may be hard to ignore.

Place your cat box somewhere your cat can reach, but your dog cannot to prevent this behavior.

Boredom: Hey, It’s Something to Do, Right?

Have you ever opened up a bag of potato chips and ate the whole thing by yourself simply because you had nothing better to do that day?

Think of your dog in the same light to better understand their poop-eating behaviors.

It might seem hard to imagine eating poop just because you’re bored but remember: dogs have different tastes than humans and will eat other things when bored.

You typically notice this behavior if your dog doesn’t usually eat poop but will if left alone for too long.

Try to provide your pup with healthier alternative treats while you’re away, or entertain them better before you go to help keep them away from poop.

Remember: they’re not eating because they’re hungry but because they want something to do with their energy.

Anxiety and Stress: Often, Separation Anxiety is to Blame

This behavior is related to boredom and is often triggered by many of the same emotional impulses.

Like people, dogs often experience high levels of stress and anxiety and need an outlet for it.

Some may take to tearing up their favorite toys, digging in the garden, running around the house at full speed, or howling.

Still others may get into stress eating and find cat poop an easy target.

Pay attention to your dog’s behavior when you catch them eating cat poop.

Do they seem anxious or distracted?

Are they doing it when you’re away, and you know they have separation anxiety?

Or do they eat it when new people are in the house or thunderstorms are occurring?

These familiar sources of canine stress may trigger poop-eating behaviors and can be managed by treating your pup’s anxiety.

Nutritional Deficiencies: More Common Than You’d Think

Your dog needs a specific level of fiber, fat, and protein in its diet to be healthy.

And while high-quality dog food products usually have a strong balance of these items, some dogs may still suffer from nutritional imbalances.

When this happens, their body triggers hunger and inspires them to find unique alternative sources of food.

And readily available cat’s food is often too alluring to pass up.

If you fear that your dog has nutritional deficiencies, take them to a vet for a blood test.

They’ll let you know if your dog has any problems here and prescribe a specialized food or supplement option that helps to boost their nutritional levels.

In many cases, this can help minimize poop-eating behaviors and keep your dog’s mouth out of the cat box for good.

Diabetes and Cushing’s Disease: May Cause High Hunger

Some dogs develop conditions like diabetes or Cushing’s disease, which change many elements of their behavior.

For example, both of these illnesses can cause extreme hunger in dogs and make it hard for them to stay satiated.

As a result, they may turn to cat poop as a way of managing this impulse or even drink excessive amounts of water to keep themselves healthy.

If you fear that your dog has one of these diseases, talk to your veterinarian right away.

You may need to give them injections of insulin or other types of treatments to keep them healthy.

Often, you’ll notice your dog’s eating behaviors decrease heavily, including eating less food with each meal.

This change is a huge benefit and will likely help your dog lose weight and stay out of the cat box.

Understand Your Dog’s Behaviors

While it might be hard to stomach seeing cat poop in your dog’s mouth, you must understand that they aren’t inherently vile creatures.

Instead, they are very complex beings with different behavioral and nutritional needs.

When you know this fact and work with your veterinarian, you can find a way to keep your dog out of the cat box and also improve its overall health in many ways.

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National Canine Research Association of America