Dogs are scavengers by nature and extremely inquisitive, so eating things that they shouldn’t is a frequent occurrence! But what if your dog has eaten cat feces? And what if your dog ate cat poop as well as the kitty litter? Unfortunately, this is a very unpleasant habit but also a common one.
Many dog owners deal with their canine companions sifting through the cat’s litter box looking for “kitty treats.” There are actually several reasons this can happen, but it’s also not without some risk for your pup.
The biggest question on your mind is likely how dangerous it is, and if it could make Fido sick. In general, your pup should be fine if they ate a couple of pieces of kitty poo. But there are some things you’ll need to be aware of, as well as some things to watch for.
Is It Bad If A Dog Eats Cat Poop?
Cat feces, like all types of poop, can harbor bacteria, viruses, and parasites – including worms and toxoplasmosis. Some of these things are unlikely to be harmful or contagious to dogs, whereas others could go on to cause issues. Without knowing the cat’s health status, it is hard to know for sure whether the feces your dog ate are likely to cause any illness or not.
My Dog Just Ate Cat Poop. What Now?
If Fido just started digging through the litter box, you are likely wondering what you should do next. While the amount that was eaten will matter, as well as if your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat, there are a few universal steps you can take to protect your pup.
Step 1: Secure Your Pup
Try and remove your dog from the area so that he can’t eat any more feces. If you’re on a walk, tempt your dog away with a treat. If it’s your cat’s litter tray, you may want to move Fido to another room whilst you clear up.
Step 2: Avoid Licking Contact
If your dog has been eating feces you will not want to be greeted with a lick! You may want to clean their mouth out after eating poop. Consider offering him a drink of water or gently flushing his mouth out with normal drinking water to reduce the possible bacterial or parasite load.
Step 3: Analyze Their Overall Wellbeing
Look for any signs of sickness, and take notes. Your veterinarian will need to know if there are any signs or symptoms of being ill. Watch for things like excessive drooling, restlessness, and vomiting or diarrhea. Any of these symptoms will be important for your vet to know.
Step 4: Make Sure Nothing Else Was Eaten
Has any cat litter been consumed alongside cat feces for example? Some cat litters contain chemicals. This can be important to understand to ensure your dog hasn’t consumed anything toxic. While most litters are pet-friendly, they are not meant for ingestion.
Step 5: Call Your Veterinarian
This is important if you are concerned that your dog is showing signs of being sick or if they’ve eaten a large amount of litter. If they are otherwise fine and haven’t ingested anything other than the feces itself, then you may choose to monitor and see if any symptoms develop.
What Happens If a Dog Eats Cat Poop?
In most cases, eating cat feces will only be likely to cause some bad breath, and perhaps mild, self-limiting gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhea. However, your canine companion could potentially pick up an infection that may cause ongoing issues.
If your pup ingests cat litter as well as poop this could potentially cause problems, as large quantities of clumping cat litter could cause constipation or intestinal obstruction. If you are worried, then contact your veterinarian for advice. Some of the most common causes of infectious illness in cat feces are as follows:
A tiny parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii is commonly an infection of cats, but they can transfer this on to other species through their fecal material. Most healthy dogs will show no outward signs of infection, but young or immunocompromised dogs may develop symptoms of toxoplasmosis.
Pregnant dogs are at higher risk of infection (as are pregnant women). Symptoms are quite varied but can include vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, jaundice, heart arrhythmias, neurological problems, seizures, and stillbirth. Treatment may involve hospitalization and medication such as antibiotics.
The most common worm infection that can affect dogs, as well as cats, is tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). The microscopic eggs of these parasites are passed into the cat’s feces but require an ‘intermediate host’ like a flea, rodent, or rabbit to swallow them before they can infect a dog. They are not usually caught directly from the feces itself.
Giardia is a type of microscopic parasite called a ‘protozoa’ which can infect a variety of species. The parasite is passed out in the feces and if ingested can start replicating in its new host causing diarrhea and weight loss. There are specific worming treatments and antibiotics that can treat this parasite.
This type of bacteria can be spread from cat to dog, and it is also zoonotic meaning that your cat and dog can also infect you and other humans they contact. Some cats can be carriers of salmonella and may not show any clinical symptoms themselves.
The bacteria can survive a long time in the environment, so eating infected cat feces, even if they’re a few days old, could lead to illness. Animals that become sick with salmonella infections typically develop chronic diarrhea but can become very sick if the bacteria enters their bloodstream.
This is a more common infection in younger cats or those that have compromised immune systems. Like with salmonella, some cats can show no symptoms of campylobacter infection themselves but can be carriers that shed the bacteria in their stools. There is the potential for humans and dogs to catch campylobacter from cats, but it is rare unless both your cat and your dog have an immune compromise.
E.coli (Escherichia coli) is another bacteria that can cause diarrhea in both animals and humans. There are different strains of the bacteria some are more likely to cause ill health than others.
What Will My Veterinarian Do?
If your veterinarian has any concerns about your pet, they may recommend that they are brought in for an examination. They will administer a physical exam to look at their overall health and condition. They will be able to record your pet’s weight to look for any losses. Your veterinarian might also recommend further tests to screen for any underlying issues.
Blood tests will give your veterinarian an idea about your pet’s overall health but may also show them markers of infection and inflammation. One of these is a type of white blood cell called an eosinophil. The levels of eosinophils can be elevated if there are parasites present.
Biochemistry will look at your pet’s liver and kidney function as well as protein levels, which may be altered if your pet has chronic diarrhea. A specific blood sample may also be recommended to look for the parasite toxoplasmosis.
A fecal sample might be recommended to examine your dog’s stools for parasites and to culture it for certain types of bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter. Specific treatment options can then be offered based on the results.
If your dog is very unwell the veterinarian may advise you to let him stay in the hospital for monitoring and intravenous fluids. This could occur if he has been off his food and water, or if he has ongoing vomiting or diarrhea issues. Further tests or diagnostic imaging may also be recommended to rule out other health conditions.
Will My Dog Be OK?
In the majority of cases, dogs will be fine after ingesting cat feces. But very occasionally a harmful pathogen or parasite could be consumed. If your dog does become sick then seeking prompt treatment should ensure he recovers well.
Although less common, if a food allergy or any dietary sensitivities are present, then be aware that eating cat feces could potentially trigger these. Food substances that your dog is allergic to may be present in a partially-digested form in the cat’s feces, and could cause a flare-up of their symptoms.
Preventing Cat Poop Ingestion
Prevention is better than cure, so if you have a cat at home then try and make sure her litter tray is well out of your dog’s reach or in an area of the house they cannot access. You may also want to consider upgrading to a self-cleaning litter tray. Some dogs may eat cat feces at home out of boredom, so consider increasing your dog’s exercise regime and provide more mental stimulation in the form of toys and games.
Other dogs will seek out feces while out in the garden or walking, which is a little trickier to manage. Sometimes this habit (known as ‘coprophagia’) is ingrained in them as they are scavengers by nature and some of them will quite enjoy the taste of cat feces. You may need to keep them on a leash or carry treats with you to distract them from eating poop.
Making sure your dog is on a well-balanced diet will ensure there are no nutritional deficiencies that he is trying to compensate for. Checking that there are no underlying health reasons for any sudden increase in appetite may be worth doing too. Speak to your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions
In conclusion, most dogs will be absolutely fine. But if your dog ate cat poop and now has diarrhea or any other signs of ill health then you should contact your veterinarian for advice. Take particular care if your pup has a lowered immune system or any other health complaints and be aware that some infections can affect humans as well as animals!