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? 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. This includes 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, 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 have 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.
It’s more likely that your pup may have problems if they have eaten feces from a stray cat. Certain animals have been known to carry certain bacteria that house pets do not, making their feces problematic when consumed.
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 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 feces.
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.
Could Pet Insurance Help?
If your pet insurance covers exam fees and your dog needs to be examined, there is a good chance your policy will reimburse those costs based on your policy details. However, if you are a new customer, vet expenses will not be covered until after your policy’s defined waiting periods, so signing up once you have an existing health concern is not going to help this time. Pre-existing conditions are not covered by any current pet insurance plans.
This is why it is a great idea to sign up for a pet insurance policy when your pet is young and relatively healthy to ensure you will be covered when you need it most.
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 a cure, so if you have a cat at home, 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 providing 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
Why does my dog eat cat poop?
Dogs eat poop for a few reasons. One of the main ones is that it is part of their scavenging nature. Though we think cat feces smells awful, to our dogs, it smells very appealing. It may smell like cat food which attracts them. In some cases, mother dogs will eat the feces of their puppies to keep them clean and to protect them from anything the fecal smell may attract. As gross as it seems, this is part of their protective maternal instincts.
Can dogs get sick from eating cat poop?
Yes, dogs can get sick from eating feces if the poop they eat contains any harmful parasites or bacteria. The majority of the time, they will be ok, but your pet might be the unlucky one and pick up something nasty! If your dog is immunocompromised (has a weakened immune system), then this can leave them more susceptible to infections than a normal healthy dog.
Dogs that are very young, undergoing chemotherapy, on high-dose steroids, are pregnant, or have bone marrow disorders will be more likely to catch infectious diseases from cat poop. Contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog.
Can dogs get worms from eating cat poop?
Dogs don’t usually catch worms directly from eating cat feces. The cat roundworm cannot be transmitted to dogs, and the tapeworm requires an intermediate host to be transferred, so it cannot pass directly from cat to dog. Making sure your dog has regular worming treatment will help reduce the risk of any severe infestations occurring.
Can eating cat poop kill a dog?
While very unlikely, there is a small possibility, especially if your dog catches a nasty bug that makes them unwell and is left untreated. It is also worth noting that toxoplasmosis is dangerous in pregnant dog moms who can pass it on to their preborn puppies, resulting in stillbirth or pups with birth defects.
Can dogs get parvo from eating cat poop?
No, parvovirus is usually a species-specific virus, so dogs will only catch parvovirus from other dogs or dog feces. Cats have their own infectious parvovirus though, which is also known as panleukopenia virus (or feline infectious enteritis) and is only contagious between cats.
How can I clean my dog’s mouth after eating cat poop?
Offer your dog some water. Wipe the outside of the mouth off with a damp cloth or pet wipe. Next, clean and brush the teeth using canine toothpaste or coconut oil. Use a toothbrush, finger brush, or even your finger wrapped in a clean cloth. You may want to try a canine mouthwash. Only ever use dog-safe products, not human mouthwash or toothpaste. Offer your dog kibble to clean out the mouth, as well as a dental chew. You can also try these ways to clean your dog’s mouth without a toothbrush.
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.