Every cat-cohabiting dog’s favorite thing about their roommate: that wonderful box of kitty crumpets.
Cat poop, to dogs, are irresistible truffles.
Since cat food generally has more protein and fat than dog food, the end result is, to dogs, extravagant.
What’s not so extravagant?
When you have to clean up an overturned litter-box, vacuum up loose litter… and well, avoid your dog’s kisses for a while.
And while your cat may not mind having her litterbox cleaned by her doggy housemate, she might feel stressed when her personal space is invaded.
Do Dogs Get Sick From Eating Cat Poop?
Even though feces are loaded with bacteria, dogs generally do not get sick from eating it every now and then. A dog’s (and a cat’s, too) digestive tract is proportionally, shorter, than a human’s, so when they eat foods (and non-foods) that carry bacteria, their body processes what they eat so quickly that harmful microorganisms don’t always have time to fester.
Plus, our pet carnivores have a highly acidic digestive tract that helps kill off bacteria.
That does not mean, however, that dogs never get gastric infections or parasites from eating poop, trash, and other forbidden fare.
It’s just not terribly likely if your dog indulges on your indoor cat’s poop every now and then.
If your dog is not vomiting or otherwise unwell, eating poop is probably not going to warrant an urgent vet visit.
Even if your dog encounters outdoor cat poop, which is more likely to carry parasites, that’s unlikely to be a major issue if they are regularly dewormed and get a fecal test at the vet at annual wellness visits.
A monthly heartworm preventative that also eliminates hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms is the easiest way to keep that peace of mind. However, there is a chance your dog may contract giardia, a small parasite which causes severe diarrhea.
Cat Food and Poop
Cat food is not much different from dog food. It contains a higher concentration of calories, protein, and fat.
Dogs are more sensitive to fat than cats. Some dogs experience pancreatitis, severe swelling of the pancreas, when they consume a fatty meal.
But the chances of your dog eating enough cat poop to send them into an acute pancreatitis attack are pretty low. Even so, it’s something to keep in mind if your dog is at greater risk – like middle-aged or senior dogs, those that have had a previous attack, and those with chronic conditions like diabetes.
If your dog steals your cat’s food on a regular basis, or gets into the litter-box often, they’re likely to gain extra weight.
Is Cat Litter Dangerous To Dogs?
If you use a scoopable, clumping litter, it’s likely to be stuck to any poop your dog might eat. Litter works by absorbing moisture and swelling, and if your dog eats enough of it, it can “clump” in their digestive tract, potentially causing a gastric obstruction. A gastric obstruction may require surgery and can be life-threatening.
Dogs are unlikely to eat enough litter to cause a serious issue if it’s only the amount that has stuck to the poop.
That said, some types of litter are tempting enough for dogs to try to eat them without poop.
Some natural cat litters are made from corn, walnut shells, or wheat, and dogs may be tempted to eat it.
In fact, the first litter I tried was “World’s Best Cat Litter,” a pleasant-smelling natural corn litter, but I had to stop using it because my dogs tried to eat it – before the cat had even used her box for the first time.
Natural litters come in clumping and non-clumping. Clumping litter can cause an obstruction.
Can I Train My Dog To Stop Eating Cat Poop?
While it’s possible to train dogs to not get into poop, trash, and other dangerous, yucky things, no dog is 100% reliable, especially when left alone in reach of temptation.
Keep in mind that a rewarded behavior is likely to be repeated. If your dog goes into the litter box and gets a “treat” – they’re going to do it again and again.
Stopping the behavior by eliminating access to the litterbox is the only way to stop reinforcing that behavior.
You can work on skills like “leave it,” without letting your dog near the box, and while you’re supervising your dog.
But no matter how much you train your dog, no matter how well they behave 99% of the time, there’s always a chance that they’ll snatch an opportunity if they have access to kitty litter.
A dog that eats poop is not forgetting their manners, being disobedient, or being sneaky. Though they certainly do learn to only attempt to eat poop when you’re not looking, it’s not personal, in that moment. It’s just too tempting.
Solutions For Dogs That Eat Poop
Your cat’s litterbox needs to be in a place that’s accessible to kitty, yet private and inaccessible to dogs.
Baby gates are great for this because most cats can climb them, but dogs cannot. Pet gates often have slick, long bars that are hard for cats to climb. Look for a baby gate that has a mesh that’s easy for your cat to climb up and over.
Top entry litterboxes are great because not only are they private and inaccessible, they help lock in odor. They might not stop a tall or large dog, though, and some cats won’t use them.
A cat cage with a litterbox on the bottom is another great help. We keep the litterbox on the bottom, with food and water on the top tier so our kitty has a place to go that’s completely free of doggy intruders. It has a door on both the top and the bottom, so I can keep the top open so she can jump in and out.
If your cat is older and arthritic, they may struggle to access a top-entry litterbox or one behind a gate.
Instead, you can try a litterbox that’s covered and has a small entrance that only your cat can squeeze through. You may need to place the litterbox inside a large storage container with a hole cut out, with enough room that your dog can’t reach in, even if they stick their head through the “door.”
A self-cleaning litterbox is another great way to keep dogs from eating cat poop that does not require a jump-in entry. They’re surprisingly affordable and easy to maintain.
Teaching your cat to use a toilet, too, can work, but if your dog can reach the toilet bowl, you’ll have to teach kitty to flush, too. I’ve yet to try this, but it can be done. The main issue that even flushable litters can mess up your toilet, so consider whether you have faith in your plumbing before trying to toilet-train your kitty.