Why do dogs eat from the litter box?
The litter box has a mysterious appeal to many dogs, something that is incomprehensible to most dog owners. A dog that is constantly chasing cat poop in the litter box is not only annoying and dirty, but it can also be dangerous for the dog.
Why do dogs actually want to eat from the litter box? And what can you do to prevent dogs from eating from the litter box?
Why dogs eat cat poop
Dogs are opportunistic eaters and they are not easily disgusted by poop, garbage or other things that we humans might consider inedible. Cat poop also falls under the snacks that a dog can eat with taste.
Cat poop is usually attractive to your dog because it can still smell like cat food, something dogs love. A dog's taste is often difficult to fathom anyway, many things that disgust us, dogs love.
In some cases, dogs that eat poop are deficient in nutrients. In most cases, however, the curious dog has simply discovered that cat poop is tasty. Now snacking from the litter box has become a habit.
When eating poop becomes a habit for dogs, it is known as coprophagia. Many dogs will exhibit some form of coprophagy throughout their lives.
Is it bad for dogs to eat cat poop?
Cat poop can contain parasites or bacteria that could be harmful to your dog (or yourself). Ideally, you should keep your cat parasite-free, but it's certainly possible that your cat has a parasitic infection that you haven't noticed.
Many parasites are contagious to dogs and cats, which means your cat can transmit parasites to your dog if he eats cat poop. One of the parasites that can be dangerous to dogs, cats and humans is Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite causes Toxoplasmosis, and this is especially dangerous for people who are pregnant. Dogs and cats with a lowered resistance can also become seriously ill from this parasite.
In addition, bacteria that are often present in feces can be picked up when your dog eats cat feces. An example is Salmonella. Dogs can often handle salmonella bacteria more easily than humans, but if your dog eats cat poop and then licks your hand, you risk infecting yourself with the bacteria that were present in your cat's litter box.
Sometimes food from the litter box can also cause a constipation in your dog. It often takes excessive amounts of cat grit to cause a blockage in dogs, but the possibility still exists. Silica gel cat litter and granules that form clumps are especially dangerous. Silica gel swells when it gets wet, and the clumps of clay can easily block your dog's gastrointestinal tract.
Even if occasionally eating poop from the litter box won't harm your dog, it's safest for your own health to prevent your dog from eating cat feces.
How to prevent your dog from eating from the litter box
The easiest way to prevent your dog from eating cat feces from the litter box is to avoid getting into the cat's litter box. There are several ways you can keep your dog out of the litter box while still allowing your cat free access to the litter box.
A pet gate that stops your dog but allows cats through is an excellent option to keep your dog away from the litter box. This wooden pet gate is a good example, but it is less suitable for small dogs.
You can also place the gate about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) above the ground to give your cat enough room to sneak under the gate. This also makes the fence hang higher, making it more difficult for your dog to jump over.
A puppy pen around the litter box can also help, in this case you have to make sure that your dog cannot move it, and the cat must be able to get into it.
Another option is to put the cat's litter box up high, preventing the dog from reaching it. For example, place the litter box on the dryer or a table in a separate room. With this litter box mat prevent the cat litter from ending up everywhere.
Finally, there are litter boxes that are difficult for dogs to access, and this can be a perfect solution if the above options are not possible. The Savic Hop In for example, is inaccessible to most dogs. Also at the Hoopo Dome litter box Is it difficult for dogs to get to the cat litter?
Sometimes a litter box with a flapper lid is enough to keep your dog out of the box, but many dogs learn that they can push the lid open and can then get their head stuck.
It is important to always keep your cat in mind. Cats are often very picky about the type of litter box and its location. To prevent your cat from urinating outside the litter box, you may need to make more adjustments to keep your dog away from the litter box than replacing the litter box itself.
Training can also help your dog leave the litter box alone. Eating cat poop is a rewarding behavior in itself, so you need some perseverance to get this done.
For example, teach your dog a "leave it" command and teach it to come back when you call it. Make sure your dog can't reach the litter box when you are not supervised by putting the litter box in a separate room.
Extra tips for eating from the litter box
- Have your dog checked at the vet for vitamin or mineral deficiencies. In addition, thyroid disease or Cushing's disease can cause your dog to be hungry, constantly looking for a snack.
- Always keep the safety and health of both your cat and dog in mind when solving the problem.
- Take your dog to the vet if you think he has eaten a large amount of cat litter. This can cause serious problems.
- Deworm your dog regularly if he occasionally eats from the litter box. This is also recommended if your dog eats feces from cats or other dogs outside.
This BLOG has been posted on our website as a guest blog with the author's approval.