You love your dog but… do they sometimes behave strangely? They act like a vacuum cleaner and eat anything they find in their path, such as your socks, the plastic wrapper of the bun you ate, or worse, the poop of your other pet, your rabbit!
This last behavior is called coprophagia and refers to the act of eating excrement, of their own or of other species. It happens very fast, one second your dog is sniffing the garden and in the next second, they are eating rabbit poop as if it were a delicious delicacy.
If you want to know the reason for this behavior, the risks involved, and how to prevent it, read on!
Why Do Dogs Eat Rabbit Poop?
Dogs eat rabbit poop for a variety of reasons, including a nutritional deficiency, curiosity, or a behavioral or health disorder. It is a relatively common occurrence and rarely causes serious illness, but we advise avoiding it.
While you’re cooking, suddenly, your dog looks at you. You want to give them a little treat but wonder if they can eat the food you are holding in your hand.
With our vet-approved magnet, you’ll know the answer at a glance! Plus, you can quickly scan our QR code to access the full article with all the explanations.
Below we elaborate on the causes of dogs eating dog poop:
A hungry dog might try anything that catches their keen sense of smell and leads them to it.
The amount of food a dog needs varies according to their age, size, breed, and activity level, so you need to make sure your dog is getting a diet tailored to its requirements. It is important to understand how your dog behaves in order to recognize if they are receiving the right type and quantity of food .
Curiosity is a normal and frequent behavior in dogs. They explore the environment and pick up unfamiliar sounds and smells, which lead them to follow other animals or people, inspect new places and follow any scent trail that catches their attention. In this way, in addition to learning, they make sure that the environment where they live is safe.
This instinct to investigate is another reason why they may be attracted to eating rabbit poop.
A nutritional deficit can be caused by a variety of factors, including inadequate diet, illness, or gastrointestinal disorders. This can result in dogs consuming inappropriate things to make up for the nutritional deficiency their body has.
Rabbit feces often contain high amounts of undigested food, such as fiber, B vitamins, and phosphorus, as their diet is rich in these nutrients, and this may be the reason dogs consume their droppings .
It is important to provide a balanced diet to avoid these problems and ensure that your dog is getting the nutrients they need to be healthy.
It is important to provide a balanced diet to avoid these problems and ensure that your dog is getting the nutrients they need to be healthy. If you suspect that your dog is eating rabbit poop because of a nutritional deficit, we recommend that you visit a veterinary nutritionist to check if their diet is unbalanced.
Pica is a behavioral condition in which the dog repeatedly ingests non-food items, such as clothes, plastic, soil, or excrement. It can be due to several causes, such as inadequate diet, stress, anxiety, boredom, or health problems, such as anemia, metabolic disorder or gastrointestinal disease.
Pica can be detrimental to your dog's health, as they may ingest life-threatening objects, and this may be caused by an underlying health problem. So, if your dog continuously engages in this behavior, we recommend that you consult your veterinarian to find the cause of the pica so that appropriate treatment can be instituted.
Is It Dangerous?
In general, rabbit poop is neither toxic nor extremely harmful to dogs, especially if they have consumed a small amount, as it is mainly made up of grass and hay. However, it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, in addition to being unpleasant.
Rabbit poop can be a carrier of infectious agents, such as gastrointestinal parasites, bacteria or fungi. It is true that these are usually species-specific, i.e., they are capable of infecting rabbits but not other animals, in this case, dogs, but there is a small possibility of cross-infection, causing the dog to become ill from a rabbit microorganism.
In immunosuppressed animals or puppies, it can pose a greater risk, since their defenses are lower and they can get sick much easier. In this case, it is essential to avoid contact with rabbit feces and to maintain good hygiene in the environment.
Go to your veterinarian if your dog has vomiting or diarrhea after ingesting rabbit feces.
Are There Parasites in Rabbit Droppings?
Yes, there can be parasites in rabbit feces. These are some of the most common ones:
Leptospira is a bacterium that causes leptospirosis in infected animals. Dogs can become infected by contact with water or soil contaminated with urine from infected animals.
Symptoms include fever, muscle pain, weakness, loss of appetite, thirst, increased urination, jaundice (or yellowing of mucous membranes and eyes), and dark urine, and this can be very severe, causing kidney and liver damage and even death. It is diagnosed by a blood test and treatment consists of antibiotic therapy and symptomatic medication.
Each animal species has a specific Leptospira serovar and, although there are several serovars that can infect different animal species, it is rare for a dog to be infected by a rabbit-specific Leptospira serovar .
A coccidian is a protozoan that can be found in the intestine of animals and cause infection of the gastrointestinal tract, called coccidiosis, characterized by diarrhea, fever, and weight loss in infected animals.
Oral deworming and appropriate disinfection measures help with the prevention and treatment of coccidiosis. In general, coccidia is species-specific; therefore, it is unlikely that a dog will be infected by a rabbit coccidia .
A protozoan that causes giardiasis in infected animals. Symptoms include diarrhea, flatulence, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. It can be diagnosed by coprological examination.
If your dog is infected with giardiasis, it will require oral treatment and cleaning and disinfection of surfaces in its environment to reduce the risk of reinfection.
A dog can become infected by ingesting contaminated food or water, in this case by infected rabbit poop, but not all strains of Giardia can infect both species; in fact, although there are reported cases of cross-infection, the likelihood of a dog becoming ill from a rabbit Giardia infection is low due to the difference in digestive tract anatomy .
How to Recognize Rabbit Poop?
If you have had pet rabbits or live in the suburbs you may know how to recognize rabbit poop, if not, you may have never seen this in your life and they can be difficult to distinguish from other animal feces, so here is how to identify them.
You should know that rabbits produce two types of feces:
- ‘Real' feces
These feces are round and regular in shape. They are small, approximately five millimeters in diameter. They have a smooth, hard texture. They are brown in color, although they can contain hair or have remains of vegetation adhered to them, varying according to the rabbit's diet. These droppings are deposited in small piles.
These are soft stools or nocturnal stools produced in the cecum, a section of the large intestine, and are formed by partially digested food. They are produced a few hours after the rabbit eats, usually at night.
Cecotropes are smaller in size than “real” feces and often come together in a single mass in the shape of a bunch of grapes. They have a stronger and more distinctive odor than typical feces and are darker in color.
Rabbits eat these cecotropes, to reuse the undigested nutrients they contain, so rabbits are likely to eat their own cecotropes before your dog has a chance to do so .
From a canine health standpoint, it does not matter whether the dog eats rabbit feces or cecotropes.
In addition to the physical characteristics of rabbit feces, other clues that can help you identify them are the presence of rabbits around your yard, tracks, burrows, or diggings.
How Do I Get my Dog to Stop Eating Rabbit Poop?
Does your dog lick your face after eating rabbit poop? It must not be very pleasant… Here are some strategies you may find useful to prevent your dog from continuing this behavior:
- Check that they are eating a proper diet: If you notice that your dog is constantly hungry, check the type and amount of food you give them, as it may not be nutritious enough for them or they may require a larger portion.
- Supervise your dog when they are outdoors: If you have a pet rabbit or live near the woods, your yard may be full of rabbit feces, so we recommend that you accompany your dog when they are in that area to reduce the possibility of them consuming the rabbit droppings they sniff.
- Prevent rabbits from entering your yard: you can place barriers around your property, cut back weeds and other hiding places where they may stay, and remove weeds and food that may attract them.
- Cover rabbit droppings with vinegar or citrus: your dog will begin to associate the unpleasant taste and smell with rabbit droppings and, as a result, will reject them and stop eating them.
- Train your dog not to eat anything from the floor: This video shows you how to do it.
- Distract your dog by stimulating their mind: Make your dog exercise, this way they are less likely to eat rabbit poop out of boredom.
- Put a muzzle on them: If your dog doesn't listen to you when you ask them to spit out the poop or when you catch them eating it, a solution can be to cover their mouth with a muzzle. You can find it in any pet store or you can do it yourself.
- Contact professionals: If you suspect your dog is suffering from pica, visit your veterinarian to rule out that it is not caused by a health problem; if all is well, schedule an appointment with a canine ethologist to address the problem.
Dogs can eat rabbit poop for a variety of reasons, from nutritional deficiencies to curiosity, to health issues.
While rabbit poop can cause mild disturbances in dogs, such as gastroenteritis, we recommend preventing its ingestion by restricting the dog's access to rabbit poop by maintaining good habitat hygiene, an active lifestyle, and proper nutrition.
Do you know of any other techniques to prevent dogs from eating rabbit poop? Share your tricks with the rest of the readers so they can do the same for their pets.
Helena has been an animal lover since she was a child, which is why she graduated as a veterinarian at the Universitat Autònoma of Barcelona. Throughout her career, she did internships in several small animal clinics in Barcelona, her hometown, and for six months at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Helsinki, the Finnish capital. She also volunteered at a wildlife recovery center in Costa Rica. She currently practices in a veterinary hospital attending preventive appointments, chronic internal medicine cases and emergency visits.