You took your dog out for a walk in the woods only to watch him run up to a pile of deer poop and start chowing down like it was a delicacy. While this might seem more than a little disgusting to you, your pup has other ideas and may think of the poop as being nothing more than a tasty snack. Scientifically referred to as interspecific coprophagia, eating feces can lead to a variety of problems including stomach issues, internal parasites, and--believe it or not-- tooth decay.
The good news is that unless you actually follow suit, you are not at risk if your dog decides to snack on deer poop. If you catch your dog eating deer poop you should observe his behavior and contact his vet to see what his recommendations are.
Can Dogs Get Sick from Eating Deer Poop?
Dogs can get sick from eating deer poop, or any other form of feces for that matter. Not only is it important for you to make sure the poop didn't cause your dog to get sick, but at the same time, you need to find out why he is eating the poop to begin with. Coprophagia (the desire to eat poop) is often a sign of an underlying illness or deficiency. Identifying the source of the issue is the only way to stop him eating deer feces-- unless you never take him anywhere he has access to it.
Does My Dog Have Coprophagia?
If your dog makes a regular habit out of eating any other type of poop, deer or otherwise, it is relatively safe to say he has at least a mild case of interspecific coprophagia. While this is pretty gross to humans, it is fairly normal in the canine world.
Symptoms of Coprophagia
This one is pretty basic, if your dog has eaten any type of feces, including from deer, more than five times, he probably has a case of coprophagia. The end result may be absolutely no post-meal symptoms (which is the most common) or you may find that he has one or more of the following post meal symptoms:
Causes of Coprophagia
There are many different ideas why some dogs insist on eating feces, one of which is a dietary deficiency. However, the veterinary community believes that, in most cases, this is not the reason. Among these are:
Diseases like Cushing's and thyroid problems
Drugs like steroids
Diagnosis of Coprophagia
Before you stop taking your four-legged friend for his daily walks out in the woods to get him to stop eating deer poop, you should take him in to see his vet. The vet should perform a range of tests in order to rule out the possibility of any type of medical condition including those listed above. If he finds an underlying cause of your dog's need to eat feces, he can then recommend the proper course of medical treatment.
To learn more about canine interspecific coprophagia and get the advice of an in-house vet, please visit our guide to Coprophagia in Dogs.
How Do I Treat My Dog's Coprophagia?
Much like any other potential medical condition, if you think your pup is suffering from interspecific coprophagia, your first step should be to take him in to see his vet. Once you know he has a clean bill of health, you can try these treatment methods to get him to stop.
Treatment for eating deer poop is based more on aversion than on what to do after he eats it. You may be able to change his behavior if you:
Keep your yard and gardens free of feces
Keep a tight leash on your dog when walking in areas where there might be deer poop
Use his favorite treat to distract him
Try changing his diet or feeding him smaller amounts more frequently
You may be able to use a citronella training collar. This type of collar lets you remotely release a citronella spray that will disrupt his thoughts regarding eating poop as he will no longer be able to smell it.
Of course, if there are any underlying or resulting medical conditions, follow the treatments recommended by your faithful hound's vet.
If your dog develops a medical condition as a result of eating deer poop, you will need to follow the vet's recommended treatment plan, but in most cases, you can expect your dog to make a full recovery. The big trick is to do everything you can to prevent him from continuing this "nasty" habit.
If your vet tells you that the reason your dog has a poop fetish is more of a behavioral problem, you must first learn to be patient. With a little hard work and love, you can train your dog not to eat poop. Some vets recommend "clicker" training, while others use treats as rewards. There are several aversion products on the market, some of which may work, but only if you get to the poop before your dog does. With the right training, plenty of love, and affection, you should be able to teach your pup not to eat poop.
How is Coprophagia Similar in Dogs and Cats?
Both dogs and cats will eat feces, however, cats tend to stick to their own species. Many of the causes of eating feces are the same in cats and dogs. This includes:
Much like dogs, some cats will eat feces as a way of drawing attention to themselves if they feel like they are being ignored. Daily play, plenty of exercise, and keeping the litter box clean should help put a stop to this behavior.
How is Coprophagia Different in Dogs and Cats?
There are two main ways in which coprophagia is different in dogs and cats. The first is that it is far more common in dogs; cats rarely eat poop. However, in cats, the desire to eat poop has several other potential underlying causes including:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Some cats may also suffer from a mental condition known as pica. This is a form of feline obsessive-compulsive disorder that compels them to eat a range of non-food items such as electrical cords, fabrics, rubber bands, and yes, poop.
You take your dog out for a walk in the woods and he disappears around a bend in the trail. When you finally catch up with him, he is licking his lips as though he had just eaten a gourmet meal. Looking on the ground you notice a few pellets of deer poop lying around. "Surely," you think to yourself, "My dog did not just eat a pile of deer poop?"
But the reality is that yes, he most certainly did. Worried that he might become ill, you call the vet and schedule an appointment for the very next day. All night long you worry about your dog, but he never shows any sign of illness.
The next day the vet examines him, draws a blood and fecal sample for analysis and tells you to go home with your dog and wait for the results. Your dog continues to act fine and when the vet calls, he gives him a clean bill of health. While not every story ends this way, with a little hard work and patience, you can teach your dog that eating poop is something he should not be doing.