Snooping through your backyard, your dog stops and seems transfixed by something on the ground. You realize with horror that it’s a pile of rabbit droppings, and before you can intervene, your dog is eagerly gobbling it up! Has your beloved pet become a veritable coprophagic? While disgusting to humans, eating rabbit feces is surprisingly common in dogs. But is this bizarre behavior actually dangerous for your dog? Could they become sick from ingesting rabbit poop? In this article, we’ll explore why dogs indulge in this unsavory habit, what health risks it poses, and most importantly, how to stop your dog from treating rabbit droppings like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Get the scoop on the science behind coprophagia and learn how to protect your dog’s health!
Is Rabbit Poop Bad for Dogs?
Eating rabbit poop, also known as coprophagia, is actually quite common in dogs. Rabbit feces, known as cecotropes or "night feces," are usually small, moist, stools that are very different from regular rabbit pellets. Dogs seem to find them irresistible.
However, while eating rabbit poop will not harm most dogs, there are some potential risks that dog owners should be aware of. The main concern is parasites – rabbits can pass parasites like coccidia, giardia, and others in their feces, which can cause intestinal infections if ingested by a dog.
Another problem is that rabbit poop contains a very high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. While this may sound like a good thing, too much of these nutrients can cause vitamin and mineral toxicity in dogs if they eat enough rabbit poop.
So while a small amount of rabbit poop is probably fine for most dogs, it's better to discourage this behavior as much as possible. Left unchecked, coprophagia can pose health risks to your dog. Monitoring your dog outside and cleaning up any rabbit droppings in your yard is advised.
Are There Parasites in Rabbit Poop?
Yes, it is possible for rabbits to pass parasites in their stool that can infect dogs. Some of the more common parasites found in rabbit poop include:
Coccidia are microscopic protozoan parasites that rabbits can harbor in their intestine without showing any symptoms. The parasites are shed in the rabbit's feces, which can then infect dogs if ingested.
Coccidia can cause mild to severe diarrhea in dogs, depending on the level of infection. Puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems are most at risk. A fecal test can detect coccidia, and infections are treated with medications.
Giardia is another microscopic intestinal parasite that rabbits can transmit through their feces. If a dog eats infected rabbit poop, they can contract giardiasis.
Symptoms of giardiasis in dogs include diarrhea, gas, greasy stools, and weight loss. The infection is confirmed through a fecal exam and treated with prescription medications.
Leptospira bacteria can be shed in the urine of infected rabbits. If an infected rabbit urinates on grass or soil and a dog ingests that contaminated material, they are at risk of contracting leptospirosis.
Signs of leptospirosis in dogs include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and jaundice. It can lead to kidney or liver failure if left untreated. Antibiotics are used to clear the infection. A vaccine for leptospirosis is also available for dogs at risk.
So regular deworming, flea/tick prevention, and avoiding contact with wild rabbits can help minimize parasitic infections in dogs that eat rabbit poop. Promptly cleaning up rabbit droppings in your yard is also advised.
Why Do Dogs Like Rabbit Poop?
There are several theories as to why dogs seem attracted to rabbit poop:
One idea is that dogs eat rabbit poop to obtain missing nutrients in their diet. As mentioned, rabbit feces are high in vitamins, minerals, and protein. If a dog has a nutritional deficiency or imbalance, they may eat poop to compensate.
However, eating rabbit feces is not a good solution, as too many nutrients can also make a dog sick. Better to have your vet analyze your dog's diet and adjust it as needed.
Dogs explore the world through their mouth and nose. Young puppies will naturally investigate and taste everything as they discover their environment. Rabbit droppings may simply be another "thing" your puppy is curious about.
As puppies mature, this behavior normally wanes. But some dogs retain that innate curiosity about poop into adulthood. It's just built into their scavenger instincts.
A dog that cannot get enough to eat may eat rabbit feces out of hunger or desperation for calories. This is often seen in strays or neglected dogs. Make sure your dog is getting adequate nutrition and this should not be a cause.
Pica refers to the urge to eat non-food items. Some dogs seem predisposed to eat feces, dirt, rocks, or other ingestibles persistently. It may relate to obsessive-compulsive disorders in some dogs. Consulting a vet or animal behaviorist can help with pica.
So in summary, lack of nutrients, curiosity, hunger, or an innate tendency for pica are some reasons dogs may be attracted to rabbit poop as an appealing snack. But what's tasty to a dog isn't always safe or appropriate.
What Can I Do to Stop My Dog Eating Rabbit Poop?
If your dog makes a habit of eating any rabbit feces they find, there are a few ways you can discourage the behavior:
Provide A Nutritious Diet
Make sure your dog's diet is balanced and contains all the macro and micronutrients they need. Consult your vet if the diet requires adjustment or supplementation. This removes any nutritional motivation to eat poop.
Hide the Taste
You can find commercial products that claim to make animal feces taste bad to dogs. Sprinkling these powder supplements around your yard may help curb the behavior if taste is a factor.
Teach “Leave It”
Actively training your dog to "Leave It" when they notice rabbit droppings can deter the habit. Always reward with praise or treats when they obey.
Distract Your Dog
When your dog is outside off-leash, bring toys and treats to distract them whenever you see them approaching rabbit feces. Redirect their attention to a game or obedience work.
With repetition and consistency, most dogs can overcome the habit through taste deterrents, environment management, and training. Seek help from a vet or behaviorist if the issue persists.
My Dog Keeps Rolling in Rabbit Poop
Some dogs don't try to eat rabbit droppings – instead they love to roll in them! This can be even more problematic since you now have a dog covered in potentially parasite-laden feces. Why do dogs do this and how can you make it stop?
How to Stop Dog Rolling in Rabbit Poop
Here are some tips to stop your dog from rolling in those nasty rabbit pellets:
Keep your dog leashed when outside to maintain control. Don't allow access to areas littered with rabbit feces.
Immediately call your dog away as soon as they start rolling. Reward them for coming to you.
Try a taste deterrent substance sprinkled inareas your dog rolls. An unpleasant smell may discourage the behavior.
Use positive reinforcement training to teach your dog to "Leave It." Praise them for obeying when tempted.
Bath and groom your dog promptly after rolling to remove feces before they try to "self-groom."
Identify triggers that cause your dog to roll – like finding a fresh pile – and redirect their activity.
Consult an animal behaviorist if the habit is chronic. They can assess causes and customize a training plan.
While eating poop and rolling in poop come from different motivations in dogs, the health risks can be similar. With vigilance and training, both habits can be managed for a happier, healthier dog. Just be patient, as overcoming these behaviors takes time in most cases.