Dogs eating deer poop has to be one of the grossest of canine behaviors. But what exactly is so appealing about that stinky pile of brown matter that a deer’s digestive system didn’t think was useful? I can answer that for you below, plus some tips on how to get your dog to stop eating deer poop too.
But first up, here’s the short answer to what it means when a dog eats deer poop. Then lower down the page, reasons why it might make them sick.
Why do dogs eat deer poop? Dogs eat deer poop for a number of possible reasons including the coprophagia condition, lacking nutrients in their diet, due to anxiety or boredom, as learned behavior from other dogs, or they simply just like eating deer feces.
Is it ok for dogs to eat deer poop?
In short, not really. Dogs eating deer poop can be quite dangerous and comes with some health risks. If you read on, you can see the reasons why dogs like eating deer poop, then I will detail dangers associated with this peculiar habit
And finally, tips on how to prevent your dog from eating poop, and what to do if they do manage to steal a bite when you turn your back.
4 reasons dogs eat poop
The opening of this article probably made you squirm a bit. I apologize. The reason I painted a picture like that is to remove the judgment from the whole sordid topic and laugh about it a little. “Coprophagia” (that’s the fancy name for eating poop) is extremely common in dogs.
In fact, the American Kennel Club cites a study that showed 24% of the dogs in the sample ate poop at least once (view source).
If we multiply that to the dog population as a whole, that is a quarter of all dogs that have once had a nibble on their own dung or that of other species – such as deer poop/
So, let’s set the stigma aside for a moment and think about the reasoning behind it. I joked that poop could just be delicious and – who knows – I could be right.
Most scientists believe that dogs eat the excrement of other animals because they contain nutrients. Like most things in life, blame it on evolution.
That may be the origins of this strange habit, but there are also specific behavioral and psychological factors at play.
1. They are lacking in nutrients
Dogs are clever beings, so when they are lacking in nutrition, they seek it from other sources. Their ancestral past shows that deer poop could contain something they are deficient in.
This innate draw to eating poop for these reasons are generally because of extreme hunger, parasites in their intestines, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or some other source of malnutrition.
2. They are anxious or bored
This is nuanced but your dog may feel compelled to eat deer poop nearby if they are feeling anxious for some reason.
I suppose this is like diving your head in the nearest fridge when the monthly electric bill arrives. Generally, anxious or under stimulated dogs are more prone to eating poop on a regular basis.
3. They learned it from other dogs in your household
Yes, your other dogs’ may be the culprits here! According to the American Kennel Club, eating stools is a more common behavior in dogs from multi-dog households.
If they have seen other dogs do it and get away with it, they may also start snacking in this peculiar way.
4. Dogs just like the taste of deer poop
Let’s give our dogs a break for a second. Maybe I’m right and some dogs just like the taste. Like caviar, it’s a delicacy I will never understand or aspire to consume regularly myself.
But hey, whatever floats their boat.
Will my dog get sick from eating deer poop?
It’s quite possible that your dog would develop vomiting, throwing up, and diarrhea from eating deer poop. Deer poop can make your dog sick.
Though I’m not sure if you could describe deer poop as the gourmet of excrement, there is some level of appeal that encourages your dog to eat it which we have discussed.
Much like the fattiest, cheesiest hamburger, it is often the most appealing thing that ends up killing you.
Now it is important to understand that it is not the poop itself that is dangerous. It is what could be lurking inside. Here are some potential dangers to your dog.
Parasites like coccidia or roundworm and whipworms can all be found in deer feces. If your dog is unfortunate enough to ingest these after eating deer poop, it can cause a great deal of discomfort and illness.
Your vet will have anti-parasitic medication to kill off parasites from their system, but prevention is the best medicine.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by a microbe found in animal urine. Though it is unlikely that your dog will catch this from the poop eating itself, pee and poop generally go together.
If a deer has left their perfect cuboid droppings around, they have probably relieved themselves nearby too. This can pose a risk of exposure to the leptospirosis bacteria.
Well, you’ve made it this far – we’re going to get really gross now! Deer droppings naturally have tons of bacteria in it that can rot your dogs’ teeth if left unchecked.
Tooth decay in dogs is as unpleasant and pervasive as with humans, so you’ll want to avoid this at all costs.
What to do when your dog eats poop
If you catch your dog eating deer poop, the best thing to do is to contact your vet. There is a chance that it will be completely harmless to them, but there is a good chance that it won’t be.
Your vet will likely treat the situation like they have ingested poison, asking you when they ate the poop and if they are showing any symptoms of illness.
Diarrhea, throwing up, and vomiting are both extremely common after ingesting deer feces. Your vet may not do anything particularly invasive, but they will make sure that any underlying health issues are dealt with and look for signs of poisoning.
If over the next few days or weeks you notice:
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive panting
Then contact your veterinarian again immediately for assistance. These are signs that your dog may have a parasite or leptospirosis picked up from eating deer poop.
Coming back to the tooth decay potential, you’ll also want to brush your dog’s teeth as soon as possible after the crime has been committed. This may seem like less of an issue than checking for parasites, but happy teeth equal happy dogs.
How do I get my dog to stop eating deer poop
To stop your dog from eating deer poop, you need a solid plan. One that your pup can’t escape to indulge in their coprophagy. It comes down to a mix of nurturing, training, discipline, and vigilance.
1. Know why your dog is eating deer poop
Every crime has a motive. We discussed many potential reasons why your dog has developed this habit but only you can determine the motives for your pooch.
If it is for dietary reasons, then the course of action is very different than if they are just bored and want your attention. Do some investigation into your dog’s habit and behaviors to determine why they may be doing this.
2. Make sure all of their nutrients are accounted for
Their ancestral wolf-like brains are calling to them when your dog seeks extra nourishment in deer droppings. If they are malnourished in some way or are suffering from malabsorption, poop-eating is much more likely.
You need to eliminate this in your investigative process. Make sure you are feeding your dog the highest quality food you can afford with an array of nutrients listed.
Speak to your vet about dietary supplements too if you think this could be the issue.
3. Distract your dog
When out for walks, if your dog takes a shining to a fresh sprinkle of deer droppings (or any other animal feces for that matter), redirect their attention back on to you.
You can use clickers or a chirpy recall to try and do this if they are off lead. If they are on-lead, you can also give them a gentle tug away from the poop to avoid it altogether.
4. Just say no
We should never be afraid as dog owners to say a firm “no” to our dogs when they are doing something wrong. If you catch your dog in the act or just about to take a bite, say “NO” firmly and redirect attention.
They need to understand that this is not the desired behavior. Be sure to only do this in the act. If you try to “discipline” them after the crime has been committed, your dog won’t make the connection. They need to understand what they have done to merit a strong tone from you.
The more obedient your dog is, the more effective this method will be.
Dogs do the most disgusting of things. Eating poop of all persuasions is very common, and in truth, you won’t always be able to stop it!
You can see some further examples in the recommended reading below.
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Image in header licensed via Storyblocks.com.