Why Do Dogs Eat Rabbit Poop Droppings?

dog eating rabbit poop

Dogs will eat the most disgusting of things, and that includes the feces of other animals. For example, my own dog Claude will quite happily eat rabbit dropping when we’re on a country walk, despite my best measures to stop him doing it. He certainly appears to have a taste for rabbit poop, but why that is open to interpretation, and let me explain why.

You would thing that of all the things they like to eat, a dog eating rabbit poop would be quite low down their list of dietary priorities. Think again though as there’s something about rabbit poop that the love. But, if you are worried about it being toxic, bad or harmful then read on as I explain why dog eat rabbit poop droppings.

Here’s the quick answer first though, before I get into the detail of what to worry about.

Why does my dog eat rabbit poop? Why dogs eat rabbit poop is down a range of reasons. Simplistically, the eat rabbit dropping because they like the smell and taste. However, some dogs will also eat rabbit poop because there is something missing in their diet or they could even have health problem.

How common is a dog eating rabbit poop?

Your dog is not alone in eating rabbit dropping, and in fact, so common is it that it actually has a medical name of coprophagia. A short definition of coprophagia is as follows:

“Vets refer to the issue of faeces consumption as coprophagia. Often demonstrated in dogs, coprophagia can appear to be behavioural but can sometimes be caused by a number of medical problems. In order to understand why a dog has developed coprophagia, it’s important to rule out medical causes before a behavioural diagnosis is made.” (view source)

It is so common, that in 2012, a study published by a researcher at the University of California that found 16% of dogs liked to eat poop.

10 reasons why my dog eats rabbit poop

If you do have a dog who loves to eat rabbit poop, it’s not all the unusual. After reading various scientific journals and studies, I can now present you with the most likely reasons why your dog eats rabbit poop droppings, plus some a few tips on how you might be able to stop it.

Medical reasons

  1. Underfeeding or eating a poorly digestible diet.
  2. Digestive enzyme deficiencies.
  3. Parasites.
  4. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies and malnutrition.
  5. Diabetes, Cushing’s disease or thyroid disease.
  6. Some medications containing steroids.

Behavioral reasons

  1. Curiosity and playfulness.
  2. Copying other dogs.
  3. Incorrect training techniques.
  4. Innate behaviour.

The above were compiled from the excellent VetWest.com.au website. Let’s get into them in a bit more detail below, where I’ve combined a few of the reasons with my own opinions.

Why does my dog eat rabbit poop?

1. Rabbit poop pats taste good!

Whilst our stomachs might turn at the thought of eating small and crunchy rabbit droppings, for dogs, it’s an amazing taste and treat – it makes sense when you think about it.

The feces of other animals will contain great tasting ingredients and will also have a great smell and texture that far outweighs any thoughts your dog might have about it being poop.

It might smell bad to you, but to dogs, rabbit droppings has a stink that will attract them from quite a distance so your dog will actively seek it out.

This is particularly true when you consider what rabbits like to eat; it’s things like grass, weeds, clover, wildflowers, and vegetables. These are all things you’ve probably seen your dog eat before or can imagine them wanting to try.

Put those ingredients into one neat and smelly little poop package, and you have something that resembles a dog salad!

A dog’s sense of smell is said to be between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than ours. We have around 6 million smell receptors in our nose, dogs have around 300 million… so just think how appealing those rabbit droppings must smell to a dog!

2. To protect their pack

Dogs are said to still have many instincts left over from the ancestral days of being wolves and wild dogs, and this relates to the next possibility: Dogs like to eat rabbit poop as a way to protect their pack and younger relations.

This is referenced in the 2012 study I linked to earlier, with the following statement published with the research:

“A hypothesis is offered that coprophagy reflects a tendency inherited from the ancestral wolf to keep the den area free of faecal‐borne intestinal parasites that might be deposited in the den resting area and would typically have parasite ova that are not initially infective, but could develop infective larvae after 2 days. An evolved parasite defence strategy to consume fresh faeces in the rest area would be adaptive.”

When I read that, my view is that we have to seriously consider that rabbit poop consumption is simply part of your dog’s DNA relating to how they would have behaved in days gone by.

3. As investigative and scavenging behavior

Younger dogs and puppies will eat rabbit poop as way of investigating things. They are very similar to how human babies will want to put things in their mouth to see what they are, and puppies are the same.

There is also an element of scavenging behavior where puppies will often worry about where their next meal is coming from, trying to eat everything in sight before it gets taken away.

4. To replace nutrients or an enzyme deficiency

Dogs also like to eat rabbit poop and manure due to deficiencies in their diet. This can include things like a lack of nutrients or enzymes.

dog eats rabbit droppings
Here’s my dog sniffing out some fresh rabbit droppings to have a munch on!

The reason this makes them eat rabbit poop is down to what the rabbits themselves eat. They will have a diet that is rich in enzymes and partially digested proteins because of what they graze on.

Not all dogs get these elements into their system, so their body will seek it out elsewhere.

It’s not an uncommon occurrence in the animal kingdom. For example, the American Kennel Club say this on their website on the topic:

“For some species, such as rabbits, eating fecal droppings is a totally normal way of obtaining key nutrients. In fact, if you prevent rabbits from doing this, they will develop health problems, and young ones will fail to thrive.”

Domestic dogs will also have this instinct which has developed over thousands of years of evolution.

5. To self-medicate themselves

Dogs will also turn to eating rabbit poop to make themselves feel better as a way of self-medication.

For example, dogs with parasites will often turn to poop to try to medicate themselves. Parasites will leach nutrients from your dog, and your dog might think it can replace those nutrients via rabbit droppings, which will often be high in it.

6. Rabbit poop can look like a tasty treat

Once rabbit poop is all dried up and broken apart it can resemble certain dog snacks. No wonder it’s so appealing to eat! Look at is closely… rabbit droppings look like kibble!

rabbit poop
Your dog might like rabbit droppings as they look very similar to kibble or snacks.

Dogs are so food-orientated that once they lock on to the smell of rabbit poop then see some on the ground, it’s going to be very hard to convince them that’s it’s not a tasty dog treat. You can’t blame them for wanting to have a chew on the poop despite how gross it looks to us!

7. Your dog is just hungry

And finally, it might be just because your dog is hungry. Before you go anywhere with your dog where the chance of eating rabbit poop is high, make sure they’ve had a meal, or you take some alternative snacks with you.

Is rabbit poop bad for dogs to eat?

Another common question asked is rabbit poop toxic for dogs.

In most cases, dogs will not get sick from eating rabbit poop, and there’s nothing toxic in the poop, unless the rabbit ate something toxic. But that’s doesn’t mean rabbit poop can’t harm your dog if eaten.

Rabbit poop can contain harmful elements such as bacteria, parasites, and microscopic pathogens which can make dogs sick. But, most of these are rabbit-specific and will not transfer the same affect to a dog.

For example, a dog eating rabbit poop could get a parasite in their system called coccidia. But it will simply pass through your dog, without causing him illness, albeit some possible diarrhea.

Yes, your dog eating rabbit poop is a disgusting habit, but it’s unlikely to cause a dog any serious problems.

Can my dog get worms from rabbit poop?

There’s also the consideration that your dog could get worms from eating rabbit droppings. It could be possible, but the closest answer I got was according to a weekly column in the South West Journal, where a vet said:

“Dogs can get parasites from rabbits however, only if they eat the entire rabbit.  Rabbits can carry tapeworms, and the cysts of the tapeworm can be imbedded in the muscle tissue of the rabbit.  If your dog has eaten a rabbit, your veterinarian will likely recommend that your dog receive a tapeworm dewormer.”

Update: I have since read some research that says it’s a myth that dogs can get worms from rabbit droppings. They can only get tapeworm from eating a rabbit, not the droppings.

Other risks of harm

Theoretically, there can be traces of salmonella and campylobacter in rabbit poop. Admittedly that sounds bad, but dogs are said to have quite robust gastrointestinal tracts, so infections are said to be few and far between.

You should also be wary when you see holes and flies around the rabbit poop. This could be a sign that there are parasites in the droppings which could lead to a bacterial infection.

The bottom line is this; I would try to stop my dog from eating rabbit poop as much as possible. Whilst statistically speaking the chances of them getting ill after eating a small amount of droppings there is always a chance it could lead to a problem.

You certainly need to take action if your dog likes to eat rabbit poop. Stop it happening as soon as you can, and here are some tips on how to do so.

Dog ate rabbit poop now has diarrhea

It’s not unusual for a dog to have diarrhea after eating rabbit droppings, typically because it’s a change to their usual diet.

If you notice your dog exhibits other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and blood, then you need to go to a vet immediately.

Handy Hint: Dogs that are in close contact with rabbits can catch ear mites from them.

How to stop your dog eating rabbit poop

You will have already considered stopping going to walks where you might encounter lots of rabbit droppings. It might not always be possible to avoid it completely though, so here are some short tips you could consider:

  • Improve your dog’s diet: Your dog might be chewing the poop due to a nutritional deficiency, so make sure you change the diet appropriately.
  • Keep the animals apart: If you own rabbits, don’t let them run free in the same area that your dog has access to.
  • Contaminate the poop: Rabbit owners can also try sprinkling cayenne pepper or similar onto the droppings to turn your dog off. After a few days, the dog should get the message.

And above all, if the poop eating becomes problematic then it could be sign of health issue such as parasites so you should seek a professional intervention.

Handy Hint: For the full guide on how to stop your dog eating the rabbit droppings, click here.

When to call a vet

If you have any concerns, you should always consult with a vet. The notes in this guide are written by me, a dog lover and not a veterinary professional – everything you read here is based on my own online research and opinion.

What I would say is this though; if your dog’s rabbit poop eating appears to be problematic and way to regular to be dismissed, you should call your vet.

Conclusion

Everything in this guide is based on my personal opinion and research. You should always do your own due diligence when it comes to things like this and see if you agree that a little rabbit poop probably won’t harm your dog in most cases.

However, if it’s regular and in volume then it certainly is something you need to put a stop to reduce the chance of your dog coming to harm.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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