In this post, we’ll look to answer the following popular query – ‘Why do dogs eat rabbit poop and how to stop them?.’
Our curious canine friends often find the strangest of things simply irresistible, whether it is dirty underwear, trash cans, their poop, or rabbit poop. But why do they do this? The answers may surprise you.
It is actually very common, and even normal, for a dog to feel compelled to eat rabbit poop. However, many owners simply don’t appreciate it, so this post looks at how to stop them. I have looked into the proven reasons why dogs do this and the different ways we can stop them in the future.
Why Dogs Eat Rabbit Poop: Possible Reasons
When it comes to a dog’s motivation, we can never be 100% certain what is driving them. But we can be sure, to a certain degree, that a dog eating rabbit poop is likely doing so for one of the following reasons:
A dog’s sense of smell is around 40 times more powerful than ours, so when they encounter a pile of rabbit poop, the scent can be too powerful to ignore. You may find that dogs are not selective with poop eating and will take on cow poop, horse poop, and their own poop.
As well as various animal poop, dogs are known to eat a range of strange things, including diapers, tampons, cigarette butts, and often dogs will eat their own puppies. Often these non-edibles are eaten purely out of curiosity; a dog learns much more about an item by eating or smelling it than in any other way.
#2. Nutritional Deficiencies
Often a pregnant woman will have cravings for things her body and baby need, such as extra iron (vegetarians craving beef for iron is common). Similarly, a dog will seek out the things his system is missing.
Rabbit poop isn’t simply a small pile of gross feces; it is highly rich in fiber, micronutrients, minerals, and B-complex vitamins. There are also beneficial trace elements such as magnesium and calcium. A veterinarian can run a blood test to see if your dog is suffering from a lack of vitamins or nutrients and prescribe medications to combat this.
Pica is a neurological condition that affects humans, dogs, and other mammals. It is where there is a compulsion to eat inedible items and is often caused by medical or psychological problems. Usually, you can correct this issue once you have had the cause diagnosed by your veterinarian.
Suppose the cause of this condition is down to a psychological reason, such as anxiety, stress, depression, lack of stimulation, or attention. In that case, you can remedy this at home in often simple ways. Try spending time playing with your dog, increasing his toy collection, taking him for more walks, and letting him know that things are okay.
We have many helpful guides at Canine Weekly to help dogs combat these issues under our training and behavior section. It may be that crate training could help, positive reinforcement training, or the hiring of a dog behaviorist.
If pica is down for a medical reason, such as anemia, then your veterinarian is the best person to speak to about fixing this situation.
Some breeds will feel hungry all day long, such as Labradors, and no matter how much food you provide, they would happily consume more. But, a hungry dog will attempt to eat anything with a faint smell of food, which poop can have. Check the feeding guidelines on your dog’s food, and ensure that you’re providing a complete, balanced diet.
#5. Just Because
Now, this is not a satisfying answer, but dogs do strange things and often with no rhyme or reason. Just like with people, not every behavior can be put down to a cause. Some dogs sing, others dance, and some perform tricks; if yours eats rabbit poop, I am sure he shines in other ways!
Is Eating Rabbit Poop Dangerous for a Dog?
Generally, rabbit poop isn’t dangerous for a dog to consume. However, there are reasons why we should try to stop this behavior.
If nothing else, poop can contain bacteria and microscopic pathogens that will make a dog sick. These undesirables can stay around the dog’s mouth and tongue, and when a dog licks us, they can be easily transferred and make us very unwell.
Although sickness can occur, it would be rare for a dog to become seriously ill from eating rabbit poop. Most pathogens and parasites found in rabbit droppings are species-specific, thus not capable of infecting another species, i.e., dogs. You should, however, contact your veterinarian if, after eating rabbit poop, your dog suffers from excessive sickness or diarrhea.
Other Dangers From Rabbits to Dogs
Yes, the subheading is a little confusing. How can a tiny fluffy bunny possibly be dangerous to a robust or powerful hound? Well, actually, in a few different ways. While rabbit poop itself isn’t particularly dangerous to a dog, the rabbit could well be.
A rabbit isn’t going to attack your dog, but your dog may well attack the rabbit, and if he manages to catch and consume one, he could become infected with tapeworms. In addition, rabbits often harbor fleas and ticks (including those that can spread tularemia).
Good flea medication is essential for dogs, but especially for those who come into contact with wild animals like rabbits. Supervision is also crucial; I have explained the further measures we can take to stop a dog from eating rabbit poop further on in the post.
Eating the meat of a wild rabbit is a source of protein for a dog but not an entirely safe food. Many pet dogs are not accustomed to raw meat and will experience vomiting and diarrhea because of this. Rabbit meat contains toxins and pathogens that could bring diseases to dogs and even transmit them to other family members. Parasites can cause many ailments for all.
Rabbits can be infected with a dangerous bacterium which is highly contagious and can cause a disease called Rabbit Fever. There are fortunately few cases of dogs contracting this disease, but it is not impossible.
If your dog isn’t up to date with his shots and eats a rabbit that is infected with Rabies, then as this disease is transmitted through bodily fluids, there would be a very high chance your dog would become infected.
How to Stop a Dog Eating Rabbit Poop?
If you’re concerned about poop eating, it could be beneficial to speak to your veterinarian and a dog behaviorist. Both of these can rule out any medical or psychological reasons for why your dog could be eating rabbit poop.
The strategies to stop a dog from eating rabbit poop will depend on where this is happening. But, a good starting point is to teach the ‘leave command,’ as this will cover all bases, whether the poop is in your yard or out on a walk. Most dogs will learn this quickly, especially if obedience training has been conducted from puppyhood.
If the Poop is in Your Yard
If the rabbit poop is in your yard, then it goes without saying that rabbits are too. As discussed above, rabbit meat can be the more troubling factor, so it is vitally important to ensure the two species are separated.
Whether you opt to contain the dog or banish the rabbits is up to you. It may make more financial sense to invest in a dog house or playpen to keep your dog from the rabbit.
But, it may seem fairer to look at the ways to keep a rabbit out. Rabbits can destroy your flower beds, grasses and be an absolute nightmare for the garden-proud, but there are ways to stop them from getting into the garden, and these are:
- Chicken Wire: Not very aesthetically pleasing, but a reasonably practical measure to protect newly planted seeds and bulbs is to cover them with chicken wire in the shape of a dome.
- Plant Unwanted Foliage: Wild rabbits are pretty fussy when it comes to plants they will eat. They will avoid any foliage with tough leaves, prickles, strong scents, or that ooze sap.
- Fencing: Check for any holes or burrows around your garden fencing, and if found, cover them with panels or concrete slabs.
- Reduce Nesting Opportunities: Rabbits love dense, low vegetation for nesting; even a pile of leaves can be sufficient. Tidy up your yard and remove these nesting opportunities, which will remove the appeal and hopefully keep rabbits away.
- Repellents: You can buy a rabbit repellent formula or opt for repellant lighting to keep wild rabbits at bay. You can make a homemade repellent by combining chili powder, garlic, dish soap, and water, then spraying around the garden entries.
- Rabbit Control Services: By hiring in a rabbit control service, you will have the most effective solutions available, conducted by experts in this field. This is probably the best measure to take, but it can be pretty costly.
If the Poop Eating is in the Community
If your dog is eating rabbit poop during walks or outside of the yard, here are some things to try:
- Supervise: This may seem the obvious solution, but often we can become a little complacent with dog supervision during a walk. When things become habit and routine, we often forget to stay alert. When your dog approaches rabbit poop, use the ‘leave it’ command.
- Change Routes: If your dog eats rabbit poop in the same location during a walk, bypass this and change course. Avoiding the area could be the best solution.
- Use a Muzzle: If you’re unable to change course and are aware that you could become distracted during a walk and not provide continuous supervision, using a muzzle will stop the dog from eating the poop. A basket-type muzzle is highly breathable and a good choice.
- Vibrating Collar: Controversial, but a measure that could be extremely effective. Vibrating collars are more humane than shock or prong collars and can connect to a remote held by the owner. The owner activates a vibration that transmits to the collar when the dog displays unwanted behavior.
Ultimately, a dog eating rabbit poop is unlikely to lead to a severe health issue. However, it is wise to discourage this behavior and ensure that your dog can’t get to the actual rabbit – as this would be a more severe issue than poop.