Dogs are curious animals and constantly investigate new objects they come into contact with. Because dogs explore their environment through their sense of smell and taste, they sometimes eat things they are not supposed to. These range from diapers to cigarette butts and even rabbit poop.
This rabbit poop-eating habit is called coprophagia, and it’s quite common in dogs. In fact, one study found that around half of dogs engage in some kind of coprophagia. If you live in an area with many wild rabbits, your dog is more likely to develop this habit.
But as a dog-owner, you probably want to know if rabbit poop is dangerous for dogs. In this article, we have compiled all the science-based veterinary information you need to know about dogs eating rabbit poop:
- Why do dogs eat rabbit poop?
- Types of rabbit droppings
- What happens when a dog eats rabbit poop?
- What to do when your dog eats rabbit poop?
- How to stop your dog from eating rabbit poop
Is Rabbit Poop Bad For Dogs?
Rabbit poop is relatively harmless to dogs, especially if your pet consumes only a small quantity. However, sometimes rabbit feces contains bacteria or parasites that may pose a health risk to your dog. Your dog’s poop-eating habit might also become a source of tension between you, and you may want to discourage it.
Why Do Dogs Eat Rabbit Poop?
Surprisingly, dogs eat rabbit poop because they enjoy its taste and smell. Many dogs consider it a tasty treat and cannot resist nibbling.
However, there are other reasons why your dog may consume rabbit droppings. These include:
They are curious
Dogs are naturally curious. They want to explore any new object they come in contact with, and they do this by tasting or smelling. This is why, when your pet comes across a pile of rabbit droppings, they may eat it before realizing what it is.
Puppies are especially prone to eating poop, since they are more curious than adult dogs. However, this habit generally stops when they are around nine months as their curiosity fades with time.
They are hungry
Dogs may also eat rabbit poop because of feeling hungry. Dogs are natural scavengers and not picky eaters. So if your pet is hungry, it may consider a pile of rabbit feces fair game.
It is a good idea to ensure that your dog has eaten before a walk, so that it is not pushed by instinct to eat rabbit feces when it comes in contact with it.
They have a nutrient deficiency
Even if a dog’s poop-eating habit is normal, it shouldn’t happen often. If your dog consistently seeks out rabbit feces, there may be an underlying issue. One such issue is nutritional deficiency.
Rabbit droppings are mostly undigested grass and are a great source of fiber and vitamin B complexes. If you find your dog eating rabbit poop, it may be because of a lack of these nutrients in its diet.
Dogs living on a diet of processed foods or unbalanced home-made diets that are low in protein will intentionally seek out other sources they think contain the nutrients or enzymes they lack to compensate for the deficiency.
It helps to feed your dog a balanced diet that will provide all its nutritional needs so that it doesn’t turn to rabbit feces to acquire them.
They have pica
Pica is a condition that causes dogs to crave and eat non-food items such as soil and, sometimes, feces. It occurs most commonly in adolescent and adult dogs.
Some dogs with pica eat only one type of object, while others may eat a variety of things. This often results from an underlying medical problem or compulsive or behavioral disorders such as anxiety.
Dogs suffering from pica also seem to prefer items that smell like the dog owner, such as socks, towels, and the like.
Pica can endanger your pet’s health, as items it swallows may be toxic or cause an intestinal blockage. If you suspect your dog has pica, you should consult a vet straight away.
Two Types of Rabbit’s Droppings
You may be unable to tell rabbit poop apart from other kinds of poop unless you are a wildlife biologist or a bunny owner. But don’t worry, it is easy to learn. First, you should know that rabbits produce two different kinds of feces.
This is the proper rabbit poop. They are about the size of a pea, dark brown and roundish, and can be deposited in little heaps or scattered over a large area. You might see hay or grass mixed in with the poop.
Rabbits usually leave these all over their territory, which is the one your dog is most likely to find and eat.
Cecotrophs are soft, shiny pellets usually clustered together to form a single mass. They are produced by a part of a rabbit’s large intestine called the cecum several hours after eating, usually at night.
Rabbits then eat them again because they provide them with some essential nutrients.
This means your dog isn’t likely to find these lying around, unless the bunny who made them was startled into abandoning them.
What Happens When a Dog Eats Rabbit Poop?
Rabbit poop is not usually harmful to dogs if eaten in small quantities. However, just as some dogs react to a change in their diet, overeating rabbit feces may cause them to develop gastric sensitivity.
However, there are certain bacteria and parasites in rabbits that your dog could catch by eating rabbit poop. These are:
Other types of rabbit parasite, like coccidia, don’t affect dogs. Dogs can get infected with a dog-specific version of coccidia, but they won’t catch it from eating rabbit poop.
It is also worth noting that while eating rabbit poop may not harm your dog, the actual rabbit might. If your dog catches and eats a rabbit or perhaps finds a dead one in the yard and consumes it, it may get infected with worms.
Wild rabbits and sometimes pet rabbits can carry fleas and ticks, which may spread tularemia. This is a bacterial infection that can be severe.
So if you see your dog eating rabbit poop, take it as a warning that there are rabbits in the area, and their fleas or ticks may carry diseases that can infect your dog.
What to Do When Your Dog Eats Rabbit Poop?
Monitor your dog’s behavior after it has eaten rabbit poop, in case it has one of the infections listed above, or the poop upsets your dog’s normal digestion.
If your pet consumes rabbit droppings, you should watch out for symptoms such as:
- abdominal pain
If these symptoms appear severe or worsen over time, consult your vet immediately.
It’s worth remembering that your dog can be vaccinated against leptospirosis as part of their annual immunizations. If your dog comes into regular contact with rabbit droppings, make sure their vaccines are up to date.
How to Stop a Dog From Eating Rabbit Poop
Most dog owners would prefer that their pets not indulge in such an unsanitary habit.
Fortunately, several proven techniques will help curb your dog’s poop-eating habits. Here are a few that I recommend to my clients.
Make sure your dog gets enough nutrients
Improving your dog’s diet isn’t the solution to all poop-eating problems, but for some dogs it makes a huge difference.
Choose a commercial diet that specifies it is a “complete” diet, meaning all the nutrients and vitamins are balanced. If you’re preparing home-cooked diets for your dogs, use the right supplements.
Of course, every dog has different tastes in food, so it is important to learn your pet’s preferences to keep your dog healthy. Ask your vet to recommend a brand if you’re not sure what to choose.
Make your dog hate rabbit poop
If your dog keeps nibbling rabbit poop, you can try to discourage this habit by making your pooch hate the smell and taste of rabbit droppings. This trick is called a taste aversion technique, and involves adding something your dog finds distasteful to the rabbit poop.
For example, adding a few drops of hot chili oil to rabbit poop around your yard will discourage your dog from eating it.
Be careful to choose a product that is almost entirely oil and chilies, as sauces containing garlic, onions or other ingredients can be toxic to dogs.
However, taste aversion sprays don’t work on all dogs. Some dogs will continue to consume rabbit poop even if it’s laced with every deterrent under the sun.
Train your dog with “drop it” and “leave it” commands
Teaching your dog a “drop it” or “leave it” command is also an effective way to stop it from consuming rabbit poop.
One way to do this is to put your dog in an empty room without distractions. Hold a tasty treat and show it to your pet to grab its attention. Let the dog sniff the treat while you keep your hand closed, then firmly say, “leave it.” Once your dog stops sniffing the treat, reward it.
Next, repeat the process with your hand open; reward it every time the dog stops sniffing the treat.
You can practice this trick with other things around the house, and in time, your dog will learn to recognize the command.
The next time you notice your dog sniffing a pile of rabbit poop, just say, “leave it,” and your pet should walk away.
Keep your dog busy
If the problem is happening in your yard at home, distracting your dog is a great way to curb its poop-eating habit.
Your dog will be so busy playing that it won’t notice rabbit droppings. Also, a tired dog is less likely to look for rabbit droppings to eat.
Watch over your dog when you’re outside
If none of these techniques work, one option that takes a lot of time and energy essentially involves watching your dog whenever they’re outside.
This step is vital while you are trying to train your dog not to eat rabbit poop, but for some dogs it is the only way to prevent them eating rabbit poo.
Separate your dog from the rabbit droppings
If you cannot supervise your dog at all times, you should consider putting up a fence or barrier that will stop rabbits from entering your yard, or to keep your pet away from areas of the yard where you know your dog ate rabbit poop in the past.
If you have a pet rabbit, try cleaning up the rabbit poo before your dog gets around to eating it.
Another option is to invest in a baskerville muzzle, or basket muzzle, for your dog. These muzzles allow the dog to sniff and explore as usual, but they usually can’t get things into their mouths to eat while wearing them.
There are several types available, including these hard plastic ones or softer mesh ones. The key is to make sure the mouth area is closed, unlike a normal muzzle where the tongue can still poke out and retrieve small items of food!
If you’re struggling to stop your dog eating things they shouldn’t, and especially if those things make the dog sick, then a muzzle may be the safest choice.
If you’ve caught your dog eating rabbit droppings, the good news is there’s probably no cause for alarm. Monitor your dog for a few days to make sure they’re healthy.
However, be aware that eating infected rabbit feces could expose your dog to pathogens. The rabbit form of coccidia doesn’t infect dogs, but other bacteria and parasites do, and could make your dog sick. If you need to stop your dog from eating rabbit feces, you can try some of the techniques we’ve discussed in this article.
Please share this article with your fellow dog owners if you find it helpful. And if you have any questions about your pet, you can leave them in the comments section below!