Our dog’s ability to be disgusting has never waivered and once again eating rabbit poop comes into this category. When your dog becomes obsessed with the taste of rabbit poop it can become quite irritating and also a worry. So why do dogs eat rabbit poop, is it harmful and is there anything we owners can do about it?
Your dog’s habit of eating rabbit poop is most likely attributed to behavioral issues. Dogs will usually eat rabbit poop when they are puppies and training them to leave it alone is the most important thing. Diet and hygiene should be looked at if behavioral training does not work.
Reasons Why Dogs Eat Rabbit Poop
There are a number of reasons why dogs have the desire to eat rabbit poop and some of them you may have heard of. Before we start the condition of eating poop has a scientific term “coprophagia”, this term includes all types of poop including their own. Let us have a look at the different reasons and assess which is the most likely cause of rabbit poop eating behavior.
Nutrition is something that comes up a lot. It can often be the solution and cause of many behaviors or conditions in dogs. Because the behavior of eating poop is the process of eating, many owners will jump to this conclusion and go-ahead changing foods and messing with their dog’s diet. This is not only a wild assumption but can make your dog ill by changing their food too often or too quickly.
Even though we should not assume this is the reason your dog is eating rabbit poop, it is certainly something to consider. The reasoning behind this comes from a lack of certain nutrients in your dog’s diet. Because dogs are scavengers, they will often eat poop to supplement any potential nutrition they feel they are missing. Although this seems like a plausible explanation, research has suggested that diet is not the main cause of coprophagia. In fact, Anton Beynen compiled research on several experiments focussed around dietary needs, he concluded that the findings were not conclusive, but some evidence suggested that having a lack of thiamine also known as vitamin b1 was more often the cause of coprophagia.
The experiment in question studied the effects of adding brewers yeast, which is high in b vitamins, to a variety of dogs diets. The experiment found that coprophagia stopped within a few days. Despite these findings, they concluded that lack of b vitamins was unlikely to be the main cause of coprophagia in dogs fed on a commercial diet as the deficiency levels need to be extremely high in order to start self-selecting food based on vitamin quantity. If you want to read more about these experiments Anton Beyen’s paper outlines them in a great way here is the link, “Diet and Canine Coprophagia”.
As changing your dogs’ diet can cause illness, which is not a pleasant experience for you or your dog, I would suggest holding off on a diet change, at least until you have tried alternative methods. It’s important to speak to your veterinarian about diet changes, to see a complete breakdown of your dog’s food check out “All About Dog Food”.
One reason for your dog’s desire to eat rabbit poop stems from a natural process. It is well known that when female dogs have given birth, they will instinctively clear up after their pups. In fact, you can also see this behavior in wolves and other wild dogs. Not only do wolf mothers clear up after their young, but there is also evidence to suggest that other members of the pack will help keep the den clean, this is to prevent the development of diseases and parasites.
The research included in the journal of veterinary medicine and science expressed the biological trait that wolves have to be an inherited behavior in domestic puppies. The idea of wolves clearing their den of any poop is biologically sound as it ensures that parasites are destroyed before they develop into more dangerous threats.
If you tend to walk your dog with other dogs, the above research may highlight the possibility of your dog copying other dogs eating poop or even as a protective instinct. Although this is an unlikely scenario it’s certainly one to watch out for on your walks with other dogs.
One more recent investigation aimed to assess a few of the reasons already highlighted, additionally, it aimed to explore the effects of cohabitation on coprophagic behavior. This research was able to conclude that cohabitation had more of an effect on whether a dog would develop coprophagic behaviors than with diet.
Not only does cohabitation offer the opportunity to copy other dogs and their bad habits but it also increases the risk of low hygiene. Although dogs are smelly creatures, their home is where they sleep, and instinctively they will clear up any mess that could be a danger to their health. This behavior is well placed, however, it is possible your dog could develop a taste for the habit and start eating things like rabbit poop during a walk.
This is usually the number one solution to stopping your dog from eating any kind of poop including one of their favorites, rabbit poop. It’s important to note that most owners see coprophagia in puppies, I certainly remember my dog Cooper eating some rabbit poop and then proceeding to ignore my commands to stop…ahh the puppy days.
Assessing the reasons why puppies would form coprophagia is a bit easier than with adult dogs. This is because the reasons are more obvious, of course, that does not mean your puppy will grow out of it on its own. Stopping your dog from eating rabbit poop at an early age is important otherwise they may carry it into later life where it is harder to stop.
The reasons why your puppy is eating rabbit poop could be an imitation of what their mother was doing for them in the den. It could also stem from the fact that puppies push the boundaries and explore everything with their mouths, this will simply be them trying something new that also tastes great. This leads to the final reason, rabbit poop looks like kibble, which of course your puppy knows he loves and so free kibble is hard to resist.
Is Rabbit Poop Bad For Dogs?
Dogs tend to love anything they can find on the floor, the smellier the item the more irresistible it becomes. the only problem with this is dogs don’t really differentiate between things that can make them ill and things that won’t. Cats seem to be much more adept at avoiding those things that can make them ill…well apart from hairballs.
In small amount rabbit poop is harmless, unless you have a particularly sensitive pooch, its always going to be best to avoid them eating any, just in case they are sensitive. The dangers around eating poop si often due to the parasites the poop carries. In the case of rabbits, parasites found in their poop are commonly harmless to dogs, however, this does not mean dangerous parasites cant make their way into the stomachs of a rabbit. Interestingly some research suggests that eating a whole rabbit could cause more harm than their poop, this is due to parasites such as tapeworms living inside them.
If you do see rabbit droppings around where you live then it’s important to not only prevent your dog from eating rabbit poop but also protect them from getting ticks. Just like many wild animals, rabbits can get ticks and fleas, so providing your dog with an effective tick/flea killer is vital. If you want to learn more about preventing ticks on your dog check out our article, “How to Prevent Ticks on My Dog While Hiking”.
In conclusion, you shouldn’t be too worried if your dog has eaten rabbit poop just be sure to watch them carefully, and if you see any unusual changes to your dog’s health take them to a licensed veterinarian immediately. As mentioned before small amounts of rabbit poop won’t cause harm to your dog, but it’s best to be sure and discourage any bad habits like eating rabbit poop.
How To Stop My Dog From Eating Rabbit Poop
Stopping your dog from eating rabbit poop through effective training and behavior adjustment should be your number one priority. It’s sometimes too easy to reach for medication or food supplements, where most of the time your dog is eating rabbit poop because it seems appealing to them.
I always mention in my articles that the best form of training is reward-based. Remember dogs don’t speak the human language so dragging them around by their collar and shouting commands at them will just cause confusion. Your dog’s language is food and praise, simple as that, patience is important too so leave a good amount of time when training your dog as short stints will just cause them to forget about what they learned.
The “Leave It” command will be the most effective in this situation and it will help your dog to know this command in the future. Believe me when I say, the “leave it” command works, just wait till your walking past a dead badger you know your dog wants to roll around in!
When training the leave it command I have found many trainers use slightly different methods, however, they are all based around the same principle. Check out the steps below for a guide on how to teach your dog to leave something.
- Firstly, place a high value treat about 2 feet away from your dog. Instinctively your dog will try to get the treat, when this happens cover the treat with your hand and say the command leave it. Once your dog shows restraint and backs off reward them with lots of praise and the treat. You will need to repeat this process until your dog stops going for the treat instantly.
- The next part is an advancement of the first. Try placing the treat close to your dog and repeating the method as above. Cover the treat with your hand and reward them when they show restraint.
- In the next part, you will need to drop the treat from a short height around 2 feet away from your dog. You will need to be in a position where you can cover the treat if your dog goes for it, remember to say the command leave it as you cover the treatment. This should be easier to do as your dog will have started to familiarise themselves with the command leave it and so should show some restraint. Remember if your dog doesn’t get to grips with this part then you can always go back a step, patience is key.
- Now that your dog is familiar with the leave it command, it’s time to simulate a scenario that may present itself on a walk, for example, an irresistible pile of rabbit droppings. Place some treats in a box with air holes in, this way your dog will clearly smell what’s inside and be tempted to investigate. As your dog goes to investigate the box, use the command leave it and proceed to show them a treat which they will receive when they walk away from the box and towards you. At this point, you may find your dog understands the command leave it so this part will be easy.
- It’s time to test this training on a proper walk, considering dogs love to smell everything on a walk you will find lots of opportunities to use the leave it command. Remember to take some treats with you and stay close to your dog so that they have little opportunity to not hear you.
Remember dogs want to please their owner, it’s in their nature to do so. So familiarising them with the thing you want them to leave is important. If your dog gets away with a quick nibble but then proceeds to leave it then still reward them for leaving it in the end. This is something that takes longer with certain dogs and hardly any time with others, but eventually, you will get there.
Who would have thought rabbit poop was such an extensive subject. It’s perfectly normal for dogs to eat poop and your dog is not some sort of weird individual. Of course, this is the behavior we want to discourage and by doing so we can also protect our dog from an illness they might suffer as a result. Hopefully, you have enjoyed this article and if you like learning all about walking your dog and get outside with them, then check out our homepage for more cool dog-related content.