Why Do Dogs Eat Rabbit Poop? What Are The Risks Of A Poop Diet?


The dog and the rabbit are telling us not to chase unattainable goals – Kit Williams

Your dog is always going to be the best friend that you’ll ever have, and while you’ll encounter a number of unexpected bumps and strange forks in the road of life, the one thing that you’ll always be able to depend on is your dog’s unwavering loyalty, devotion, and love.

But despite all of their admirable qualities, there’s no way to avoid the inescapable truth that sometimes, dogs are just weird.

The way they behave and the things that they do can often leave us baffled, and wondering just why it is they do what they do.

Their behavior is, as a famous dog-obsessed philosopher and raconteur once noted, a canine riddle wrapped up in a four-legged conundrum.

One of the strangest things that dogs do, and often at the most embarrassing times, is eat poop. And it isn’t just something that the odd dog, the expected one in ten, might do every now and then.

At some point in their life, most dogs will give in to temptation and add a little poop to their regular diet. The behavior is so common, that there’s even a name for it. It’s called coprophagia.

Like most scientific labels, the origin of the term is Greek and it literally means the same as Webster’s definition, which is “the eating of feces”.

Webster’s goes on to explain that a number of species indulge in the behavior at certain points in their life, but doesn’t actually go into any detail about which species share the same dietary proclivity for poop as dogs do.

We could probably hazard a guess, but it would be a stab in the dark and as we’re talking about why dogs like to eat poop, it’s probably best that we abandon that train of thought and let the Webster’s definition stand.

The Poop List

It isn’t true that dogs aren’t fussy eaters. Our labrador won’t touch our family recipe lasagna, he turns his nose up at it every single time we make it and serve it.

But every now and then, while we’re out and about in nature and he spies some fresh poop, we can’t keep him away from it.

And as surprising as it is, rabbit poop places quite highly on the top ten of disgusting things that our dog likes to eat. So why do dogs like eating poop? And what is it about rabbit poop that makes it so appealing to dogs?

Why Rabbit Poop?

As we’ve already mentioned, if your dog has a soft spot for, and is fond of eating rabbit poop, don’t worry, you’re not alone and your dog isn’t the exception to the rule.

He’s just one of the hundreds of thousands of dogs who occasionally, and not so occasionally like to indulge in a little coprophagia.

And right at the top of most dogs’ must-eat poop list are the droppings that rabbits tend to leave here, there, and everywhere in the great outdoors.

And generally speaking, there are two broad reasons (which we’ll go into in more depth later) why dogs hone in on rabbit poop. And they are:

Medical

The first major reason, which in turn can be broken down into a number of different other reasons, is it’s all to do with their medical needs.

Your dog might be attracted to eating rabbit poop because they’re underfed (which is highly unlikely) or have a diet that their gut has difficult processing which could be due to a digestive enzyme issue or problem, they could be suffering from a specific nutrient or vitamin deficiency, might be having to take prescription steroids, could be suffering from diabetes, Cushing’s disease or have a specific thyroid condition or could have a parasitic infestation which leads them to eat far more than they need to.

Behavioral

Dogs are creatures of habit who are still driven by instinct and the reasons why your dog might be so attracted to eating rabbit poop could be due to imitation (as a puppy they saw other dogs eating poop, and learned through observation that it was just something that they were “supposed” to do), that they haven’t been trained properly and taught to ignore it or because they’re simply curious and want to understand what it is and how this “delicious” new delicacy fits into their world.

It’s a fairly broad spectrum, and as we said, we’ll discuss some of these issues, along with other reasons why your dog might be keen to explore their coprophagia drive and some of the potential effects of them doing so that could be problematic.

If you’re ready, it’s time to take a deeper dive and explore the reasons why dogs are so attracted to rabbit poop in greater detail.

It’s A Taste Thing

It might seem like it’s odorless to us, but to dogs, the variety of smells emanating from rabbit poop can make it seem irresistible.

A dog’s sense of smell is far more acute and powerful than a human one is (in scent hounds and dogs bred specially for the hunt, their sense of smell can be up to one hundred thousand times more powerful), and as dogs are driven primarily by smell and taste, the odor of rabbit poop can extremely difficult to resist.

So what makes rabbit poop smell so good to a dog?

Well, that would be the main parts of a rabbit’s diet, the vegetables, grass, flowers, and weeds, and while it isn’t likely that your dog is being driven by a newly discovered interest in veganism, his dietary needs are a little more complex than just “meat”.

While dogs being carnivores, undoubtedly tend to favor meat, they also have an omnivorous side, which is why you’ll occasionally see them eating flowers and grass.

And when all of those plant-based things that they like to eat now and then can be found in a single source, it makes sense that they might be tempted to indulge in the odd rabbit poop-based snack.

Protecting The Pack

Everywhere a dog goes, they regard it as their territory and that’s one of the reasons why they spend so much time and devote so much energy to diligently marking every single spot that they possibly can while they’re out on a walk.

A lot of animal behaviorists have linked coprophagia with the need to protect the pack from any possible incursion by other animals and to keep any potential sleeping areas safe and clean.

In this case, poop eating is an inherent pattern of behavior that’s linked to the biology of your dog, and instinctually, he thinks that he’s protecting his pack, which would be you and his family from any possible intrusion by unwanted and uninvited visitors.

It might seem a little crazy given where and when he chooses to do it, but as we said, everywhere your dog goes, he views you as being his, and by default because he sees you as being a member of the same pack, and your territory.

So his poop eating could just be his way of trying to ensure that you, and he are safe. But then again, it could just be because he likes the way it tastes and smells.

The Great Investigator

Contrary to the popular myth, it isn’t just cats who are insatiably curious, dogs are too and they like to investigate the world around them as thoroughly as they possibly can.

And as their investigative behavior is mainly driven by their noses, if something smells good to a dog then they’re probably going to want to try and eat it.

As canines, dogs are driven by their nose and their stomachs, and if something (like rabbit poop) appeals to one, then in your dog’s mind, it’s going to taste just as good as it smells.

Nature’s Great Scavenger

Canines are, by nature, scavengers and this instinctual behavior will often manifest itself at the strangest of times and when it kicks in, it can make your dog do things that they normally wouldn’t.

One of the reasons for them eating poop is that they’re answering the ancient call of the wild and are simply doing what their ancestors used to do.

Digestive Problems

Sometimes your dog just doesn’t get all of the nutrients that they need from their dog food, and even if the diet that they’re being fed does include all of the nutrients that they need, a lack of the right dietary enzymes in their gut could prevent them being able to absorb it properly from the food that fills their bowls.

So, they’ll go straight to the source and find the nutrients that they need anyway that they can. And given a rabbit’s diet, if your dog needs the nutrients that are found in the vegetation-rich droppings that bunnies leave behind, he’s going to eat them.

Again, it’s an evolutionary thing that’s driven by the most primitive part of your dog’s brain taking charge and leading their behavior.

Natural Medicine

No matter how carefully you monitor your dog’s behavior, they can and do pick up parasites during their daily adventures, and once they’ve found a place in your dog’s gut, these parasites will begin leaching the nutrients that your dog needs to remain healthy and active.

Eating rabbit poop could be a sign that your dog is desperately trying to replace the nutrients that a parasite could be stealing from him, and he’s using a source of “natural medicine” in order to try and get a little relief from the tiny invaders that have set up camp in his gut. Just to be on the safe side, if you do see your dog eating rabbit poop, it’s definitely worth deworming him.

The Treat Poop Dilemma

There’s no easy way of getting around this or breaking it to you gently so we’re just going to come right out and say it.

Rabbit poop, to your dog, resembles the good boy treats that you probably feed him as a reward when he’s been at his absolute best. It’s just one of those unhappy coincidences that litter the path of everyday life, and a pile of rabbit poop is like getting all of those tasty treats for no other reason than they’re there.

You have to admit, as reasons for eating rabbit poop go, this is a pretty good one if you’re a dog.

Hunger Is A Mighty Thing

Regardless of how much some dogs eat, they never seem to get full or stop being hungry. Beagles are a case in point. They’ll eat and eat until they pop, as they don’t actually believe that their tummies can ever be full.

And the most obvious reason why your dog might indulge in mid-walk coprophagia and chow down on rabbit poop could just be because they’re hungry and looking for something to eat.

Sometimes, the most obvious and easiest answers to a problem are the only ones that actually make the most sense. If your dog is hungry, he’s going to eat.

Is Rabbit Poop Bad For Your Dog?

A lot of dog owners are, quite naturally worried about the possibility that their dog might get sick from eating rabbit poop and that it might be detrimental to their health.

If they eat too much of it, it could make them vomit, but apart from that, there really isn’t a lot to worry about if your dog likes to snack on rabbit poop.

You might have heard via the canine grapevine that your dog can pick up parasites from rabbits by eating their poop or could become infected by rabbit-specific diseases such as myxomatosis.

If you have, you can forget about everything that you heard, as myxomatosis can’t cross the biological divide (and neither can any other disease that rabbits are susceptible to) and dogs can’t pick up any parasites from a rabbit by eating their poop.

It may not be the most appetizing thing that you’ll ever see your dog eat, but rabbit poop while not exactly being good for your dog, probably won’t do him any harm either.

Is There Any Way That My Dog Can Pick Up Parasites From Rabbit Poop?

We’re actually glad that you asked because there is a slight chance that your dog could pick up parasites or become ill by eating rabbit poop, but it won’t be the rabbit’s fault if they do.

If your dog isn’t the first creature to decide that a pile of rabbit poop looks particularly wholesome and delicious, and flies or other insects have laid their larvae in the poop before he eats it, then there is a chance that your boy could pick up some unwanted visitors if he becomes the next diner at natures poop table.

If you do see him heading toward poop that’s being buzzed by flies, if you can, shoo him away from it as quickly as possible.

Having said that, the only way that most dogs pick up parasites from rabbits is if they come across an already infected rabbit corpse, and start to eat it.

It sounds horrible, but dogs are scavengers, and as you already know, they’ll eat almost anything if they think that it looks pretty tasty and they can get away with it.

Stopping Your Dog Eating Rabbit Poop

Even though it’s relatively problem-free, there is a very slim chance that your dog could contract salmonella from eating rabbit poop, so if your boy does develop persistent diarrhea after eating rabbit poop and it lasts more than twenty-four hours, you should ideally take him to the vet and get him checked out.

It might be nothing, but then again it could be something far more serious.

Sometimes, despite it not being a cause for alarm or anything to really about, it’s necessary to step in and do what’s right for your boy, and your best friend, and stopping him from eating rabbit poop is one of those behaviors that you need to try and curb if you can.

Start with the obvious, your boy’s diet. If he’s regularly eating rabbit poop, it’s a good idea to switch him to a nutrient-rich dry food diet that’ll help him to thoroughly absorb all of the things that he needs to from his food, which should help to prevent him from looking for additional sources of “nutrients”.

If you know that there are rabbits on your usual route and that there’s a good chance that he’ll encounter some poop while you’re out and about and walking together, change your route.

Try finding a different one where there aren’t any rabbits, and if there aren’t any rabbits on your route, your boy won’t stumble across any poop, and if there is no poop to be found, he can’t eat it.

And the last, and possibly the easiest way to stop your boy from eating rabbit poop is by taking some tasty treats with you on your walk.

That way, if he does see some poop that he’s tempted by, you can offer him something to eat that tastes far better.

You’ll be surprised how fast he learns that whatever you have in your pocket is far nicer than whatever he may find on the ground.

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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