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If you live in an area with a high deer population, you have probably seen your dog chowing down on deer poop whenever you take him on a walk. Although it is unpleasant to talk about, it is a common problem in dogs. Not only do dogs eat their feces, but they also like the stools of other animals including deer, rabbits, cats, and other animals. The medical term for this behavior is coprophagia and it is common in puppies though it can occur at any stage of a dog’s life. Eating deer poop (or other animals’ poop) is usually harmless to dogs but sometimes it can spread infectious diseases and cause other health issues.
So, Why Do Dogs Eat Deer Poop?
Well, there are many theories about why dogs engage in coprophagia, but most of them fall into two categories: Medical and behavioral.
Underlying Medical Conditions
There are many factors that can make your dog eat deer poop, but they typically boil down to one issue: malnutrition. In other words, your dog could be eating deer poop because he is not getting the right nutrients or ingredients that he needs from his food. This may be caused by the following factors:
- Poor Diet: You may be giving your dog the wrong foods, which translates to an unbalanced diet. Your pup may also have problems digesting some of the ingredients in his foods. He may also be hungry because his system is not absorbing the right nutrients that he needs. Combined, these factors can motivate him to eat deer poop.
- Underfeeding: You may not be giving your dog the right amount of food that matches his weight, size, or activity level. If this is the case, he may be forced to eat deer poop when he’s hungry.
- Lack of Digestive Enzymes: Feces of herbivores like deer are good sources of digestive enzymes. And if your dog does not produce proper amounts of digestive enzymes that he needs to digest and absorb other nutrients that are vital to his body, he may eat deer feces as a supplement. In fact, this explains why you will find most dogs eating fresh deer poops (less than 2 days old): fresh deer stools not only contain digestive enzymes but are also rich in microbes which may be vital for the regeneration of beneficial bacteria in a dog’s gut.
- Intestinal Parasites: Intestinal parasites lurking in your dog’s digestive tract could be sharing the nutrients he gets from food. As a result, your dog may not get the right amount of nutrients that he needs, which can increase his hunger and prompt him to eat deer stool.
- Other Diseases: Diseases that cause increased appetite in dogs like diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, thyroid malfunction, pancreatitis, and intestinal infections may also make your dog eat deer poop.
Besides the above medical factors, your dog may also eat deer poop because of behavioral or external reasons, including:
- Stress: If your dog is stressed, anxious, or doesn’t get the attention he needs, he may engage in unorthodox actions, including coprophagia to get your attention.
- Incorrect Training: Cruel potty training methods may cause a dog to eat his poop or any feces he comes across to appease his owner or avoid punishment. If you like punishing your dog for inappropriate elimination, for instance, he can convince himself that any type of poop is bad, so whenever he comes across feces, he may try to hide the evidence by eating it. Some dog parents also resort to the old-fashioned trick of rubbing a dog’s nose on his feces when he does his business in the wrong places. This may send mixed messages to a dog about how he should handle feces.
- Curiosity: Your dog (especially puppies) may also eat deer poop out of curiosity. Since everything is new to puppies, they may sometimes want to explore everything they find with their mouths, including deer droppings.
- Learned Behavior: Your dog may also learn coprophagia from other dogs and turn it into a habit. If you have older dogs with the habit, for instance, they may influence younger dogs in your household. Some dogs may also see you cleaning up their poops from their kennels and try to mimic the behavior. This is why some trainers suggest that you shouldn’t clean up your dog’s poop when he’s seeing.
Is Deer Poop Bad For Dogs?
The short answer is: Yes, your dog may get sick if he eats deer poop. Deer feces may contain parasites like coccidia or giardia, which may be harmful to your dog. Old deer poops may also harbor roundworms and whipworms, which can wreak havoc in your Fido’s system. Besides, deer poop may contain undigested remnants, which might cause gastrointestinal issues in dogs or harbor allergy-causing pathogens. So, always strive to keep your dog away from deer poop, rabbit poop, horse poop, or any type of feces.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Deer Poop
Unless you don’t take your dog to areas or parks with deer droppings, identifying the source of the issue is the best way of stopping your canine companion from eating deer feces. So, the first step of eliminating your dog’s deer poop fetish is to take him to a vet. A vet will perform the necessary tests to rule out the possibility of underlying medical conditions. If your vet finds that the problem is a medical issue, he/she will recommend the best course of medical treatment.
Besides medical assistance, here are a few ways you can leverage to ensure that your dog doesn’t indulge in poop eating behavior:
- Feed your dog a balanced diet at regular intervals. But if the problem persists, consider changing his food. For instance, consider feeding him more supplements with digestive enzymes and probiotics to suppress his urge of finding less appetizing enzyme sources like deer feces.
- Increase the amount of exercise and the time you spend with your dog to keep him occupied.
- Invest in toys that can stimulate his brain and eliminate boredom. Remember that a bored dog tends to develop stranger behaviors than a dog that gets plenty of play and mental stimulation. Here are posts about dog toys that you may find useful:
- Although tedious and not highly recommended, you may also sprinkle deterring agents on deer droppings in your yard. The distasteful experience that your dog will experience when he tries to eat the deer feces will keep him away from similar substances in the future.
- Try giving your dog OTC coprophagia deterrents or food additives that are designed to make deer feces taste bad. Ensure that they are non-toxic and consult your vet before using them.
- Teach your dog the “NO” or “Leave it” command to prompt him to stop when you catch him in the act or when he makes an attempt to eating deer poop. And like other dog training routines, always praise or reward him if he acknowledges your command. This may go a long way in reinforcing the benefits of avoiding chowing down deer feces.
- Invest in a citronella training collar. With this collar, you can remotely release citronella spray to disrupt your dog’s urge and thoughts of eating deer feces because they will no longer smell it.
The Bottom line
Although eating deer poop or other animals’ feces is quite normal for dogs, it should be discouraged as it can make your pup sick. The good news is that with the tips we have highlighted, you should be able to teach your canine friend to stop eating deer droppings.
It is worth noting that while the behavior can be temporary or mild in some dogs, it may be persistent in others. So, always reach out to your vet whenever coprophagia becomes extreme and the tips we have highlighted don’t help. He will advise you on the best action to take or refer you to an experienced animal behaviorist.