Unpleasant and messy situations are part of your everyday life when you are a dog parent. However, no matter how used you are to seeing gross things, you are likely to feel repulsed when you see your dog munching on chicken poop in the backyard.
So, why does my dog eat chicken poop? There are various disgusting but real reasons why dogs eat poop, including hiding their tracks, nutrient-deficient diets, anxiety and compulsivity, seeking attention, and simply liking the taste of poop. Eating poop can be a dangerous habit and requires proper correction, which is easier said than done in some cases.
In this article, we will talk about the different reasons for eating poop in dogs. We will also talk about the potential health hazards stemming from the habit and give you tips on preventing or stopping the behavior successfully.
WHY DOES MY DOG EAT CHICKEN POOP?
A dog interested in eating chicken poop is likely to eat poop from other animals as well – cats, rabbits, and other dogs. This may sound disgusting, but it is, in fact, a pretty common issue. The condition characterized by eating poop is called coprophagia, and it can develop due to various reasons. Here are the top reasons for coprophagia in dogs.
Reason number 1: Natural instincts
Some dogs are naturally inclined to eat poop as part of their survival mechanism. This is because, in the wild, dogs know that the smell of poop attracts both predators and prey. In such cases, the poop-eating habit is a primal reason to hide the tracks and stay safe and hidden. If your dog is eating chicken poop, it might be trying to protect you, the chickens, and itself by removing the scents that can potentially attract danger.
Reason number 2: Dietary deficiency
One of the main theories about dogs eating poop is the lack of nutrients. A dog deficient in specific nutrients, like, for example, B-complex vitamins or protein, is likely to eat not only poop but many inedible items. Many species leave undigested proteins in their poop, and the chicken is not an exception. Therefore, if your dog is eating chicken poop, it might be because it can smell the non-digested protein in the poop and is trying to fill the gaps in its nutrition.
Reason number 3: Psychological issues
Just like people, dogs have psychological issues, and sometimes those issues may result in poop eating. The two most common situations in which dogs eat poop due to psychological problems are anxiety and mills-related stress. An anxious dog is likely to eat poop as a form of coping mechanism. On the other hand, dogs from puppy mills usually eat poop compulsively because they associate the mess in the mill with the abuse and neglect they have experienced.
Reason number 4: Attention-seeking behavior
It is no secret that dogs can be needy – some breeds more than others. A dog feeling deprived of attention will do just about anything to catch its owner’s focus, and sometimes that includes eating poop. For example, if your dog is being scolded every time it eats poop, it starts understanding the behavior as a way of initiating contact. Regardless of the scolding, attention is attention, and the moment you begin interacting with your dog, it has achieved its goal.
Reason number 5: Personal taste preference
This is the grossest reason on this list, but sadly it is pretty standard. There is no easy way to say this, but some dogs simply like how the taste of poop. When it comes to taste preference, it is not uncommon for dogs to choose whose poop they eat. For example, your dog might be eating chicken poop but not cat poop or the other way around. Finally, some dogs would eat just about any poop regardless of who it is coming from.
CAN EATING CHICKEN POOP MAKE DOGS SICK?
Chicken poop is not straightforward toxic to dogs. However, chicken often carries pathogens that can easily find their way into the poop. In simple words, although not poisonous, chicken poop is dangerous to dogs because it can contain specific infectious agents.
Health hazard number 1: Salmonellosis
The number one health hazard for dogs associated with eating chicken poop is Salmonellosis. Salmonella is a bacterium affecting the gastrointestinal tract of many different species, and once the dog ingests an infected chicken poop, it will develop symptoms quickly.
The infection is usually limited to the gastrointestinal tract, but in more severe cases, it can cause septicemia or even abortion in pregnant dogs. The usual signs and symptoms include bloody or mucus-tainted diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and decreased energy levels.
The treatment depends on the severity of the infection. Less complicated cases can be treated at home using the medications prescribed by the vet (antimicrobials and supportive therapy). For more severe cases, hospitalization is necessary.
Health hazard number 2: Intestinal parasites
The second health concern associated with chicken poop is intestinal parasites. Dogs can get worms by eating chicken poop in two ways. First, the chicken poop may serve as a good breeding ground for the worm eggs to hatch and grow. Second, the worm eggs might have been present in the chicken and then transferred into the poop.
To be more accurate, dogs can get three types of worms through chicken poop – roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Each type poses a specific danger and can cause an array of problems for the dog.
A dog infected with intestinal worms needs veterinary attention and a suitable de-worming protocol. If there are complications, they need proper addressing too.
Health hazard number 3: Giardiasis
The next health risk linked with chicken poop is Giardiasis. Giardia is a parasite that lives and thrives in the intestines. It feeds on the nutrients provided by the dog food, and over time, it can grow strong and even overrun the dog’s immune system.
A dog with Giardiasis will have chronic intermittent diarrhea and experience progressive weight loss. The diarrhea consistency often varies from loose stool to completely watery and can be greenish or tainted with blood and mucous.
To treat the parasitic infection, the vet will probably use a combination of two anti-parasitic drugs. The vet will also manage the symptoms using fluid therapy and supportive treatment. It should be noted that once infected, dogs can pass Giardia to humans.
WHAT CAN I GIVE MY DOG IF HE EATS POOP?
If you caught your dog eating chicken poop, it is best to be extra careful and observant in the following hours. Although the potential consequences of eating chicken poop can be severe, there is no rule your dog will develop any issues.
All in all, be vigilant about your dog’s condition and contact your vet as soon as you notice something is wrong. Alternatively, you can take your dog to the vet’s office the moment you see it eating chicken poop. However, so early on, it is doubtful for any problems to be visible at all.
HOW CAN I STOP MY DOG FROM EATING CHICKEN POOP?
Eating chicken poop is not the end of the world. Luckily, there are several things you can do to stop the behavior. Just be persistent and accept the fact that some things take time.
Tip number 1: Pick up after the chickens
This can be tricky as it is impossible to clean after the chickens at the same pace as they produce and leave poop. However, regularly maintaining proper hygiene and cleaning after your chicken will cut down the poop supply and decrease the dog’s chances of feasting on chicken poop in the yard. To make things simpler, you can put a barrier in the yard that will physically separate the chicken’s access to the yard and leave a smaller cleaning area.
Tip number 2: Keep the chicken coop clean
It is not just the yard you need to clean – do not forget about the coop. Keeping the chicken coop clean and preventing poop buildup will benefit your chicken as they can get sick of living in an unclean environment. Plus, if there are no poop stockpiles in the coop, your dog is less likely to feel attracted and will stay away. This is also a good way of preventing conflict between the animals as chickens and dogs are not always known as the best of friends.
Tip number 3: Ruin the chicken poop taste
There are various ways you can make the chicken poop taste less appealing. One option is to fence the chicken are and cover the fence with a spray or taste your dog hates. For example, lemon-based scents and chili spices are two things dogs hate. The other option is to add pineapple to the chicken diet, as dogs often feel repulsed by its taste and smell.
Tip number 4: Train your dog to be obedient
Training your dog and investing time and effort in basic obedience classes will benefit your dog in the long run and in various situations, not just with the chicken poop eating habit. You can start training your dog the “leave it” or “drop it” command when still a young pup. That way, by the time your dog gets interested in chicken poop, you will be confidents in its training skills.
Tip number 5: Keep your dog stimulated
It is critically important to keep your dog physically and mentally stimulated. A dog that has been physically active for several hours and has engaged in mind-stimulating activities or interactions is less likely to become bored and anxious. In other words, a physically and mentally satisfied dog is not very interested in eating chicken poop or engaging in other potentially troublesome activities.
Tip number 6: Do not encourage the behavior
Try not to overreact if you catch your dog in the middle of its chicken poop eating session. The more intensely you react, the more you are encouraging the behavior. Some dogs thrive on attention and even perceive the scolding as a positive interaction. If you catch your dog eating chicken poop, put its muzzle on and quietly clean the chicken poop from the yard. Alternatively, avoid leaving your dog unsupervised or limit its access to the chicken poop in the first place.
SUMMING UP: THE DANGERS OF CHICKEN POOP FOR DOGS
Dogs eat chicken poop for various reasons, and each reason needs a unique approach to be adequately addressed. Eating chicken poop is not just gross, but it can also be quite dangerous as your dog can contract many diseases and parasites through this nasty habit.
To make things even more complicated, contact with chicken poop can be hazardous even without the eating part. This is because fungal spores can be inhaled from the poop and cause severe infections in dogs.
All in all, if you have both chicken and dog, it is best advised to ensure utmost hygiene and make sure your dog does not come into contact with chicken poop. If you have trouble keeping the two separated, talk to a dog trainer or behaviorist to help you teach your dog not to mess with chicken poop in the yard.
Can dogs get worms from chickens?
Yes, dogs can get worms from chickens. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to keep both your dog and the chickens up-to-date on de-wormers. Talk to your vet about the right de-worming products and the frequency of use.
Is chicken poop harmful to puppies?
Chicken poop is harmful to puppies for the same reasons it is for adult dogs. However, the potential diseases caused by poop can be trickier in younger pups because of their underdeveloped immune systems and overall fragility.
Does all chicken poop have Salmonella?
It is not like every chicken poop is contaminated with Salmonella, but there is a big chance it is. This is because chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese carry Salmonella germs in their guts. Even a healthy-looking chicken can produce poop with Salmonella.
How do I know if my dog has Salmonella?
The most common sign of Salmonella is persistent diarrhea tainted with either blood or mucus. Fever, vomiting, and lethargy are also possible. Because of the non-specificity of the symptoms, it is impossible to determine the Salmonella infection at home without the vet’s help.