If you have chickens and dogs in your household, you might have seen your dog eating chicken poop. This habit will gross you out but you may still wonder whether it is entirely hygienic.
If both the chicken and the poop contain sickness and bacteria, then it is bad for dogs. However, it is not the poop that is toxic but the bacteria that might live in it.
So, if you have got both, you need to know why do dogs eat chicken poop, the side effects, and how you can stop them from doing so.
Reasons why your dog eats chicken poop
Dogs use their mouth and nose to explore and discover the world, so eating poop of other animals may seem like normal behavior to them. One of the main reasons they eat chicken poop is simply because they like the taste.
The other reasons are listed below.
1. Balanced Diet
Dogs may eat poop because they feel they may be lacking some nutrients from their diet. If they do not get B vitamin, potassium or enough protein in their regular food, they will find it somewhere else. This includes eating poop of other animals.
Faeces have undigested forms of protein. Dogs may smell it out and eat it to make up for the loss of nourishing ingredients.
You might see a change in your dog if you provide a brand with more nutritional value. Try adding a banana or b1 supplement to your dog’s food.
2. Hide Their Tracks
Dogs may eat poop for a primitive reason. Canines used to eat other dogs’ poops to conceal themselves. The smell of the poop that is left by another dog can alert both predators and prey of the dog. So, by eating they think they keeping their family safe.
They want to prevent predators from hunting them, especially the small dogs who can be easy prey.
3. Psychological Issues
If your dog is anxious, and you leave them alone for a long time, they might develop separation anxiety. Their way of ridding themselves of anxiety is to clean up the poop by eating it.
When dogs grow up in a stressful environment where they were forced or abused to eat chicken poop as punishment, they may still have the urge to clean it up.
You might be too busy to interact or supervise them, so your dogs will get bored if they are spending most of their time around chickens.
Therefore, try not to leave them unsupervised.
Dogs crave human company so they will do things to get more attention from you.
If you only give your dog attention when they are doing something bad, this will reinforce the action in their mind. Punishing them when they eat chicken poop may just encourage them more because for them any attention is pleasing.
So, use positive reinforcement when they do something right like praising them. Try not to act harshly.
Walk with them and play with them to distract them from thinking about eating poop all day.
Distraction works wonders for dogs who eat poop for attention.
Is chicken poop harmful to dogs?
The chicken poop itself is not harmful to dogs. However, when it contains toxic elements, they can be. Dogs can get sick when they breathe in the air which germs travel through from the poop.
These birds can carry microbes that allow worm eggs to fester and hatch in your dog’s intestinal tract. On the other hand, the eggs may get transferred from the faeces because these remains have the potential to accept, expand and store various types of bacteria and viruses that can manifest themselves.
However, the risk is mild and hinges on whether chickens and hens are sick themselves or have diseases and parasites.
Can your dog get sick from eating chicken poop?
Chicken poop can make bacteria and viruses if they have toxic microbes in them. Your dog could possibly get sick from any of the faeces that are contaminated with bacteria.
The possible illnesses your can experience are detailed below:
When chicken poop is eaten, it can pass salmonella to the dog. The bacteria are shed from the chicken through the faeces that can infect the dog once they eat it.
Many say that this is the biggest health threat to dogs.
- blood or mucus in the stool
- Refusal to eat
- Abdominal pain
You can find this on a bird’s feathers, skin, Intestinal tract, stomach, and in their poop. It lives and affects the gastrointestinal muscles of animals. Moreover, it is asymptomatic in chicken.
Giardia is a parasite that can contaminate anything that comes into contact with faeces. When animals and humans swallow it, they can become infected. However, infection through blood is not possible.
Dogs can pick it up after they roll and play in the polluted soil or unhygienic drinking water. This is where they can be laid bare to the parasite. It has the power to invade your dog’s immune system.
It can also travel from animals to humans. So, use protective gear while cleaning the poop.
Worms like hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms can get into your dog’s system when they eat chicken poop. Hookworms are small and sharp with teeth like appendages that latch to the intestines. Tapeworms will make your dog want to inhale as much as the food they can to sustain itself.
The worms above can be transmitted from animal to animal through infected faeces. This means if a chicken has worms and upon eating that infected poop, dogs can become hosts for parasites.
There is actually very little chance that your dog might get parvovirus from eating chicken poop but we still need to count it as a risk. This is a communicable disease and spreads when dogs eat poop infected with parvovirus.
Your dog has less chance of getting sick if the chickens are unaffected by parasites or illnesses.
However, the risk is still present. So, it is best if you make plans to prevent it.
When dogs ingest campylobacter or salmonella bacteria that may be present in the poop, it can cause diarrhea and transfer itself to humans as well.
Remember, not all chickens will sustain this bacteria. Therefore, all the dogs that come into contact won’t become ill.
In fact, dogs have more chances of developing disease and sickness in their poop due to their vast exposure to the world. When you take dogs walking or running, they can contract illnesses more.
What if my dog ate chicken poop?
When your dog tries to eat chicken poop, you can try to discourage them. But there is not much you can do once it’s in their tongue. Consuming a little number of pallets will not harm them.
On the other hand, if the chickens are sick and have disease and parasites, then your dog can get ill from eating poop.
You will be able to see if they ingested worms in their poop because they will display symptoms of weakness, weight loss, swollen stomach, vomiting, and a loss of appetite. They can have an upset stomach, can become lethargic and have diarrhea.
If these symptoms persist for more than 2 days then take them to the vet to get them checked for any diseases we mentioned in this article.
How to stop dogs from eating chicken poop
You may want them to stop eating poop just because it is disgusting to see them do it. To do that, you have to put effort and time. If you remain patient, you might be able to erase this habit.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. Training and Commands
Teach them “leave it”, “drop it”. Whenever you see them snatching up poop, use a solid command that you know they will respond to well. Implement obedience training a few times a day to enhance their listening skills.
If you see them going for the poop, redirect their attention with a ball by calling them to come, sit do a trick or entice them with treats.
Praise them whenever they are good and listen to you instead of going for the kill zone on chicken poop.
2. Ruin the taste
Construct a border around your chicken’s space with foul-smelling items that your god hates- hot peppers, hot sauce, and lemons. They produce a strong taste dogs don’t like.
Add pineapple to the chicken’s diet. It seems dogs loathe the taste of pineapple, so your dog might no longer want to it.
3. Pick it up
An easy way to stop your dog from eating chicken poop is to just pick it up when you see it. Removing it can help eliminate the motivations for your dog to approach the poop in the first place.
However, you cannot remove all the faeces every time, so there may be some chances that your dog might eat it in your absence, but it will still cut down the supply.
4. Burn their Energy
Your dog may eat poop to indicate that they have a lot of energy in them and don’t know what to do with it. You have to help them burn the excess energy. Take them for long walking or running sessions and play with them.
Tiring them out frequently will bring improvement in their behavior. Keep them well exercised and provide constant mental stimulation.
5. Keep Things Clean
Clean chicken poop to get rid of any poop gatherings that may occur. It will protect the health of your chickens as well as the animals. If there are no poop piles, your dog will be less attracted and stay away.
You can also stop access to the area. Keep their enclosures completely separate.
For whatever reason your dog may want to eat chicken poop, it is still disgusting and contains some possible risks. They can get various worms and parasites if it is contaminated.
Prevention is better than cure. So, you need to teach them and make them an expert at listening to you. You can also take the help of external measures like ruining their taste and keeping your two animals separated.
What you don’t need to do is panic if it has already happened. Monitor their behavior and take them to the vet if necessary.
Tell us your thoughts by commenting below.
Dr. Aram Baker has been with Santa Clarita Animal Hospital since 1995 and his special interests include behaviour medicine and dermatology. He graduated from the Cleveland Humanities Magnet Program in Reseda, CA and attended California State University at Northridge where he received a Bachelor’s degree in biology. He went on to pursue his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of California at Davis. He also spent time in the zoological medicine department at U.C. Davis during his Junior and Senior years. He is dedicated to caring for all pets big or small, young or old with compassion, patience, kindness, and love.