Rabbit droppings dotting the landscape may seem harmless to us, but can our dogs get sick from eating or rolling in these ubiquitous poop pellets? Unfortunately, yes – consuming rabbit feces can transmit nasty parasites or bacteria that wreak havoc on canine digestion and health. Even just rolling in poop poses sanitary risks. Yet many dogs exhibit obsessive attraction to rabbit waste. In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the dangers of rabbit poop behaviors for dogs, why dogs exhibit these tendencies, and most importantly, how to safely and effectively curb coprophagic and poop rolling habits for a cleaner, healthier life between dogs and rabbits.
Is Rabbit Poop Bad for Dogs?
Rabbit poop, also known as rabbit pellets, is the small, round, dry feces that rabbits naturally produce. While rabbits themselves have no issue eating their own poop, which contains important nutrients, should our canine companions be noshing on those rabbit nuggets?
The short answer is no – dogs should not eat rabbit poop. While small amounts of rabbit poop likely won’t harm your dog, there are a few reasons why rabbit feces can be problematic for canine health:
Parasites – One of the biggest risks of dogs eating rabbit poop is ingesting parasites, including nasty organisms like tapeworms. Rabbits can carry parasites like coccidia or giardia in their intestinal tracts which can be transmitted through their feces. If dogs eat infected rabbit poop, they can become sick too.
Bacteria – Rabbit feces can also harbor pathogenic bacteria like E. coli or salmonella. Dogs that eat poop may develop gastrointestinal illness like diarrhea or vomiting if the poop contains toxic bacteria.
Obstruction/Blockages – Wolfing down rabbit poop, especially in large amounts, could potentially lead to an intestinal blockage or obstruction. The fecal pellets could clump together and cause a backup in the digestive tract.
Nutritional Issues – While rabbit poop does contain undigested nutrients, it does not provide balanced nutrition for dogs. Eating poop should never be a substitute for a healthy dog diet. Ingesting too much rabbit feces could lead to vitamin or mineral imbalances.
So in summary, while small amounts of rabbit poop are probably not an emergency, the feces can harbor parasites, bacteria, and other hazards. Rabbit droppings also simply have no good nutritional value or purpose for dogs. Safer alternatives for chewing/snacking definitely exist!
To keep your dog safe, try to prevent access to areas where rabbits live and poop. Always avoid letting your dog consume feces of any kind. And if you suspect they’ve eaten rabbit poop, call your vet for advice, especially if symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy develop.
Are There Parasites in Rabbit Poop?
Yes, there can indeed be parasites lurking within rabbit poop that could pose a danger to dogs if eaten. Some of the key parasites to be aware of include:
Tapeworms – Dogs get tapeworms after swallowing fleas while grooming themselves. The fleas harbor tapeworm larvae. If rabbits have fleas and a dog eats the rabbit poop, they ingest fleas or tapeworm larvae that can lead to infection. Symptoms include vomiting, scooting, or seeing tapeworm segments.
Giardia – This protozoan parasite causes giardiasis, an infection that leads to severe diarrhea. Rabbits and dogs can both contract giardia by ingesting contaminated soil, food, or water sources. Eating the feces of infected rabbits can spread this nasty bug.
Coccidia – Another single-celled protozoan parasite, dogs and rabbits afflicted with coccidia will have watery, mucus-filled diarrhea and abdominal pain. Coccidia spores shed in the rabbit’s feces can transmit infection to canine poop eaters.
Cryptosporidium – This causes gastrointestinal illness similar to coccidia and giardia. The main symptom is usually watery diarrhea. Fecal-oral transmission from rabbits commonly spreads cryptosporidium to dogs.
E. Cuniculi – Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a microsporidian parasite that can cause neurologic, kidney, and respiratory disease in rabbits and dogs. Dogs can acquire this unique parasite by ingesting infected rabbit urine or feces.
The good news is that prompt deworming treatments exist for most parasitic infections dogs can pick up from rabbit poop. But preventing infection in the first place through poop avoidance is ideal. Keep rabbits and dogs safely separated and talk to your vet about parasite testing if you suspect a problem.
Why Do Dogs Like Rabbit Poop?
Though disgusting to humans, many dogs seem attracted to the smell and taste of rabbit droppings. But why do dogs feel compelled to sniff out and consume those little brown pellets? There are a few theories behind the behavior:
Natural Instinct – In the wild, dogs may eat fecal material to gain key nutrients and additional energy from undigested food parts. So a natural scavenging tendency can cause poop eating.
Smell/Taste – Rabbit feces has a distinct scent and taste from the rabbids’ vegetarian diets. Dogs may find the grassy smell alluring. The poop also has high protein content. These qualities can appeal to dogs.
Attention-Seeking – Some dogs eat poop for the reaction it gets from their humans. Even negative attention is still attention, and dogs learn that poop equals a response from people.
Stress/Boredom – Dogs confined to a yard with nothing to do, or who feel anxious and understimulated, may eat rabbit feces as a way to occupy themselves. Stress and behavioral issues can underlie poop eating.
Health Problems – In some cases, an underlying health issue like pancreatic disease or malabsorption may cause coprophagia (poop eating). Nutrient deficiencies or hunger may drive dogs to rabbit poop.
Puppy Exploration – Curious puppies may sample rabbit feces as they explore the world with their noses and mouths. However, this tendency should be redirected, as eating poop is unhealthy.
Stopping a long-standing poop eating habit can take time, patience and detective work to determine the root cause. Consult your vet to rule out health problems and a behaviorist to address behavioral causes for coprophagia focused on rabbit droppings specifically.
What Can I Do to Stop My Dog Eating Rabbit Poop?
To curb coprophagia focused on rabbit pellets, try these tips:
Remove Access – The most direct approach is to prevent access to the poop. House rabbits indoors away from dogs. Fence off areas where outdoor rabbits live. Always scoop litter boxes promptly.
Leash Supervision – When dogs and rabbits share space, keep dogs leashed and supervised. This allows immediate intervention for “leave it” training if they approach poop. Always praise and reward when they obey.
Muzzles – You can use basket-style muzzles to prevent poop eating during the retraining process, in combination with supervision. Ensure the dog can pant and drink normally while wearing the muzzle.
Discouragement – If the dog attempts to eat poop, firmly say “no.” Avoid yelling or hitting them, as this can worsen stress that contributes to the behavior. Redirect them to a toy or chew bone instead.
Taste Deterrents – Sprinkle coprophagia deterrents on rabbit poop to make it unappealing. Use natural products like pineapple juice, vitamin B supplements, hot sauce, garlic or lemon juice.
Diet Modification – Ensure the dog’s overall diet provides sufficient nutrients and fiber. Consult your vet about adding supplements if nutrient deficiency is suspected in any poop eating.
More Exercise/Stimulation – Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, playtime, toys and interaction with you to relieve boredom and stress that may contribute to rabbit poop eating.
Positive Reinforcement – Reward with treats when your dog shows interest in poop but does NOT eat it after a “leave it” cue. Marking and reinforcing this choice not to eat can shape the behavior.
Consistency is key for stopping this habit long-term. Rule out health issues, then use a combination of prevention, redirection, deterrents and training to help end your dog’s obsession with rabbit poop.
My Dog Keeps Rolling in Rabbit Poop
While less hazardous than directly eating feces, some dogs seem magnetically attracted to rolling in rabbit poop piles they discover in yards or outdoor hutches. This behavior is equally disgusting to owners. But what drives dogs to coat themselves in rabbit pellets?
For dogs, smelling something appealing is not always enough – they want that scent ON them! Reasons a dog might be attracted to rolling in rabbit poop include:
Natural Scent Disguise – Rolling in new and pungent scents can mask a dog’s own odor while out and about. Predators are less likely to detect a dog that smells like rabbit poop already!
Communication – By spreading strong scents onto themselves, dogs are essentially leaving scent messages for other dogs they encounter locally. Poop perfumes provide a lot of information!
Attention-Seeking – Some dogs know their humans HATE when they roll in poop. So for dogs that crave any attention, even if negative, rolling in feces can achieve that goal.
Feels Good – For some dogs, a nice roll in something smelly is simply satisfying and feels good, similar to a luxurious back scratch. The texture or scent may appeal.
Health Issue – Skin allergies, parasites, anal gland issues or other problems can prompt increased rolling behavior too. An afflicted dog may try to self-treat their discomfort.
Regardless of motivation, this is a habit you’ll want to curb immediately due to sanitary concerns and the stench. Be patient though – scolding or punishment will only worsen a dog’s anxiety associated with poop rolling.
How to Stop Dog Rolling in Rabbit Poop
To stop undesirable rolling antics, try these positive training methods:
Supervise Outdoors – When your dog is near rabbit living spaces, keep them leashed or directly supervised. This allows immediate intervention if they try to plop down for a poopy rub.
Prompt Removal – Pick up rabbit droppings promptly so there’s no poop available for rolling. Store waste safely out of reach until disposal to prevent backyard access.
Distract & Redirect – When you see your dog about to roll, immediately interrupt with a cheerful “let’s go!” and move them away from the temptation. Offer a treat or toy as a reward for listening.
Praise Opposite – If your dog starts approaching smelly poop but then chooses not to roll, praise, treat and call them away to reinforce the good decision.
“Leave It” Training – Use “leave it” as a cue not to touch the poop while supervised, then reward obeying this cue, so they learn ignoring poop gets treats.
Address Causes – Rule out any medical issues causing discomfort that prompts rolling. Also ensure your dog is not anxious, under-exercised or bored.
Bathe Promptly – Give smelly dogs a bath as soon as possible after any unwanted poop encounters to remove the odor and discourage rolling in poop again.
Consistency and prompt intervention when your dog approaches rabbit feces is crucial to ending this habit. With time, patience and reinforcement of desired behaviors, you can reach a poop-free existence!
While eating or rolling in rabbit poop may seem innocent to dogs, these behaviors can be problematic and unhealthy for our canine companions. With proper supervision, training and care though, dogs can kick these habits for good. Be patient, diligent and always discuss concerns with your veterinarian to protect your dog’s wellbeing. A poop-free life is absolutely possible with the right approach!