Many dogs like to eat poop, be it cat poop, dog poop, and yes, even deer poop. As disgusting as it is to us, it’s a reality of the canine world. You likely wouldn’t be reading this unless your dog ate deer poop. So you probably want to know — is eating deer poop dangerous for your dog?
Unfortunately, eating deer poop does pose an infection risk to your dog. While, in all likelihood, your pet will be unharmed as a result of fecal consumption, deer feces can carry infectious diseases and parasites that have the potential to harm your pup.
Let’s learn more about the contents of deer poop and its capacity to spread disease, determine the reason why your dog is eating deer poop (or poop in general), and how to establish a prevention plan are all paramount to protecting your dog’s health, safety, and wellness.
Do Deer Feces Carry Diseases?
Yes, deer poop can carry diseases. Luckily, the diseases your dog can contract as a result of eating deer poop are treatable, and the most serious illness transmitted via deer droppings doesn’t affect dogs. Deer feces can contain any of the following:
- Coccidia (roundworms) and whipworms can be found in deer feces.
- Symptoms of parasites include diarrhea and weight loss.
- Your vet will be able to detect intestinal parasites by examining a stool sample.
- The vet will prescribe an anti-parasitic medication as treatment, and your dog will likely recover quickly.
- Leptospirosis-causing bacteria
- Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of infected animals.
- Fecal matter is, in all likelihood, adjacent to or contaminated with urine.
- Humans can contract leptospirosis, but dogs are generally unlikely to pass it to each other, though there were cases reported in the Los Angeles area in 2021 where it was transmitted from dog to dog at a boarding facility.
- The disease is treatable with antibiotics, dialysis, or hydration therapy; your vet will advise which treatment method is right for your dog.
- Tooth-decaying bacteria
- While tooth decay is very uncommon in dogs, deer feces can potentially contain bacteria that can cause canine tooth decay.
- Tooth decay will be hard to detect since it usually presents on the bite surfaces of the molar teeth.
- Just like human cavities can be filled by a dentist, canine cavities resulting from tooth decay can be filled by a vet.
Luckily, the most serious disease transmitted via deer poop does not affect dogs or humans. Chronic wasting disease is prevalent in deer populations, and while it’s fatal to deer, fortunately, your dog won’t contract CWD as a result of eating deer poop.
The good news is that, while your dog may experience discomfort upon contracting any of the above conditions, all of the diseases above are treatable by a vet.
What To Do If My Dog Ate Deer Poop
If you are certain or strongly suspect that your dog ate deer poop, you should call your vet and find out how you should proceed. Your vet may suggest close monitoring for any new symptoms that might indicate disease, or they may want to examine your dog.
Vets know what diseases are prevalent locally at any given time, and this may factor into their approach with your dog. Your dog’s overall health and age are also considerations, as some dogs are more vulnerable than others to disease.
Why Is My Dog Eating Deer Poop?
If your dog is eating deer poop, it’s likely that their palate for feces isn’t very discerning. In other words, your dog might just be a poop-eater. A 2012 study by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior reported that 16% of dogs partake in frequent coprophagia (the habit of eating feces).
Dogs are also likely to develop coprophagia if their canine siblings do it. Some dogs are imitators, and if the temptation to eat poop wasn’t already strong, seeing another dog in the house eat poop will make your dog want to chow down even more.
According to the American Kennel Club, coprophagia can also be caused by:
- Parasitic infection
- Malnourishment or a deficient diet
- Spending too much time in confinement in a small space
While poop-eating is common among dogs, it can be caused by one or more health or environmental circumstances. Consulting your vet should always be the first line of defense when diagnosing a potential problem with your pet.
How Do I Prevent My Dog from Eating Deer Poop?
Luckily, there are training methods that can prevent dogs from eating feces in the future. Prevention is the best medicine, and keeping dogs out of the doo-doo pile is ideal for maintaining their health.
If your dog is used to being off the leash in their own backyard, they’ll likely protest at-home leashing at first. But, leashing your dog when you take them out allows you to guide them away from any feces you may find in the yard. As with all training, a successful potty break on a leash where no feces are eaten or acknowledged should be rewarded with a treat for reinforcement.
If you commonly let your dog off their leash in large, open, secluded spaces (like the woods, the beach, or on a hike), return to leashing to keep them away from any droppings in the surrounding environment.
When your dog runs into a thicket of tall grass to chase a bird or fetch a ball, you’re not following behind them to monitor their exploration. Keeping them on the leash during explorations will prevent them from scoping out a fresh pile of poop.
Refining the “Leave It” Command
This may be a great time to refine or retrain your dog’s compliance with the “leave it” and “come” commands. Setting out toys for your dog throughout the house or yard, walking them by the temptations and asserting the command, and rewarding success is a great method for retraining the “leave it” command. Keeping this command fresh in your dog’s mind will be helpful for steering them away from feces that you are able to see.
The success of a “leave it” command is highly related to the value of the object to which the command refers; in other words, if your dog absolutely loves eating poop, the “leave it” command is less likely to be effective for deer poop than it might be for a stick.
Nevertheless, a strong “leave it” command is one of the most useful obedience behaviors in a dog owner’s arsenal and is well worth refining or retraining.
Reducing Attention-Seeking Behavior
Some dogs may eat poop to get a rise out of their humans. React calmly if you discover your dog eating poop to reinforce that the behavior doesn’t deliver your dog’s desired effect.
If your dog partakes in attention-seeking behavior in general (jumping, barking, or constantly pawing at you), make sure that their environment (especially when they’re confined to their crate or bedroom) is enriching and stimulating. Set a routine with your dog so that they know which times of day they’ll get the most attention, and enforce the routine consistently.
Vigilance, Treatment, and Prevention Are Key
If you’ve discovered that your dog ate deer poop, you’ve mastered the first step in your prevention and treatment plan: vigilance. Keeping a watchful eye on your dog (especially as a puppy) will help you reinforce training tactics and help your vet identify any potential physical or behavioral abnormalities. Keep your eyes peeled for poop-eating!
Contacting your vet right away if you suspect that your dog ate deer poop is critical. While all of the possible diseases that your dog can contract from deer poop are treatable, time is of the essence. Early detection leads to quicker treatment.
Finally, use this as a learning experience for yourself and your pet. Refine your training, revisit the basics, and reward good behavior to get your dog back on track. The cocktail of vigilance, treatment, and prevention will ensure that your dog lives a happy and healthy life.