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Dog Health: Can Dogs Get Sick From Eating Cat Feces?

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Fluffy and Rover may share more than affection, but there are risks to dogs eating cat poop.

Fluffy and Rover may share more than affection, but there are risks to dogs eating cat poop.

Does Eating Cat Feces Harm Your Dog?

If you have caught your puppy raiding your kitty's litter box in search of some "kitty nuggets," or he enjoys some buried goodies outside in the yard, you may feel as if you are stuck in a "wormy" situation. Keep Fluffy's droppings out of reach from now on; cat doo-doo is not one of the healthiest snacks for several reasons.

Health Risks for Dogs Eating Cat Feces

When your puppy goes "treasure hunting," he may get much more than a tasty treat. Depending on the lifestyle of your cat and her level of care, several types of parasites could be waiting for this opportunity to continue their life cycles. Cat droppings, under the right circumstances, may contain protozoans such as giardia and infectious eggs from roundworms, hookworms, and occasionally whipworms, according to Pet Education.

Types of Worms

While there is no doubt that Rover can get worms by ingesting kitty "Tootsie Rolls," in order for this to happen, Fluffy has to have worms to start with, and they have to be the right kind. For instance, dogs are not primary hosts of Toxocara cati, the most common type of roundworm found in cats. However, dogs and cats both can be infected with the less common Toxascaris leonina roundworm species, according to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. Similarly, with hookworms, the Ancylostoma tubaeforme species typically infects only cats, while the opportunistic Ancylostoma braziliense and Uncinaria stenocephala may infect both cats and dogs.

Eggs at the Infectious Stage

In order to share your kitty's worms, Rover must consume feces containing eggs at the infectious stage. This means timing is an important factor. Make sure you clean your yard often. If your puppy eats some cat droppings, consider that the larvated eggs of Toxascaris leonina do not become infective until at least a week after being shed, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council. Hookworm larvae, under optimal conditions, reach the infective stage in approximately four to seven days, according to the Center for Food Security and Public Health. This means that under the right circumstances, Fluffy's feces may have already decomposed, leaving behind eggs that can stick to your dog's paw pads and ingested when your dog grooms himself.

Long-Lasting Effects

While you can clean the litter box promptly at home, the great outdoors is more difficult to manage. If your kitty has roundworms and uses the outdoors as her litterbox, the hardy roundworm eggs may survive there for years. Hookworms aren't so tough. They can't survive freezing temperatures. After a few months outside, their energy reserves are depleted, and they tend to die, according to Marvista Vet Animal Medical Center.

While your puppy or dog may no longer be able to eat these feces as they have broken down by that time, as already mentioned, he may still ingest the eggs indirectly since they are sticky and attach to your dog's paws and he then may ingest the eggs by grooming.

What About Protozoans?

Worms aside, you may be concerned if puppy may also ingest protozoans when he goes for some kitty nuggets. Luckily, it appears that coccidia are species-specific, For instance, Isospora canis of dogs should not affect cats, while Isospora felis should not affect dogs, according to Dr. Hines. With giardia, it seems that there is some controversy, but chances are dogs can get giardia from cats by eating fresh feces.

Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

Ever wondered why Rover is so attracted to cat feces? Chances are, most dogs are attracted by the taste. Cat food is higher in fat and protein compared to dog food, and therefore, cat waste is tastier.

Other Health Concerns

Also, consider that cat litter may contain chemicals, and clumping litter can cause blockages in the intestines. This behavior quickly becomes self-rewarding, so it is important to nip it in the bud to avoid problems.

While limiting access to outdoor areas where your kitty has soiled may help prevent your puppy from acquiring worms, you can ensure they both are worm-free with a good worm-prevention routine. Collect a small fecal sample from each pet at regular intervals, and have your vet check for evidence of worms and protozoans. Take both pets to the vet for regular health checkups. Avoiding a wormy situation in the first place is a win-win proposition for all—especially since some parasites can also be transmitted to humans.

How to Stop a Dog From Eating Feces

For Further Reading

  • How to Deworm your Dog With Safeguard
    Liquid safeguard may be cost-effective for owners with many dogs. De-worming your dog is part of being a responsible dog owner. Whether you own a puppy or adult dog, a purebred dog or a mutt, you know the threat of pesky parasites is always there....

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Valerie on June 02, 2019:

Can a Dogs UTI be caused from sneaking kitten foods?

Amylynn4444 on December 16, 2018:

when my dog eats the cat feces its typically covered with cat litter... what are the harm effects of him passing the cat litter through his system..

shannon on August 20, 2015:

Hi was looking at my 2 year old dogs shot record and it says she's had 2 sets of shots in 2013 and that's it what shots does. she need now

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 09, 2015:

That's a tough call. Those eggs are pretty resistant and require drastic measures.In some cases, diluted chlorine bleach may work on concrete areas but not much so in soil and it would obviously ruin the lawn. For small area, the top inches of soil and be removed and discarded in a landfill and other option is to cover the area with concrete to prevent exposure. If you have kids and are concerned about roundworms which can cause larvae migrans please call your health department for tips on how to protect them.

cat poop on June 09, 2015:

How can I rid my yard of any kind of worm larvae that may or may not exist in my yard from cat poop?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 22, 2013:

Hi Kimberly, let me know exactly what parasite your vet is talking about when you have chance. Is it roundworms?

Kimberly on April 22, 2013:

Just found out from my vet that Cat poop (especially cats under a year old) can carry some sort of parasite that can affect a dog's nervous system. If the dog is eating cat poop and this parasite is in there, it can reak havok on a dog's nervous system. for about 3 months now we've been trying to figure out what's wrong with my dog after being on an antibiotic and steroid, we just realized the harmful effects of the cat litter/poop on the dog now. Just another FYI

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 15, 2013:

It shouldn't unless it contained something that was bad for him in the first. More often, though they' ll eat regurgitated food rather than vomit which is more acidic.

dogfond on April 15, 2013:

Our dog has eaten his own vomit. Seriously, does this have an effect on her?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 26, 2012:

LOL!my dogs do the same. I have two cats that are puking machines, they eat fast and regurgitate, it's gross and occasionally, I have found my dogs eating it, and also looking interesting when they start the gag. I once found my dog chasing a cat gagging, gross! Thankfully, when I catch them a "leave it" prevents them from getting into it. The regurgitated food attracts them cause it pretty much comes out as just warmed up food. I have even found my other cat eating it too, yuk! The real vomit, not much attractive due to acidic contents...

DoItForHer on September 26, 2012:

It's gross, but when a cat starts heaving, she will run up to the cat and wait anxiously until it is done if I let her. Like some kind of twisted vending machine.

*Imitates Jim Carrey* "It's obscene, it's wrong! It's obscene, it's wrong!"

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 25, 2012:

Other than the fact that cat food is not that good for dogs over time, cat vomit should not cause any parasites or particular problems.

DoItForHer on September 18, 2012:

What about cat vomit? That's like a huge treat for my girl. lol