Dogs eat some strange things. My dog loves chewing, and even eating, toilet paper. They seem particularly attracted to the used bits with poop on them. It turns out that eating poop is a common hobby for dogs.
This applies to their own poop, and the poop of other animals, including guinea pigs. Why do dogs eat something we find so disgusting? Why does your dog snack on guinea pig poop as if it were kibble? There are actually a number of reasons for this behavior.
Why does my dog eat guinea pig poop?
Your dog knocks over the guinea pig cage. To make matters worse, they are cleaning up by eating the poop. You cringe in disgust. Why, out of all the potential things to eat, do they eat guinea pig poop?
Dogs explore the world with their nose and mouth. They have about 1/6 of the taste buds we have, which allows them to be much less discriminating about what goes into their mouths.
This is great, because they often use their mouth to learn about things. Just like a toddler, when they are curious about something, it will go into their mouth. The smell, taste, and feel of an item in their mouth gives them important information about it.
Dogs are perfectly capable of feeling jealous. Anytime I pet my cat, my dog tries to get between us. She even interrupts family cuddle sessions.
Jealousy can cause a dog to do some strange things, including eating poop. Other signs of jealousy include potty accidents, excessive grooming, and clinginess. Jealous dogs can be aggressive, or seek your attention by doing tricks as well.
Eating poop is such a common occurrence for dogs, the behavior has a name. It’s known as coprophagia. One study found that 1 in 6 dogs engaged in poop eating regularly, and 1 in 4 had been caught poop munching at least once. It can be comforting to know your dog isn’t the only one chowing down on poop pie.
Dogs with coprophagia may eat dog poop, including their own, or the poop of other animals.
The number one reason for coprohagia, or poop eating, seems to be a natural instinct. Mother dogs will eat the poop of their young. This keeps the den clean and keeps the pups safe from predators.
Babies are a delicacy to many animals, who can smell the juvenile feces a mile away. Eating the poop is the fastest way to dispose of it, so the mother naturally eats it.
Until the pups are 4 weeks old, she must lick their butt to stimulate them to poop. Then, she licks the poop away to keep them clean.
This explains why mothers eat poop, but why do other dogs do it? It may be a way of protecting the pack.
In the wild, dogs will eat each other’s poop for the same reason a mother eats her babies feces. It keeps the den area clean, which helps protect the pack from parasites and bacteria that grow in feces.
Domesticated dogs have humans to dispose of their poop for them, but the instinct to eat the poop can still be there. Survival instincts can be very strong, remaining long after the need for the behavior is gone.
Some dogs are food driven, or food motivated. These are the dogs that get extremely excited about meal times. They do very well with food rewards during training. As Scooby Doo says, they will do anything for Scooby Snack.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why food-driven dogs are more likely to eat poop. Perhaps their fascination with food causes them to eat poop, even though dogs don’t normally view it as a food item. Perhaps they are more likely to eat anything, because they enjoy eating so much.
Some dogs are hams. They know how to get your attention, and will perform when they want it. They may sit on their butt with their front legs up, which is a very human pose. They may dance around or chase their tail. They may even eat guinea pig poop.
The behaviors may be different, but the goal is the same. You can’t help but pay attention to their antics.
Dogs, like young children, can’t always differentiate between positive and negative attention. Perhaps they can differentiate, but, like teenagers, don’t really care.
In either case, they can take an attention is attention view of things. Whether you are scolding them or praising them, you are talking to them.
The problem with dogs enjoying any type of attention is that it can lead to accidental reinforcement. You know that when your dog does something you like, praising them or giving them a treat encourages them to repeat the behavior.
Logically, it’s easy to assume that scolding or punishing them would lead to them not repeating the behavior. However, it can backfire. If your dog is seeking attention, and they get it, they may continue the behavior to get more attention.
You may be accidentally training your dog to keep riding the poop chow train, even though you are trying to discourage them from it.
Just like humans, dogs get bored without proper entertainment and interaction. Just like humans, they can get up to some naughty things when they are bored. Boredom can lead to lots of bad behaviors, including potty accidents, destructive chewing, and excessive licking.
It can also lead them to eat poop. It’s possible this is because boredom causes stress and anxiety, and eating strange things like poop provides temporary relief. It’s also possible that they eat poop just to have something to do.
What happens if my dog eats guinea pig poop?
It’s natural to be worried if your dog chows down on guinea pig poop. In most cases, dogs are fine after eating the poop. Their digestive systems have evolved to handle bacteria that would make us sick, which makes them less susceptible to getting sick from guinea pig poop.
However, there are a few bacteria in the poop that can make your pooch sick.
Dogs can be exposed to salmonella in a variety of ways. Raw or undercooked chicken is the main culprit, but it can also be found in your guinea pig’s poop presents. Most of the time, the bacteria is destroyed by the dog’s acidic stomach, before it can make them sick.
However, some dogs do get sick from salmonella. It’s more likely to occur in puppies, elderly dogs, and those with a serious health condition. It is possible for it to affect a healthy mature dog as well, so you should know what to look for.
Salmonella causes diarrhea and vomiting. The diarrhea may be bloody. Some dogs will also have a fever, and it’s common for them to be lethargic. If your pooch shows these symptoms, it’s best to get them a checkup.
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV)
This virus is carried by rodents, with the most common being the house mouse. Guinea pigs can also carry the disease. It can be passed along to dogs and even humans.
The virus commonly causes fever, body pain, and stomach upset. After this initial phase, a second phase can develop. This phase can cause meningitis or encephalitis, which can cause permanent brain damage.
Cases of LCMV in dogs and humans are relatively rare, particularly from guinea pigs. However, it is possible for them to spread the virus.
How to stop my dog from eating guinea pig poop?
Perhaps even more important than why your dog fancies guinea pig poop as a gourmet snack is how to get them to stop eating it.
Remove the Temptation
The easiest way to prevent your pooch from eating guinea pig poop is to not allow them access to it. If your guinea pig stays in a cage, keep the cage well out of reach. If you allow your guinea pig out of the cage, be sure to clean up any droppings immediately.
You may find it helpful to use a pet playpen for your guinea pigs exercise time. This keeps them confined to an area, and keeps your dog out of the area. Then, you can easily clean up any poop when the guinea pig goes back into it’s cage.
Attention Seeking or Jealousy
If your dog is seeking attention or is simply jealous of the guinea pig, be sure they get enough quality time. Schedule time to spend with them each day. Take them for a walk, or have a play session together.
Regular quality time may soothe your dog’s feelings, and let them know when they can expect your undivided attention.
If you’ve inadvertently trained your pooch to eat guinea pig poop or they are doing it for attention, you’ll need to change your tactics. Instead of scolding them, ignore them as much as possible if they eat or attempt to eat the poop.
Don’t allow them to eat it. Instead, calmly remove them from the area, and clean up the poop. Interact with them as little as possible during this process. Make it boring, instead of fun. Once they figure out your reaction is no longer enjoyable, they should stop.
If your dog seems to be eating the poop out of boredom, they need more entertainment. First, be sure you are spending time with them each day. Of course, some dogs need more stimulation than others, and you can’t be there all the time to play with them.
Puzzle toys are one way to keep your dog occupied. These provide mental and physical activity. You can also turn on the TV. Dogs love watching other dogs and other animals on TV.