My Dog is Addicted to Horse Manure

It's gross and it makes her breath even worse than usual, but could eating horse poop be hazardous to her health?

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Note: This is day 10 of my 30-day blogging challenge. What the heck is a 30-day blogging challenge? Read about it here.

I bring my dog to the barn fairly regularly. While we’ve more or less eliminated her worst habit, which was running away—sometimes towards the road—and ignoring me when I called her back, she still has some problems that prevent her from being a real barn dog.

I’ll cut straight to the chase. My dog, Brit, is addicted to eating horse poop. She loves it. She’s pretty good at obeying the “out” command when I catch her starting to duck under the fence to feast on a tasty pile, but that hardly stops the practice. There is plenty of manure around the farm outside the confines of the stalls and paddocks, and she wants to hoover it all up. The fresher, the better (and the more horrifying it makes her breath smell later.)

Gross Symbiosis
Everyone wins!

The first time she discovered the joy of dining on horse poop, she threw it back up within about 20 minutes. This did not deter her, and it never happened again, but still. I have to assume that early rejection by her digestive system meant something.

I won’t get into the gory details, but Brit was exhibiting some, uh, digestive upset the other day, and while trying to puzzle out why, I remembered that she had enjoyed more than a few bites of poo during the previous day’s walk around the farm (she knows, “leave it,” but has selective hearing when such a tasty feast is involved.) Again, this type of snacking is not an infrequent occurrence and it doesn’t usually have any ill effects, but it did get me wondering. So I took to Google.

Why Do Dogs Eat Horse Poop?

There doesn’t seem to be a solid understanding of why dogs eat the excrement of other species. One theory is that the ancient canine scavengers that were willing to chow down on human waste were the ones who got close enough to become domesticated, thereby causing humans to inadvertently selectively breed for the trait of poop-eating. Ew. Another theory is that they simply like the taste. Also ew. What is widely agreed upon is that it’s not related to a nutrient deficiency or some other form of malnutrition, which means there isn’t any known way to supplement your dog’s diet so she won’t want to eat manure anymore.

Ivermectin and Dogs

But there is something that I came across in my reading that I hadn’t thought of, and that’s ivermectin poisoning. I knew the deworming agent was toxic to dogs and I’ve heard warnings to make sure to clean up any dewormer that your horse spits out so that your barn dog doesn’t come along and do it for you. But it hadn’t occurred to me that manure from a horse that had recently been dewormed with ivermectin could be toxic to a dog.

Brit had a routine vet visit this week, so I asked my vet if ivermectin poisoning was a real threat to dogs who enjoy dining on manure. She said it was possible, but they’d have to eat a pretty massive amount of manure from a recently dewormed horse for it to really be an issue. Aside from that, unless a dog is vomiting or having diarrhea after chowing down on the manure pile, there probably isn’t any major health risk involved in the disgusting habit.

Overall, that’s good news. The bad news is that my vet didn’t have any insight into how to prevent the behavior, so I guess we’ll just keep practicing the “leave it” command. Wish me luck.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Dogs eating horse manure is just part of the life of owning both horses and dogs. Mine, do not do it too often, because I tell them, “drop it”, if I seeing them doing it, but sometime a Mom’s just got to close your eyes, and wonder what kind of “kids” am I raising. 🙂

  2. Barring the ivemectin problem my vet said that horse poop is one of the best snacks a dog could have! My dog loves it and never throws it up.

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