Why Do Dogs Eat Cow Pats, Poop, & Manure? (7 Reasons)


Going on a peaceful walk in the countryside with your dog can quickly turn into a revolting experience when you catch them munching on cow pats. It’s a truly disgusting habit that my own dog seems to have developed, developing a peculiar taste for cow manure, poop, or dung. But why? What could possibly be so appealing to dogs about freshly laid cow poop? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this behavior, examine the scientific explanations, and determine whether it’s safe or harmful for your furry friend to indulge in cow manure. Let’s dive in!

How common is it for dogs to eat cow poop?

Before delving into the details, it’s important to note that your dog is not alone in this gruesome habit. In fact, it’s a relatively common behavior among canines, known as coprophagia. According to a survey conducted at the University of California, 16% of dogs investigated displayed a frequent inclination towards eating feces, particularly fresh stools less than 2 days old. Surprisingly, coprophagic dogs were often reported as being greedy eaters compared to their non-coprophagic counterparts.

7 reasons why dogs eat cow pats

If your dog enjoys indulging in cow poop, don’t fret—it’s not as strange as it may seem. Below, we’ll explore the various reasons why dogs develop a preference for cow dung and provide advice on how to prevent it.

1. It tastes good!

While the thought of eating cow manure may repulse us, dogs find it irresistibly delicious. Cow poop contains enticing snacks that appeal to a dog’s palate, offering an enticing smell and texture. So, despite its unappetizing nature to us humans, dogs perceive it as an aromatic treat. Moreover, consider the ingredients cows consume, such as grass, hay, and grain—these are all items your dog may have tried or found enticing before. Therefore, the combination of these ingredients in a smelly package makes cow pat pudding a tempting delicacy for dogs.

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2. Instinct to protect the pack

Dogs possess instincts inherited from their ancestral wolf and wild dog ancestors. This explains why they engage in behaviors like consuming cow manure—it serves as a way to protect their pack and younglings. Research suggests that coprophagia may have evolutionary roots, evolved to prevent the presence of fecal-borne intestinal parasites within the den resting area. By consuming fresh feces, dogs may prevent the subsequent development of infective larvae.

3. Investigative and scavenging behavior

Inquisitive young dogs and puppies often explore their surroundings through taste. Puppies, much like human babies, have the instinct to put everything in their mouths to investigate its nature. Additionally, their scavenging behavior stems from a survival instinct, as they worry about securing their next meal and attempt to eat anything they encounter before it disappears.

4. Nutrient deficiency or enzyme deficiency

Dogs may consume cow pats and manure due to nutritional or enzymatic deficiencies in their diet. Cows possess enzyme-rich and partially digested proteins from their grazing habits, elements that may be lacking in a dog’s diet. This instinct to seek such nutrients elsewhere is not limited to dogs—other species, such as rabbits, exhibit similar behavior. In fact, rabbits require fecal droppings to obtain vital nutrients, and preventing them from doing so can lead to health issues and stunted growth.

5. Self-medication

Dogs sometimes turn to eating cow poop as a form of self-medication to alleviate certain ailments. For instance, dogs with intestinal parasites may resort to consuming feces in an attempt to treat themselves. Parasites deplete essential nutrients from the dog’s system, and the dog may believe that cow manure, being nutrient-rich, can replenish those lost resources.

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6. Resemblance to tasty treats

Dried and fragmented cow poop can bear a striking resemblance to certain dog snacks. Given a dog’s strong food-oriented nature, once they detect the scent of cow poop and spot it on the ground, convincing them that it’s not a delectable treat becomes an arduous task. Despite how repulsive it appears to us, dogs find it difficult to resist having a good chew on the manure.

7. Hunger

Lastly, your dog might simply be hungry. Before embarking on an excursion where the likelihood of encountering cow pats is high, ensure that your dog has had a meal or bring alternative snacks along.

Is it safe for dogs to eat cow poop?

You may wonder whether cow poop is toxic to dogs. While it’s difficult to provide a definitive answer, consuming small amounts of cow manure typically does not result in any adverse reactions or pose a threat to your dog’s health. Naturally occurring cow pats do not contain toxic or dangerous substances for dogs.

However, there are still some risks to consider. The most concerning of these is ivermectin poisoning. Ivermectin is a chemical found in worming treatment medicine given to cows, and it can remain present in cow manure for up to 45 days. If your dog consumes cow manure containing ivermectin, it can harm them. While the risk is relatively low, it’s important to stay vigilant. According to the animal charity, the Blue Cross, certain dog breeds are more susceptible to ivermectin toxicity, including Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, long-haired Whippets, Merle Pomeranians, and other herding breeds with white feet. Symptoms of ivermectin poisoning include dilated pupils, disorientation, lethargy, and vomiting. If your dog exhibits any of these signs or is at risk, seek immediate veterinary attention.

Additionally, there is a risk of contracting worms from consuming cow pats. If the cows responsible for the manure have not received proper worm treatment, the parasites can pass through the feces and be ingested by an eager dog. Consequently, dogs can become infected with worms through cow manure. While robust gastrointestinal tracts in dogs tend to limit infections, it’s essential to remain cautious. If you notice flies and holes near the cow pats, it could be an indication of parasites, which can lead to bacterial infections.

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To minimize the chance of your dog falling ill, it’s advisable to discourage the habit of eating cow poop. While the statistical probability of your dog experiencing adverse effects from consuming a small amount of manure is slim, there’s always a risk. If your dog persists in eating cow manure, take action promptly. Here are some tips to help you prevent it:

  • Improve your dog’s diet to address any nutritional deficiencies they may have.
  • Prevent cows from freely roaming in areas accessible to your dog.
  • Discourage your dog by sprinkling cayenne pepper or a similar substance on cow manure. After a few days, this deterrent should dissuade them.
  • If the behavior persists and becomes problematic, consult a veterinarian. It could indicate an underlying health issue, such as parasites.


In conclusion, it’s crucial to conduct your own research and exercise your own judgment when it comes to matters like these. Based on my personal opinion and online research, consuming small amounts of cow manure is generally not harmful to dogs. However, if the habit becomes frequent and excessive, it’s advisable to take action and mitigate the chances of harm. Remember, if you have any concerns, consulting with a veterinarian is always a wise course of action.

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