Why Do Dogs Eat Dead Animals?

Playing with your dog can be delightful.  Their cute antics and contagious energy bring a smile to almost everyone’s face. 

On the other side of the proverbial coin, dogs have some crude and sometimes downright nasty habits.  Have you have seen your dog do something gross and ask what the heck they are thinking? 

In this article we’ll explore their reasons with one of dog’s more disgusting behaviors.  So, why do dogs eat dead animals?  The quick and easy answer is: Your dog is likely curious and due to one or more instincts, putting a dead animal in its mouth seems natural to them.

Dogs Are Instinctively Scavengers

Many instincts that wolves developed in the wild thousands of years ago are still with dogs today.  Such as, dogs still have the ability and instinct to not only hunt but also scavenge for food.

This scavenger instinct doesn’t just lead to your pet dog stealing food from your dinner plate and raiding your trash.  Dead, sometimes stinky, animals look like an easy quick meal to dogs as well. 

In fact, according to Dr. Nichol with the Albuquerque Journal, “ dogs are mostly scavengers by nature. Long dead, rotting, putrefied and, of course, revolting carrion has always been the fast food of canine cuisine.”

Dogs Are Trying To Hide Their Own Scent

Eating dead animals surely isn’t the only gross thing you’ve witnessed your dog do.  You also have likely witnessed your dog rolling in the feces of other animals or on dead animals.

This also is a throw back to the days when dogs needed to constantly think about survival.  It is believed dogs roll in and sometimes eat gross things to hide their own scent.

This would help hide them from predators and prey alike.  Making it easier for them to get away or hunt which ever animal has their attention.

Dogs Are Curious

Dogs are curious about their world.  Like humans they have 5 senses they use to understand the physical world around them.  However, as you are likely aware, some of your dog’s senses are more developed and others less developed than your senses.

A dog’s sense of smell is much more developed than ours.  They rely on their nose to discover information about what is going on.  Unlike humans, dogs don’t discriminate against smells and tastes all that often. 

Your curious dog may give an animal carcass a few good sniffs out of curiosity and end up gnawing on it to learn more.

It’s Their Breed’s Job

Many dog breeds were created to do specific tasks.  For instance, as the name implies, Belgian Shepherds  were originally bred for their herding skills. 

Other dogs have been bred for their abilities in retrieving the animals their human companion has hunted.  Golden Retrievers, English Springer Spaniels, and Hungarian Pointers are all examples of dogs that are used by bird hunters to retrieve their game.

Your dog may not have had this skill tuned by training but still has the instinct to retrieve a dead animal for you.  This is why you may discover a half-eaten rodent or bird on your front porch, while your dog beams with pride.

Is Eating Dead Animals Bad For Dogs?

Eating dead animals can be bad for dogs.  Even if an animal has been dead for a very short amount of time, there is the risk of bacteria being present. 

Clostridium botulinum is one of the types of bacteria that can be found in animal carcasses.  Ingesting this can lead to botulism which can cause paralysis in the limbs and worse.  Fortunately, this is rare.

More likely negative outcomes from your dog eating dead animals it finds include damage to their throat and stomach from the bones of the carcass.  This can lead to an expensive vet bill.

Poison is another concern to have when you catch your best friend eating an animal carcass it found.  If people in the area make a habit out of poisoning mice and other rodents, you definitely don’t want your dog eating the dead animals it finds.  This poison will make its way into your dog’s system, hopefully at a level they’re able to tolerate.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Eats An Animal Carcass?

Like children, it can be almost impossible to stop dogs from doing everything we don’t want them to do.  With the potential problems listed above, what should you do if your dog eats the body of a dead animal?

If poisoning pests is common in the area, you may want to call your veterinarian right away.  Since they know your pet dog’s size and medical history, they can tell you what to watch out for and what to do.

Though sometimes done, inducing vomiting isn’t always recommended.  This is because the bones that may have damaged your dog’s throat on the way down could do more damage on the way back up.  If you are worried, this is also an issue to consult with your vet about.

If poisoning and botulism are unlikely, your vet will likely ask you to monitor the situation and instruct you what to do when certain situations arise.

How Do I Prevent My Dog From Eating Dead Animals?

When training your pet dog, work on the ‘Leave It’ and ‘Drop It’ commands.  Be sure to keep an eye on your dog while you are out hiking or playing, and use the appropriate command as needed. 

Video Tutorials To Train Dogs ‘Leave It’ and ‘Drop It”

Here are some good examples of how to train your dogs to know these two commands:

Train Your Dog To ‘Leave It’ Video Tutorial
Train Your Dog To ‘Drop It’ Video Tutorial

If you need more detailed instructions, Udemy has some good online dog training courses.

Summary: Why Does My Dog Eat Dead Animals?

One minute, dogs are adorable and charming, the next they are up to something gross like gnawing on some animal carcass they just found.  Why does your dog eat dead animals anyways?  The answer is likely a combination of instinct and curiosity.

Even with yummy treats and hearty dog food at home, dogs are instinctively scavengers.  Seeing a dead carcass and not investigating it is fight thousands of years of instinct.  Some dogs have this instinct more than others due to being a breed that was bred to bring our hunted game to us.

Trying to cover up their scent is another instinct dogs are acting on when they eat dead animals.  Something with a good strong smell like feces or a rotting animal carcass work great for this.

There can be negative consequences for your dog (and you $$$) if your dog eats the wrong dead animal.  Some dead animals have a bacteria that can cause paralysis.  Other dead animals have been poisoned, and finally the bones of some animal carcasses can damage your dog’s throat and stomach. 

If your dog does eat a dead animal it has found, you may want to call your veterinarian for guidance.  Depending on your dog’s age, size, what they ate and more your vet will be able to give you specific advice. 

Better than reacting to your dog eating a dead animal, train your dog with the ‘Leave It’ and ‘Drop It’ commands to help prevent them from chowing down on something gross to begin with!

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