Can Dogs Eat Roadkill? 5 Risks of Ingesting Dead Animals

Can dogs eat it

The Can Dogs Eat It Team

Can Dogs Eat Roadkill? 5 Risks of Ingesting Dead Animals
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Curious about whether or not dogs can eat roadkill? While many are drawn to the pungent scent of carrion, allowing dogs to eat roadkill is a bad idea. Ingesting the carcasses of long-dead animals can put your furry friend at risk of contracting dangerous diseases.

A Dog’s Attraction to the Scent of Dead Animals

Unlike us, our furry pals do not distinguish smells as bad or good. Thus, they may find certain scents that we find disgusting as enticing, including the putrid odor of roadkill.

There are many theories why canines are intrigued by it. Some scientists say dogs are opportunistic scavengers. They cannot pass up getting a taste of dead animals.

Others believe that pooches inherited the survival instincts of their wolf descendants. Ingesting and rolling on carcasses will hide their scent, which keeps them undetectable to their prey and other predators.

It is undeniable that some dog breeds were primarily developed to track scents and retrieve prey. Hence, they are easily drawn to roadkill.

5 Dangers of Eating Roadkill to Dogs

a dog eating a roadkill
Regardless of why your dog is intrigued by carrion, keep him away from it. Deceased wild animals often harbor harmful microorganisms and chemicals that can make your dog ill. If he eats roadkill, he is exposed to the following health risks:

  1. Botulism

    Botulism is one of the most debilitating diseases dogs can get from eating dead animals. It is caused by a neurotoxin called clostridium botulinum.

    Ingesting it can cause rapid onset of paralysis. Several types of mammals are carriers of this toxin, including birds.

  2. Bacterial Infections

    Bacteria thrive and proliferate on decaying bodies of dead animals. They are ideal hosts of food-borne illnesses such as salmonella, trichinellosis, and E. coli.

    Healthy canines are less likely to catch these diseases. However, puppies, senior dogs, and sickly pooches are highly vulnerable.

  3. Parasites

    Wild animals are no strangers to carrying internal and external parasites. Eating or coming into contact with dead carcasses will leave your dog in danger of contracting roundworms, coccidia, fleas, ticks, and other nasty critters.
  4. Secondary Chemical Poisoning

    Animals that died from ingesting a poison or pesticide are toxic risks to dogs if eaten. The same goes for naturally poisonous or venomous wildlife such as poison dart frogs, rattlesnakes, European moles, and platypuses.
  5. Stomach Upset

    The canine digestive system is sensitive to dietary indiscretions. Mild gastrointestinal problems may occur after canines eat dead animals.

    In most cases, it is only temporary and will disappear within a few hours. If it persists for 1–2 days, get your dog checked by the vet.

Measures to Take If Your Dog Ate Roadkill

a dog on a woodland walk
We often come across the question: “What if my dog eats a dead animal?” The most important step is to gather all valuable information for the vet. Here is a quick rundown of things to assess in the situation:

  • Find out the exact or estimated time of the incident.
  • Check the type of deceased animal your dog ate.
  • Inspect the amount of roadkill that he has ingested.
  • Know the state of decomposition that the carrion is in.
  • Observe your dog for clinical signs of poisoning, such as vomiting.

Depending on the information, the vet may require you to send your dog to the clinic for proper examination, testing, and diagnosis. If his condition is serious, hospitalization might be necessary.

How to Prevent Dogs from Eating Roadkill

a dog is eating a roadkill bird
If your dog is determined to munch on roadkill, here are a few preventive measures you can take to dissuade him:

Teach your dog the “leave it” command.

The “leave it” command is used to stop dogs from picking up potentially dangerous items. Make your dog learn it by following these steps:

  1. Place a treat in the palm of your hand and close it into a fist.
  2. Extend your arm toward your dog to let him sniff it.
  3. Say the command “leave it.”
  4. Ignore your dog if he tries to pry open your hand to get the treat.
  5. Once he stops these unwanted behaviors, say “yes” and reward him.
  6. Repeat steps 1–5 until he understands that he is rewarded if he leaves the treat alone.
  7. Start saying the “leave it” command when your dog inspects your fisted hand.
  8. If he follows your command, always mark it with the word “yes” and offer him plenty of praise.
  9. Repeat until your dog ignores the treat in your hand once your say “leave it.”

Finally, say no to off-leash walks.

Always keep a close eye on your dog whenever he wanders off. To make supervision easier for you, keep him on a leash every time you go outdoors. This will prevent him from suddenly bolting off if roadkill is nearby.

Keep his leash short.

The standard leash length for dogs is 6 feet. However, consider shortening it to 4 feet if you walk your dog in a roadkill-prone area. Using a shorter leash will provide you more control in steering him away from dead animals.

Watch Out for Roadkill in Dog Food

dog food contains roadkill
The production of certain dog food sometimes involves rendering. It is the process of converting waste animal by-products into food. The big problem is there are no strict regulations on what type of meat can be used.

To cut costs, some companies use leftover livestock carcasses such as blood, beak, and bones as ingredients. Note that the sources of these by-products can legally come from 4D farm animals. 4D stands for:

  • Dead
  • Dying
  • Diseased
  • Disabled

Moreover, roadkill, deceased zoo animals, and euthanized cats and dogs can be used in dog food too. Since the rendering process uses high heat and grinds up the ingredients, they become an inconspicuous part of canines’ meals.

Sodium Pentobarbital in Roadkill Dog Food

In 2018, many cases of dog food recalls were reported because they contain trace amounts of sodium pentobarbital. This is a drug that is commonly used for euthanizing pets.

This chemical can cause the following side effects on dogs:

  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Lack of balance
  • Loss of coordination

In large doses, sodium pentobarbital may induce coma and even death. Many dog owners were wondering how this dangerous compound made its way to their dog’s food.

It is heavily speculated that the drug came from euthanized pets that were used as dog food ingredients.

How to Avoid Roadkill Dog Food Products

Checking the labels and ingredients list of dog food will help you distinguish which of them may contain questionable ingredients. The red flags you should look out for are:

  1. No specification of meat used.

    Some dog food manufacturers intentionally use vague terms in their ingredients. Phrases like blood meal, animal digest, and poultry by-products are subtle indicators that they might be using roadkill and other unconsumable meat.

    Only purchase dog food that explicitly states its protein source, such as beef or chicken.

  2. The presence of “flavored” on the labels.

    Any dog food can be labeled as beef or chicken-flavored despite not containing these protein sources.

    Using artificial flavorings helps them taste closely similar to real beef or chicken. This means these products may contain meat by-products and other dubious ingredients.

  3. The use of the “with” label.

    Dog foods containing the label “with” venison or other protein sources are not entirely made of the said meat. These products only contain 3% protein source out of the entire content, excluding moisture.

    Look for dog foods with the label “100%” to ensure they are made up of 1–2 real ingredients. For example, 100% beef and turkey kibble.

    Beware that some shady manufacturers label their products without the “100%” such as lamb dog food. This is a ploy to let potential customers believe that their dog’s meal is composed of 100% lamb. However, in truth, it is not.

    An alternative way to avoid roadkill dog food is to switch to homemade meals. The preparation of this type of canine diet is very hands-on. Thus, you have more freedom and control in choosing the ingredients that go into your canine companion’s food.