Vultures are obligate scavengers that consume carrion as their staple diet.
Therefore, if a vulture happens upon a dog carcass, it will likely devour it.
But if it comes to hunting, a vulture will rather eat a small and weak animal like a nearly dead rodent, than a canine.
Unless it concerns survival, no sane vulture would ever attack a live dog.
Perhaps, you have a dog at home, and you are concerned, wondering:
Will a Vulture Eat a Dog?
It will, but only the dead ones.
Now, vultures are often portrayed as greedy birds that will eat anything and everything.
However, if they are presented with a choice, they too are quite picky about their food.
Normally, a vulture shows the following diet preferences:
- Dead animals instead of living or struggling.
- Freshly killed and dead, so not much rotting.
- Meat from a herbivore, instead of a carnivore.
- Not maggot-riddled meat.
- Red meat instead of white meat.
- Less fat but more muscle.
Now, dogs are carnivores with fat-rich red meat.
However, even a nearly dead dog can cause significant damage to a vulture through biting.
Even though vultures can eat dogs, they don’t normally prefer eating one.
It’s like, if there is a mound of dead bodies available, the vulture might eat dog carcass at the very end.
More precisely, a vulture would ingest a dead dog, only if there is no other option available.
The probability of a vulture eating a dead dog is low, much less attacking a healthy one.
Typically, this involves one vulture distracting the dog, and the dog chasing that vulture away.
Meanwhile, other vultures swoop in and eat from the carcass.
But if you have pets other than dogs, you may be worried:
Are Vultures Dangerous To Pets?
At least, not to the live ones.
However, they do eat all sorts of dead animals.
Some may go as far as digging up a pet’s grave.
Still, vultures don’t attack live pets, mainly because of:
1. Feeble Feet
Most birds of prey have muscular feet with razor-sharp talons.
Therefore, these raptors can grab any prey and tear it apart, while squishing it to death.
And so, they can neither grab nor tear apart any animal with a single strike.
If a vulture decides to harm a pet, it would likely be unable to even hold it.
2. Lack of Surprise
Naturally, birds of prey rely on their ability to surprise their victim.
For instance, owl wings are designed to ensure absolute silence.
Therefore, it can sneakily attack other birds, even in the darkest of hours.
Check out this video of how silent a owls wings are
It’s pretty awesome!
Similarly, a hawk can dive at 130 miles/hour to grab its prey, thereby barely producing a fluttering sound.
Even though they can achieve a height up to 40,000 feet from the ground level.
Vulture flight is neither extremely fast nor completely silent.
Furthermore, vultures tend to urinate on themselves.
While this helps them to remain infection-free and to regulate their body temperatures
Yet, it also means they smell all the time.
Even if a vulture manages to stay quiet and swift, the prey may still smell it.
Therefore, a vulture cannot surprise animals, certainly not a healthy and happy pet.
3. Prefer Easy Meal
Vultures don’t like food that can put up a fight.
For this reason, they fly in circles above the dead body for hours, before landing and stripping the meat off the bones.
Related article – Why do vultures circle?
Perhaps, vultures take caution to avoid “the getting eaten by the not enough lifeless dead body” moments.
In fact, such deadly moments are most common with a human pretending to be dead and eating the vulture to its fill, in the name of survival.
So, it seems ludicrous that a vulture would want to make a human enemy by eating his best friend, Woof- the cute Pomeranian dog.
Still, vultures have been reported to eat weak, still-born, and sick animals.
In one case, 30 bearded vultures killed a 2-week old calf, by simultaneously poking holes.
The same vultures from Kentucky farmlands were reported to eat a ewe in labor.
Now, the report seems to be an isolated event.
There is not enough evidence available.
So, perhaps the incident was merely exaggerated.
However, it does create doubts.
Have a read of my article – Are vultures dangerous as I go into more detail about vultures and their characteristics and how they are. I think you would find it really interesting!
Anyways, you may be wondering:
Will Black Vultures Attack Small Dogs?
That seems highly unlikely.
Aerodynamically, a raptor cannot lift heavier bodies than its own weight.
Therefore, a hawk can only lift as much as 1 kg while eagles may hold up to 4kgs of weight.
By extension, a black vulture should be able to hold a 2kg weight.
Vultures lack the powerful feet to even grab an animal, much less fly with it.
So, if a black vulture were to hunt the smallest of dogs, say a chihuahua of 2.7 kgs.
Then, it would be unable to even hold this prey (see figure 1 below).
Besides, dogs do bite and often in packs.
Even if a vulture were famished, a small dog would not be its preferred diet.
A black vulture eats all sorts of rotting things, from fungus-infected walnuts and coconuts to decaying and maggot-infested animals.
Occasionally, a black vulture may even ingest newborn lizards, turtles, or toads.
Sometimes it may even steal reptile and bird eggs.
Vultures don’t even need to risk hunting a small dog.
This is precisely why no cases of black vultures hunting a live dog have ever been reported.
Figure 1: Comparison between Black Vultures and Small Dogs
That said, vultures may attack dogs to protect their offspring.
But most of such attacks are just threatening warnings, with expanding wings and hissing simultaneously.
Still, a vulture will eat a dead dog, small or big.
So, let’s just say a vulture found a dead dog and has no other option to eat.
How Do Vultures Eat Dead Dogs?
Typically, this starts with the vulture hovering above the dead body for about 2-8 hours, to ensure that the dog is indeed dead.
- The vultures begin eating from a wound or a laceration.
- If they cannot find some injury, they will pick out the eyes.
- Then, the vultures struggle to eat brain grey matter by poking through eye cavities and muzzles. Thereby, eating away the entire face.
- After eating the face, the vultures try to work towards the belly.
- Once the belly rips open, the vultures enter a phase of frenzy and end up struggling to find the freshest and reddest meat portions available.
- They even chew out bones.
- Finally, the whole dog gets eaten, except for its furs.
However, most dog carcasses are eaten by boars and crows, rather than dogs.
Even so, the decline in the vulture population is often accompanied by a surge in dog populations.
Therefore, one may wonder:
Why Do Dogs Thrive Without Vultures?
Because ecosystems and food webs are dynamic, rather than static.
Now, if a certain predator suddenly starts dying, say from some disease outbreak.
Then, its role will be assumed by some other animal.
When vultures decline, dogs increase in number to take up their role as scavengers.
So, in absence of vultures, dog populations elevate because there is more carcass available for them to feed on.
This has been observed in India, where 99% of vultures were reduced to merely 1% of their original population, all within merely 20 years.
The vulture decline was accompanied by a 30% increase in the feral dog populations.
With their corrosive digestive systems and other adaptations, vultures essentially restrict diseases from spreading.
Meanwhile, dogs have no such restraining powers.
While vultures neutralize diseases from carrion, dogs end up becoming vectors.
This is precisely why an absence of vultures is associated with an increase in rabies and anthrax.
In India, a reduced number of vultures caused an increase of 7000 more rabies cases per year.
This was also accompanied by an increase in the rodent population.
“But where did the vultures go?”
Sadly, most of the vultures died because of human carelessness and selfishness.
Currently, nearly all vulture species are endangered or near extinction.
The main causes of vulture deaths include:
- Toxicity through consumption of carcasses with drugs like diclofenac or pesticides like DDT.
- Lead poisoning via direct shooting of lead bullets, or indirectly by ingesting carcasses of shot-killed animals.
- Road-killing and electrocution.
- Intentional vulture slaughter for witchcraft tools.
- Egg loss because of calcium erosion, caused by pollution.
While the conservation process is ongoing, and wildlife authorities are breeding vultures, vultures lay only 1-2 eggs every alternate year.
Which means they are still not producing as many individuals as we need them for the completion of their environmental niche.
Figure 2: Correlation between decreasing vulture population and Increasing dog populations
Vultures don’t eat live animals.
And so, they don’t attack dogs or any other pets, even the small ones.
However, if given a choice, a vulture would not even eat a dead dog.
Even if they tried to attack a dog, they lack the hunting abilities to kill a dog.
So your dog is pretty much safe from vultures!