Whether it's a toy, grass, feces, or roadkill, it seems like some dogs are keen on eating just about anything. Today, Milledgeville vets discuss some reasons dogs might be eating inappropriate things and how to make the behavior stop.
Dogs That Eat Anything
If your dog has issues with eating inappropriate things, take comfort that you're far from being alone. Depending on what is being eaten, pet parents may find this behavior stomach-turning – but it's actually a natural scavenging behavior in our canine companions. Puppies can be particularly keen on eating things they find including leaves, trash, stones, and parts of dead animals.
What Dogs Eat & Why
For both people and pets, the term for consuming non-edible items is 'pica'. Dogs with pica have an almost compulsive urge to eat non-digestible items such as rocks, dirt, and sticks. It is believed that animals with pica may be missing essential minerals or other nutrients from their diet. If you feel that your pup's urge to munch on nonedible items could be a sign of pica, see your vet.
Below are some of the most common non-food substances that our four-legged friends have a taste for:
Dogs will often nibble on grass, although some dogs enjoy grass-eating more than others. Provided that your pooch is otherwise healthy, eating grass is generally considered to be safe provided that the grass is not heavily coated in chemicals.
It is believed that dogs eat grass for a variety of reasons, including introducing more fiber into their gastrointestinal tract, relieving boredom, and simply because they enjoy it. If your pup is eating a large amount of grass, speak to your vet about ways to curb this canine behavior.
Eating dirt is a common behavior in puppies. Why dogs choose to eat dirt is unsure, but it is generally believed that it's due in part to the different scents given off by different areas such as a field, forest floor, or your mulch pile. It could be that eating dirts helps puppies to better understand the world around them. If your pup takes to the odd taste of dirt, there's probably nothing to worry about.
That said, eating large amounts of dirt can be problematic since too much could clog up your dog's digestive tract and there are several parasites that could live in infected soil. If your pooch loves to eat dirt, speak to your vet about what might be causing the behavior and what you can do to stop it.
Many dogs love to play with and eat rocks, which can be a real health concern. Chewing rocks can lead to damage to teeth and gums, and choking is a very serious hazard. If your dog is a teething puppy, try supplying your pooch with lots of fun chew toys that are appropriate for little teeth.
If your adult dog is smitten with eating rocks, it's a good idea to head to the vet. Rock-eating could be a symptom of boredom, anxiety, or attention-seeking. Your vet will be able to help you diagnose the cause of your dog's behavior and recommend some ways to curb your dog's appetite for stones.
Pet parents often come to us at their wit's end with their dog's habit of eating feces. Why does my dog keep eating poop?! In fact, poop eating is so common that it has its own name: 'coprophagia'. It may be due to a combination of behavioral, genetic, and psychological factors.
Dogs eating their own poop is generally considered a harmless, if repulsive habit. However, eating another dog or animals' feces is a cause for concern since parasites, viruses, and toxins can be transmitted through feces.
One theory suggests that poop eating could be part of your dog's innate scavenging tendencies, developed as a survival tool for times when food is scarce. After all, when there is no food to be found a dog just can't afford to be too picky.
Some physical reasons that dogs may eat poop include:
- Diets deficient in nutrients and calories
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Thyroid disease, and other conditions that can cause increased appetite
- Steroids and other medications
Other factors that can lead to poop eating in dogs:
- Isolation and boredom
- Restrictive confinement
- Inappropriate association with real food
Ways to Curb Your Dog's Unusual Eating Habits
Regardless of what your pooch enjoys munching on, there are a few things you can do to try and curb the habit:
- Clean your backyard frequently to remove any rocks, poops, or other items. If it isn't there, your pup can't eat it.
- Teach your dog to 'drop it' and 'leave it' on command. Essential know-how for every dog.
- Increase your pup's exercise and enrichment throughout the day. A tired and busy dog is less likely to nibble on things they shouldn't.
- Take your dog to the vet for a full examination to look for signs of illness or to discuss solutions to behavioral issues such as anxiety.
Your veterinarian can give your dog a nose-to-tail examination to check for signs of illness, discuss the causes of your dog's strange eating habits, then provide you with valuable advice on your pet's nutritional and caloric requirements based on your dog's size and breed.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.