From toys to grass, feces, and roadkill... some dogs will eat anything. If your dog eats things they shouldn't, there may be a good reason to be concerned. Today our Newtown vets look at why some dogs eat inappropriate things and provide tips on how to stop this problematic behavior.
Dogs That Eat Anything
If you're dealing with a dog that eats anything and everything, rest assured you are not alone. While this behavior can be stomach-turning to many pet parents 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 dead animals.
What Dogs Eat & Why
For both people and pets the term for eating non-edible items is 'Pica'. Dogs with pica can exhibit a near-compulsive urge to eat non-digestible items such as rocks, dirt and sticks. It is thought 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 substances that our four-legged friend love to eat:
Dogs will often nibble on grass, although some dogs enjoy grass-eating more than others. Provided that your pet is otherwise healthy, eating grass is generally considered to be safe provided that the grass is not 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 dog is eating an alarming 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 unknown but it is generally thought to be due in part to the different scents given off by different areas such as a field, forest floor, or your garden mulch pile. Another potential reason is that eating dirt helps puppies to better understand the world around them. If your pup takes 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. If your dog is eating large amounts of dirt, speak to your vet about what might be causing the behavior and what you can do to stop it.
Many dogs playing with rocks and some even eat them, which can be a real health concern. Chewing and/or swallowing rocks can lead to damage to teeth and gums, and choking is a very serious hazzard. If your dog is a teething puppy, try supplying your pooch with lots of fun chew toys.
If your adult dog is obsessed with rock-eating 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.
Many dog owners are driven to revulsion by their dog's unpleasant habit of eating feces. In dogs, poop eating is so common it actually has the name 'coprophagia' (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh), and may be due to a combination of behavioral, genetic and psychological factors.
Eating their own poop is generally considered harmless for dogs, but eating the poop of other dogs or animals 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
- Attention-seeking behavior
- Inappropriate association with real food
Ways to Deter Your Dog's Unusual Eating Habits
Regardless of what your dog enjoys munching on, there are some things you can do to try and curb the habit:
- Clean your backyard frequently to clear rocks, feces, or other items that your dog tends to eat. If it isn't there, your dog can't get to it.
- Teach your dog to 'drop it' and 'leave it' on command. (Essential know-how for every dog, regardless!)
- 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.