If it's not food, why do they eat it?
In many cases, the answer is pica. Pica is a relatively common disorder that causes your dog to eat things that are not food, such as socks, shoes, or toys.
This is not the same as chewing on something for attention, it is more of an obsessive desire to eat objects (like sand, rocks, sticks, etc.), often with nutrients that might be missing from your dog's diet.
Pica not only destroys your favorite belongings, but many of the things your dog eats can be unsuitable or dangerous to consume. They can lead to an obstruction of the intestines which would result in emergency surgery to save your dog's life.
If you feel that your dog might be displaying symptoms of pica, call to make an appointment with your vet.
Puppies learn about their world through discovery. And without hands to do that, a puppy uses its mouth to investigate.
Unfortunately, a common non-food item that puppies will try to eat is feces, especially from a cat's litter box. Not only is this unappealing, but it can also cause your puppy to become sick as the feces may have parasites.
Thankfully, many puppies will outgrow this unhealthy and somewhat disgusting habit, although you may need to help with training to curb this behavior.
Many adult dogs will eat whatever they come across while out on a walk or whatever may be lying around the house.
Like puppies, they like to explore new items by picking them up with their mouth or chewing on them. Or, unrelated to pica, a dog may only be trying to play with something and accidentally swallow it.
Aside from pica, there are other reasons your dog may be eating non-food items. Some possibilities include:
- Attention-seeking behavior
- Stress or anxiety
- Old habits from puppyhood
- Health reasons
The good news is that many of the causes can be addressed through behavioral training.
What should I do?
While training may be a solution, there are ways to try to curb the behavior yourself.
- If your dog is bored, try to find more time in your day to spend with them, and include fun, interactive toys
- Always remove any dangerous objects from reach, in case they don't respond to training
- Do not give your dog attention if they're behaving badly as it can reinforce the behavior
- You can try spraying the items your dog typically tries to eat with a dog repellent spray, you'll need to be sure that it's non-toxic and intended for this purpose
- If the cause for constant chewing or eating non-foods is due to stress or anxiety, your vet may recommend drug therapy if nothing else will work
- If the behavior happens on walks, you may want to use a muzzle to restrict them from eating whatever they come across
Should I be concerned?
If you suspect pica or other medical condition to be at the root of the issue, it's important to talk to your vet to resolve it. However, if it is more of a behavioral action, it's most likely something you can correct with some time and love.
Regardless of the motivation though, the important thing is ensuring the health of your dog and to keep dangerous objects out of their reach.
Signs That Your Dog Has Eaten Too Much
If people overeat, they can undergo bloating, built-up gas or feel uncomfortable until it resolves itself, with little damage done.
Dogs, however, experience something referred to as canine bloat if they eat too much or too quickly. This results in a build-up of gasses and a twisting of a dog's stomach. Within hours, canine bloat can lead to death for many dogs.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should bring your dog to the vet or emergency clinic immediately:
- Pacing or whining
- Shallow breathing
- The stomach appears distended or enlarged
- Inability to get comfortable
- Won't lie on their side
- Unable to defecate
- Change in the color of their gums (dark red, blue, white, and cold)
- Trying to lick the air
How to Prevent Canine Bloat
- Feed smaller, more frequent meals
- Use a slow feeder bowl to restrict quick feedings
- Always separate your dogs at feeding time if you have more than one
To learn more about eating disorders or behavioral reasons for eating objects, contact our Southeast Memphis vets to book an appointment today.
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