From grass and toys to your favorite possessions and other pets’ feces, some dogs will eat anything. Are you concerned that your dog is eating things it shouldn’t? You may have good reason to be. In this post, our Baltimore vets offer insight on why some dogs keep eating everything, plus tips to stop the behavior.
Dogs That Eat Anything
Does your dog eat anything and everything? Rest assured that you’re a member of a very large club of pup parents, many of whom come to us concerned or exasperated, saying, "My dog eats everything off the ground!"
While your pooch’s behavior may turn your stomach, our canine companions are actually displaying a natural scavenging behavior. This may be particularly common with puppies as they eat things they find including anything from stones, leaves and trash to dead animals.
What Dogs Eat & Why
When both people and pets eat non-edible items, the term for this is Pica. Dogs with pica experience an almost compulsive urge to eat non-digestible objects such as sticks, dirt and rocks. It’s believed that animals with pica may be lacking essential minerals or other nutrients in their diet.
If you feel that your dog’s urge to chomp on non-edible items may be a sign of pica, book an appointment with your vet. Here are some of the most common substances that our dogs love to eat:
Puppies commonly eat dirt. Why dogs choose to do this is unknown but it’s generally believed that this behavior is at least in part due to the different scents emanating from different areas such as a forest floor, your pile of mulch or the field behind your house.
Eating dirt may also help puppies to better understand the world around them. You likely don’t have anything to worry about if your puppy takes the odd taste of dirt. However, eating large amounts of dirt can result in problems for your dog’s digestive tract. If you find your pup loves to eat dirt, talk to your vet about what may be causing the behavior and how you can stop it.
Some dogs enjoy the odd nibble of grass more than others. Provided you’ve got an otherwise healthy dog, it’s generally considered safe for them to eat grass provided it’s not heavily coated with chemicals.
It’s believed that dogs will dine on grass for numerous reasons, including for enjoyment, to get more fiber into their gastrointestinal tract and to relieve boredom. If you notice your pup is eating an alarming amount of grass, discuss the issue with your vet and ask how you can reduce this behavior.
We’ve seen more than a few pet parents come into our office at their wit’s end with this unpopular habit many deem disgusting. You may ask, “Why does my dog keep eating poop?!"
The fact is that poop eating is so common that it has its own term: ‘coprophagia’ (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh). The behavior may be influenced by a combination of genetic, psychological and behavioral factors. It’s generally considered harmless for dogs to eat their own poop.
However, eating the poop of other animals or dogs is a cause for concern because toxins, viruses and parasites can be transmitted via feces.
One theory suggests poop eating may be part of your dog’s innate scavenging tendencies, which your pup develops as a survival tool for times food may be in scarce supply. After all, when a dog can’t find any food they can’t afford to be too picky.
Physical reasons that dogs might eat poop include:
- Diets deficient in calories and nutrients
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Steroids and other medications
- Thyroid disease and other conditions that may lead to increased appetite
Other factors that can cause poop eating in dogs:
- Restrictive confinement
- Attention seeking
- Boredom and isolation
- Inappropriate association with real food
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.
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.
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 if you find yourself thinking, 'My dog won't stop eating."
- 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 full physical 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.