Some dogs eat all kinds of things, like foreign objects, toys, grass, and even other animals' poop. If you worry that your dog does this too, check out these tips from our vets in Woburn. They can help you understand why dogs eat everything and give you some ideas to make them stop.
Dogs That Eat Anything
If your dog eats anything and everything, don't feel embarrassed. Many dog owners like you have the same concern. They often come to us worried or frustrated, saying, "My dog eats everything off the ground!"
Your dog's behavior might make you cringe, but it's actually a natural scavenging instinct. This happens more often with puppies as they explore their surroundings and nibble on things they discover. These things could be anything from leaves, stones, and trash to even dead animals.
What Dogs Eat & Why
People and pets sometimes eat things that aren't meant to be eaten, and we call this behavior "pica." When it comes to dogs, they might feel a strong urge to munch on things like rocks, sticks, and dirt. Some experts think that dogs with pica might be missing important minerals or nutrients in their food.
If you think your dog might have pica and can't resist eating non-food items, it's a good idea to make an appointment with your vet. Here are a few things that dogs often like to chew on that aren't food:
Puppies often eat dirt, and while we're not exactly sure why, experts believe it's because of the interesting smells they find in different places, like the field behind your house, the pile of mulch in your backyard, or a forest floor.
Eating dirt can be a way for puppies to learn about their surroundings. If your puppy occasionally munches on dirt, it's usually not a big concern. However, eating a lot of dirt can cause digestive problems for your dog. Talking to your vet is a good idea if your furry friend seems to have a dirt-eating habit. They can help you determine why your puppy is doing this and suggest ways to stop it.
If your dog is healthy, you likely don't need to worry if your dog occasionally eats some grass. It's usually safe for them to do so as long as the grass isn't covered in chemicals.
Dogs may munch on grass for various reasons. They might do it because they're bored, find it enjoyable, or want more fiber in their diet. If you notice your dog eating a lot of grass, talking to your vet about reducing this behavior is a good idea.
Many pet parents feel embarrassed and frustrated when they notice their dogs engaging in the rather unpleasant habit of eating poop. You might wonder, "Why does my dog keep doing this?!"
Interestingly, poop-eating has a special name: 'coprophagia' (pronounced kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh). This behavior can be attributed to psychological, behavioral, and genetic factors. Generally, it's considered harmless when dogs eat their own poop, but it becomes a cause for concern when they munch on feces from other animals, as it can transmit viruses, toxins, and parasites.
One possible explanation for this behavior stems from your dog's natural scavenging instincts, developed as a survival mechanism for when food is scarce. When dogs can't find food easily, they can't afford to be too picky.
There are also physical reasons that could lead to poop-eating in dogs, such as:
- Cushing's Disease
- 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
Lots of dogs enjoy playing with and munching on rocks, which can be a big worry for their health. Chomping on rocks can harm their teeth and gums, and choking is dangerous. If your dog is a young pup with teething troubles, make sure to give them plenty of fun chew toys.
But visiting the vet is a good plan if your grown-up dog can't resist eating rocks. Rock munching might mean your dog is bored, anxious, or seeking attention. Your vet can help determine why your dog is doing this and suggest ways to stop them from craving stones.
Signs & Symptoms Your Dog May Have Overeaten
If your dog overeats, you might notice some signs. Your dog could start breathing fast, moving around a lot, or even drooling. They might find it hard to lie down comfortably or act like they want to throw up (which might look like they're trying to vomit, but not much is coming out). The biggest sign that your dog is overeating is when their belly gets big and feels hard when you touch it. If you see any of these signs, it's really important to take your dog to the vet right away. Your vet will check them out and make sure they're okay.
Ways to Curb Your Dog's Unusual Eating Habits
Regardless of what your pup enjoys munching on, you can do a few things to 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. Busy, tired dogs are less likely to nibble on things they shouldn't.
- Take your dog to the vet for a complete examination to look for signs of illness or to discuss solutions to behavioral issues such as anxiety.
Your vet can check your dog thoroughly with a physical exam for any signs of sickness, talk about why your dog eats strangely, and give you helpful tips on how much and what kind of food is best for your dog, considering their 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.