From grass and toys to feces and even roadkill, some dogs will eat just about anything. If your pooch is consistently eating things that they shouldn't, there may be a good reason to be concerned. Here, our Oakland veterinary team explains why some dogs will eat just about anything and tips for you on how to curb this behavior.
Dogs That Eat Anything
If you are dealing with a dog that will eat anything and everything, know that you aren't alone. While this behavior can be stomach-turning for many pet owners, it's actually natural for our canine companion to have a scavenging instinct. Puppies, in particular, are keen on eating things they find, including stones, trash, leaves and dead animals.
What Dogs Eat & Why
The term for eating non-edible items in both people and pets is "Pica." Dogs with pica have an almost compulsive urge to eat non-digestible items like dirt, sticks or rocks. It's often believed that animals with pica may be missing essential minerals or nutrients from their diet. If you suspect that your pet's urge to eat inedible objects is a sign of pica, contact 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 pooch is otherwise healthy, eating grass is generally considered to be safe provided that the grass is not heavily coated in chemicals.
Dogs will eat grass for any number of reasons, including introducing more fiber into their gastrointestinal tract, relieving their boredom, or even simply because they enjoy it. If your dog is eating an alarming amount of grass, ask your vet about how you can help to stop this behavior in your companion.
Eating dirt is a hugely common behavior in puppies, It's unknown why dogs will choose to eat dirt, but it's often thought that the scents given off by dirt are very appealing, whether they be from a mulch pile, forest floor or field. It could also be that eating dirt helps puppies to understand the world around them much better. If your dog has an odd taste for dirt every now and then, you have 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 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.
If your adult dog is obsessed with eating rocks, it's a good idea to head to your vet's office sooner rather than later. Rock eating can be a symptoms of anxiety, boredom or attention-seeking behaviors. You vet will be able to diagnose your dog's root cause for eating rocks and advise you on ways to help them stop this activity.
Pet parents often come to us at their wit's end with their dog's disgusting poop eating habit. Why does my dog keep eating poop?! In fact, poop eating is so common it actually has a 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, however 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 eating poop may be part of your dog's innate scavenging instincts, developed as a tool for survival when their food is scarce. When there is no food around in the wild, after all, a creature can't be too picky.
Some physical reasons that dogs may eat poop include:
- Steroids and other medications
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Diets deficient in nutrients and calories
- Thyroid disease, and other conditions that can cause increased appetite
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 pup enjoys munching on, there are a few strategies you can adopt to try and curb your pet's 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 will be able to give your pup a full examination to check them for signs of illness and to speak with you about the potential causes of your dog's strange eating habits. Your vet will be able to provide you with valuable advice on your pet's nutritional and caloric requirements based on your pup's age, breed and size.
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.