Some dogs will eat everything they can fit in their mouths from grass and toys to roadkill and poop. Here, our Los Angeles County vets discuss some possible reasons why your dog may be eating everything and offer you tips on how you can stop this bad habit.
Dogs That Will Eat Anything
Will your dog eat everything and anything? We want to assure you that you aren't alone. While many dog owners may find this behavior disturbing it's actually a natural scavenging behavior in canines. Puppies could be especially keen on consuming things they discover such as stones, trash, leaves, and even dead animals.
The Reasons Why Dogs Eat Certain Things
The term for eating non-edible items in both humans and animals is Pica. Dogs with pica have an almost compulsive urge to eat non-digestible items such as rocks, dirt, and sticks. It's believed that animals with pica could be missing essential minerals or other nutrients from their diet. If you believe that your dog's impulse to snack on nonedible items could be a sign of pica, contact your veterinarian.
Below are some of the most common substances that our canine companions 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.
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 pup is eating an alarming amount of grass speak to your vet about ways to curb this canine behavior.
It's common for puppies to eat dirt. The reason why dogs decide to eat dirt is unknown, however, it's believed that it's partially due to the different scents given off by different areas such as a field, forest floor, or your mulch pile. It could be that eating dirts helps puppies to understand the world around them better. If your pooch 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 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 has an obsession with eating rocks, we suggest taking them to the vet. Rock eating may be a symptom of anxiety, attention-seeking, or boredom. Your vet will help you determine the cause of your dog's rock-eating and offer you advice on how to curb your pup's appetite for stones.
Dog owners approach us often at the end of their wit's regarding their dog's gross habit of eating poop. It's actually common for dogs to eat poop, and this behavior is called 'coprophagia' (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh) and can be the result of a variety of behavioral, psychological factors, and genetics.
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 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.
A few physical reasons why your dogs might be eating poop include:
- Diets deficient in nutrients and calories
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Steroids and other medications
- Thyroid disease, and other conditions that can cause increased appetite
Other factors that can lead to poop eating in dogs:
- Isolation and boredom
- Inappropriate association with real food
- Restrictive confinement
Ways to Curb Your Dog's Unusual Eating Habits
It doesn't matter what your pup enjoys chowing down on, there are a handful of ways you can try to curb their habit:
- 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.
- 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.
- Teach your dog to 'drop it' and 'leave it' on command. Essential know-how for every dog.
- Clean your backyard frequently to remove any rocks, poops, or other items. If it isn't there, your pup can't eat it.
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.