You may have observed your dog eating (or attempting to eat) some incredibly strange things as a pet owner. But have you ever caught your dog munching on pure dirt?
Dr. Laurie S. Coger, DVM, a holistic veterinarian, adds that “dirt eating is a form of what is known as “pica,” or the consumption of nonfood items. Numerous factors contribute to it, including dietary, behavioral, and physical factors. In addition to stress and boredom, eating anything and everything is a risk factor for obesity.
You shouldn’t ignore your dog’s persistent dirt-eating behavior because it can indicate a more serious problem, such as:
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- nutritional deficits or imbalances, particularly with regard to minerals
- unhealthy food
- uneasy stomach
- disruption of the digestive system
Dogs are more prone to seek for grass in these situations, according to Dr. Coger, even though stomach and gastrointestinal problems may be to blame for your dog’s interest in dirt. “It’s time to visit the vet, she advises, if [the dirt eating] occurs frequently, is intense or manic in nature, or involves considerable amounts of consumption. “Another indication that a vet visit is necessary would be changes in stool. In order to identify the cause, blood tests to check for underlying abnormalities may be beneficial.
The Dangers of Dirt
As you may anticipate, allowing your dog to continuously eat dirt carries some risks. The primary one is intestinal impaction if your dog eats a lot at once. Injuries frequently require surgery.” Dr. Coger adds that if enough dirt was consumed, the pesticides, fertilizers, or other poisons present in the dirt may accumulate to dangerous levels. “Dental deterioration or wear may be a problem as well, depending on the filth. For instance, if the dirt contains rocks, it may harm your dog’s teeth and obstruct the esophagus or any other part of the digestive tract. The lining of your dog’s mouth, throat, gut, or stomach could be pierced by sharp objects. Additionally, your dog can absorb a parasite along with the dirt, which could result in a variety of other health problems.
Dr. Coger believes that any new, unusual behavior—like eating dirt—should be addressed right away.
Before it develops into a habit, as well as because there may be serious underlying problems. Canines will pick up housekeeping skills from other dogs, and who wants a house full of slobs?
Preventing Dirt Eating in Dogs
Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s diet to see if any modifications need to be made if you’re concerned that your dog’s tendency to eat dirt is the result of a nutritional imbalance. Make sure your dog gets enough mental and physical exercise to prevent dirt eating, which results from boredom, on the behavior front. If all else fails, restricting access to preferred dirt-eating sites might be necessary, according to Dr. Coger. Never dismiss dirt eating because it can be an indication of something greater.
Not all dog foods are made the same. Some diets don’t have all the nutrients a dog needs to maintain good health.
Dogs of any age may consume dirt to supplement nutritional shortages and absorb minerals like sodium, iron, and calcium from the soil. Due to hunger and nutritional inadequacies, underfed dogs may also eat dirt and other items.
When choosing a high-quality dog food, make sure it complies with the nutritional recommendations set forth by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and is produced by a sizable, seasoned, and recognized company. Brands like Purina, Hill’s Science Diet, and Royal Canin all adhere to WSAVA standards.
If they don’t get enough enrichment or exercise, dogs might become bored and some will eat dirt to pass the time.
Stress from being separated from their pet parents might cause dogs with separation anxiety to eat dirt. Any age might lead to anxiety in dogs.
Low red blood cell count is the term used to describe this illness. Numerous conditions, including hookworms, flea infestation, tick disease, cancer, immune-mediated diseases, and bleeding disorders, can result in anemia.
Puppies are more likely to have hookworms than adult dogs since they normally acquire these parasites through their mother’s milk when feeding. However, if they are not taking heartworm medication, dogs of any age can acquire hookworms from the environment.
All dogs are susceptible to fleas and ticks, which are parasites that feed on blood and can result in severe anemia. All year long, keep your dog on a reliable flea/tick preventative like Simparica, NexGard, or Bravecto.
Due to internal bleeding from specific kinds of malignant tumours, adult and elderly dogs are more likely to get severe anemia. Anemia in dogs of any age can also be brought on by extremely uncommon immune-mediated illnesses and bleeding disorders. Any anemia can make a dog eat dirt if it is severe enough.
Portosystemic (Liver) Shunt
An faulty blood artery called a shunt allows blood to flow around the liver of a dog. As a result, the liver does not operate correctly because it does not receive enough blood. Shunts are uncommon but can occur congenitally in puppies, adults, or geriatric dogs.
Can a dog get sick from eating dirt?
You usually shouldn’t be alarmed if your dog occasionally licks the ground with their mouth, but if it starts to become a habit, you should absolutely look into any potential medical or behavioral issues.
Being a dog means getting dirty, but if your dog eats dirt, they can be exposed to poisons, pathogens, or other substances that could make them sick.
When your dogs are outside, keep an eye on them and take precautions to prevent them from consuming the ground they are walking on.
Your dog may be instinctively looking for minerals or vitamins missing from its diet
Since dirt is rich in minerals, if your dog is deficient in certain elements, it may be attempting to satisfy a yearning by consuming dirt.
According to veterinarian Peter Dobias, vitamin deficiencies (such as those in the B complex or B12) or an upset gut flora may be to blame for indigestion and eating soil.
If the behavior is brand-new, it may be time to supplement your dog’s diet with pre and probiotics as well as extra vitamins. Dogs who are anemic could also attempt eating dirt to make up for their lack of iron.
Purchasing a food made especially for senior dogs that is complete and balanced is another approach to ensure that your dog is getting adequate nutrients.
This indicates that the food complies with the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ nutrient recommendations. However, as official recommendations are only made for growth (puppies) and adult dogs, older dogs may require some additional vitamins. Senior dogs are not subject to any particular requirements. Additionally, vitamins and minerals that your dog may be lacking are found in raw dog food.
Your senior dog might have an upset stomach or constipation
It’s likely that your dog is attempting to find a means to settle an upset stomach if the behavior is new and restricted. Dogs will occasionally consume grass or soil in an effort to take care of themselves. Although not all dogs vomit after eating grass, it’s possible that yours is doing so to either get its digestive tract flowing or to vomit whatever is irritating it.
Various factors can lead to upset stomachs:
Your veterinarian’s guidance will be necessary if you’ve ruled out any or all of these causes yet your dog is still eating dirt. If your dog is otherwise eating properly, you might also try adding some fiber to its food.
Check for serious medical conditions
If you are unable to deter your dog from eating dirt, consult your veterinarian about having them check for more serious problems such as:
According to the Pet Health Network, schedule an immediate consultation with your veterinarian if your dog has been eating dirt and your pet’s gums appear pale or jaundiced.
Your dog might stop interested in eating dirt if any underlying issues are treated.
Find activities to stimulate your dog’s brain in case boredom is causing dirt eating
Older dogs can be difficult to persuade to exercise. They could sleep for extended stretches of time and have tight or aching joints. Make sure your dog gets an age- and mobility-appropriate amount of activity to help engage its brain, as long as your veterinarian approves.
Dogs may eat dirt because they are bored, but getting them to exercise can help. Even senior dogs can have fun with a variety of toys that require them to think in order to get a prize. To keep its brain active, try teaching your senior dog a new trick or have it practice one it already knows well several times per day.
How do I handle my pets’ pica?
A pet who has pica will eat things that are not food, like toys, rocks, grass, and sticks. Kitty litter, twine, dental floss, and clothing are among the things cats are more prone to eat.
The issue with pica is that the foods consumed may seriously obstruct the digestive system. These objects may either become entangled in the delicate intestine or be unable to pass, leading to a serious sickness and subsequent endoscopy or emergency surgery.
The following symptoms could indicate a GI blockage in your pet:
- bending over to pass a stool
- reduced appetite
What Causes Pica in Pets?
The majority of pet cases of pica are behavioral in nature. However, it’s crucial to rule out any illnesses like undernourishment, liver disease, anemia, and parasites. We can begin to consider causes and prevention if we are aware that your pet is consuming non-food objects for behavioral reasons.
The following behavioral causes of pica are typical:
- learned conduct
- worry or tension
- aversion to punishment (in the case of stool eating, eliminating the evidence of an accident in the house may help the dog avoid being punished)
Pica frequently does not go away on its own. Regardless of how it began or the reasons for it, it is frequently a compulsive activity.
Treatment and Prevention of Pica
The following steps can be followed to assist avoid pica and manage the behavioral issue if there is no underlying medical illness.
- Ensure that your pet receives adequate mental and physical stimulation. For advice, let us know your dog’s breed, age, and lifestyle. Hunting and sporting breeds need far more exercise than the average dog, which needs at least 60 minutes of exercise every day.
- If you spend a lot of time away from home, think about using environmental enrichment techniques like food puzzles, games, and a dog walker to prevent boredom.
- Cut off access to anything that your dog might eat.
- If your dog likes to eat things from the yard, think about training her to wear a basket muzzle. A muzzled dog should never be left unsupervised.
- While on a leash walk, use food and praise to divert your dog from ingesting foreign things or poop. Teach him to say, “Leave it.”
- Consider using cayenne pepper or a spray of bitter apples to cover the items.
- Give your pet a lot of safe chew toys and other items to play with that they can’t swallow.
- Consider getting your pet connected with a veterinarian behaviorist who can assist you in identifying the cause of their behavior if they continue to consume foreign objects.
The majority of the time, pica treatment and prevention will be ongoing initiatives. A follow-up appointment may be required. Preventative measures, however, are unquestionably superior to life-threatening conditions and urgent surgery (and rehabilitation) to remove foreign objects from your pet’s digestive system.
My dog keeps looking at me; why?
- Dogs stare at their owners for a variety of reasons, including to interact with and comprehend us.
- Some dogs use their gaze to browbeat their owners into giving them food or letting them let them outside.
- Focused gazing behavior can be positively influenced by training and canine sports.
Have you ever had the impression that your dog is monitoring every move you make? Perhaps your dog is ogling you while gnawing on a chew bone or toy. Or perhaps you like to sit and look into each other’s eyes with your dog. Whatever the circumstance, dogs often spend a lot of time gazing at people. And a lot of dog owners spend a lot of time pondering the reasons.
Unluckily, there isn’t a straightforward solution that works for everyone. Dogs may focus their attention on us for a variety of reasons. However, they spend the most of their time either interacting with us or waiting for us to do so. You can learn to distinguish between them with a little research and careful observation. You can teach your dog other communication techniques that aren’t quite as perplexing as staring.
Dogs Are Reading Us
Dogs are more attuned to people than practically any other animal on the planet. They read us for clues about what will happen next by observing our moods, responding to our pointing, and reading our body language. That implies that they frequently glare at us in order to learn about their surroundings. They are essentially waiting for us to take action that will affect them. Dogs, for instance, quickly pick up on the fact that their owners always pick up the leash before leading them for a stroll. They will therefore keep an eye out for that indication that a journey outside is approaching. The same is true for meals, playtime, car excursions, and a lot more occasions.
Dogs also wait for their owners to give them more deliberate cues. Cues to carry out a certain activity, such sit or down, are opportunities to receive a reward. Dogs will look out for these opportunities since they enjoy receiving treats, toys, or games. This is especially true for dogs who have been trained using positive reinforcement techniques. These dogs develop a love of training and eagerly await cues to engage in training games.
Dogs Are Trying to Tell Us Something
Staring also happens when your dog is attempting to communicate with you or seek your attention. Your dog might sit at the door and stare at you if it’s time for a bathroom break, for instance. Or, if you’re eating and your dog is hungry, staring may be a request that you share your food. It’s the canine version of a shoulder tap.
Some canines use staring to sway their humans and obtain what they want. This situation with begging at the dinner table is typical. The owner will give the dog a piece of their dinner if they glare at them for a while. In actuality, you made that monster. The dog would have initially regarded me out of curiosity. Your dog would have undoubtedly found something else to do if you had turned away from the look. However, the look makes you feel awkward or bad, so you acquiesce to stop it. The dog has now mastered a new kind of communication, so there you have it.
Your dog will ultimately try different activities to grab your attention if you become conscious of how you respond to his staring behavior and stop rewarding him. Teaching your dog what you want is a more effective strategy. For instance, your dog might munch on a bone as you eat in a dog bed or ring a doggy bell to signal that it’s time for an outdoor bathroom break. You will quickly have a dog who looks at you for clues rather than guilt trips if you encourage the new behavior and ignore the gazing.
Dogs Are Telling Us How They Feel
Additionally, your dog communicates both positive and negative feelings through eye contact. Staring is considered aggressive and impolite by their wolf ancestors. Some dogs are still like that. Because of this, you shouldn’t hold dogs steady and stare into their eyes or stare down unusual canines. Back aside and avoid eye contact if a dog gives you a strong stare with unblinking eyes and a stiff posture. When a bone or other valuable treat is at stake, you might observe this behavior in your own dog. The act of defending a resource is frequently accompanied with an intense gaze and other combative nonverbal cues. If your dog exhibits it, speak with a qualified trainer or behaviorist.
Of course, excessive canine gazing is precisely what it seems—a sign of affection. Dogs will stare at their owners to show affection, just like people do when they are in love. In actuality, the love hormone, oxytocin, is released when dogs and people stare at each other. This hormone is crucial for bonding and enhancing feelings of trust and love. When you stare at your dog, the same hormone that is released when a new mother looks at her infant is likewise released. It makes sense why our pets like constantly gazing at us.
Dogs and Humans Can Benefit from Staring
The majority of dog glares combine affection and attentiveness. Your dog probably finds you fascinating, even though it could make you uncomfortable. You can therefore make that human-centric approach work for both of you rather than discouraging it. First, pay attention to the cues you offer your dog. For instance, are you indicating to sit with your words while fully indicating something else with your body language? Be consistent and clear with your intentions to help your dog comprehend them.
A attentive dog is also simpler to train. The distractions in the immediate environment are less likely to interfere if your dog is focused on you. Think about using commands like “look at me” or “watch me” to encourage your dog to maintain eye contact. When you want your dog to focus on you rather than the surroundings, you can then ask for some looks.
Finally, think about how that intense eye contact might improve your performance in dog sports. Teamwork is essential in sports like agility and AKC rally. The dog must constantly be aware of the handler’s body language and cues. Additionally, dogs must learn very precise tasks and then perform them without being interrupted in sports like AKC Trick Dog and Obedience. Dogs that are focused intently on their owners will pick things up more quickly and perform better.
Do you need assistance training your dog? In spite of the fact that you might not be able to attend live training sessions during COVID-19, we are still available to you electronically through the AKC GoodDog! Helpline. With the help of this live telephone service, you may speak with a qualified trainer who will provide you with unrestricted, personalized advise on anything from behavioral problems to CGC preparation to getting started in dog sports.