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.
How can I stop my dog from consuming dirt and grass?
Make sure your dog is receiving enough activity if you think they are chewing the grass because they are bored. Participate them in enjoyable activities. To keep them occupied, try throwing a Frisbee, engaging in another participatory activity, or getting them a durable chew toy.
If your dog exhibits pica behavior because of a nutritional deficiency, switching to a better dog food, particularly one with high fiber content, may help solve the issue.
Although the majority of experts concur that grazing isn’t dangerous in and of itself, it’s important to remember that some pesticides and herbicides used on lawns can be highly poisonous, especially if consumed. Furthermore, certain common home and garden plants are poisonous, which could cause issues if your dog eats them along with the grass. Check the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center website, which maintains a list of poisonous and non-toxic plants, to make sure the plants in and around the area where your dog is eating grass aren’t harmful.
Do I need to forbid my dog from eating grass?
For dogs, eating grass is a typical behavior. Although they won’t likely receive much nutrition from it, a dog that is otherwise healthy and properly dewormed shouldn’t have any concerns if they occasionally eat grass. Dogs should never be permitted to consume grass that has been fertilized, treated with pesticides, or sprayed with herbicides. Additionally, slugs and snails that have crossed the grass may infect your dog with lungworm. Always consult your vet if your dog is eating a lot of grass, is frequently ill, or exhibits other symptoms of health problems.
How is pica treated in dogs?
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.
Do dogs consume grass while ill?
Recently, my dog has been consuming grass. Is it accurate that my neighbor claims he’s doing it because his stomach is uncomfortable and he wants to throw up? How do I recognize when my pet feels queasy? Do pets have access to anti-nausea medications?
Vomiting and nausea are unappealing but important bodily processes that prevent pets from consuming harmful chemicals. Our animal companions are unable to communicate their sickness to us. However, a few bodily signs include:
- Chewing gestures and excessive salivation
- intestinal discomfort (such as belching or vomiting)
- Licking or smacking one’s lips
- anxiety or agitation
- Lethargy or a lowered head
There are numerous probable reasons why pets could feel queasy or vomit, including:
- consuming poisons
- food intolerances
- intestinal obstruction
- Drugs (such as NSAIDS, antibiotics, chemotherapeutic agents)
- a liver or kidney condition
- Colitis of the bowels
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Despite the widespread misconception that dogs consume grass (or other plants) to induce vomiting or make themselves sick, evidence points to the contrary. A study into dog plant-eating habits that used a sizable sample of owner surveys was released in 2007. The findings revealed that only a tiny percentage of dogs displayed symptoms of illness before to (or soon after) ingesting grass. Therefore, eating grass was probably not an attempt to make up for a dietary shortage as the majority of dogs were offered a balanced diet.
According to the study, eating grass is a routine practice for dogs. It is known that even wolves and other wild dogs occasionally consume vegetation. Since both domestic and wild dogs exhibit this behavior, and younger dogs exhibit it more frequently, the researchers concluded that consuming plants must have some advantages (such as eliminating worms from the gut).
There are numerous drugs available to treat nausea and vomiting in animals. The majority of anti-nausea drugs work by preventing chemical signals from reaching the brain’s areas for nausea and vomiting. Metoclopramide, ondansetron, mirtazapine, cisapride, and maropitant are a few drugs that could be administered to treat nausea or vomiting in animals. Consult your veterinarian again if you suspect your pet is feeling queasy to rule out any significant medical issues.
What is a healthy iron source for dogs?
Anemia frequently indicates an underlying illness. There are numerous ways in which it may affect your dog’s physique. Today, our Baltimore veterinarians go over how we treat canine anemia, the best nutrition alternatives, and more.
What is anemia in dogs?
Anemia typically develops when a dog’s body does not create enough hemoglobin or red blood cells, which in healthy dogs transport oxygen to the tissues. Carbon dioxide is left over after the cells produce energy and is then expelled from the body through the lungs.
But when there aren’t enough red blood cells, less oxygen gets to the tissues, which causes weakness and exhaustion.
Anemia is most frequently a sign of an underlying illness, although it can also result from substantial blood loss brought on by illnesses like cancer or stomach ulcers. Other possible causes include trauma, injury, and accidents.
Signs of Anemia
Dog anemia signs and symptoms might differ depending on the underlying cause. They may consist of:
- Loss of weight
- Inflammation of the jaw or face
- stools in black
- Lethargy or weakness
- Pale gums, eyes, or ears
- rapid breathing or heartbeat
How to Treat Anemia in Dogs
If you conduct a search on “treatments for anemia in dogs,” you’ll probably come across a sizable number of suggestions and viewpoints. However, before acting on any advice, speak with your vet. You can also ask any questions you may have regarding the medications or treatments they advise.
Diagnostics may be advised based on your dog’s history and present symptoms. These could include specialist tests that could assist in identifying an underlying infectious disease, full blood counts to determine how anemic your dog is and evaluate red blood cell characteristics, chemistry tests to look at organ function and sugar levels, and more. Your veterinarian might also suggest testing the blood for iron because anemia can result from iron deficiency.
If your dog is found to have anemia, the prognosis will depend on what caused the anemia and if the underlying problem can be cured. Your veterinarian can suggest a successful treatment plan once the cause has been identified through diagnostic tests.
One or more of the following therapies might be suggested:
- Immune suppressants
- medicines for parasites or worms
- blood donation
- Transfusion of bone marrow
- injected fluids
- Modification of current drugs
- supplements with potassium phosphate
- gastrointestinal drugs
What are good sources of iron for dogs?
By adding fresh foods rich in this vital mineral to your dog’s diet, you can increase the amount of iron in his body. Green vegetables, cow liver, raw egg yolk (from locally or organically produced eggs), and adding canned sardines to their usual diet are good places to start.
You should aim to add 500 to 2,000 milligrams of Vitamin C (which can aid the body in absorbing iron from the intestinal system) every day, depending on the size of your dog.
Before starting your dog on a new food, medicine, or other therapy, don’t forget to see your veterinarian. Ask how much your dog should be given because liver is a rich food; you don’t want to induce diarrhea while trying to correct anemia.
Given that some of its causes are highly dangerous, it is important for you and your veterinarian to recognize anemia as a serious symptom when estimating how long dogs can live with it. The underlying reason and how quickly and efficiently it can be addressed will determine the prognosis.
Please take note that the information in this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice for animals. Please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a precise diagnosis of your pet’s illness.