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My dog eats everything! What should I do?

My dog eats everything! What should I do?

Some dogs will eat anything. From toys and grass to feces and roadkill, everything looks like lunch to these pups! If your dog eats everything they see there may be good reason to be concerned. Here, our Lincoln Park vets look at why dogs eat things they shouldn't and how to curb this problematic behavior.

A Dog's Compulsion to Eat Strange Things

If your dog won't stop eating anything and everything it sees, you certainly aren't alone. While this behavior can be stomach-turning to many pet parents it's actually a natural scavenging behavior in our canine companions. Puppies can be particularly keen on eating things they find including leaves, trash, stones and dead animals.

Some Crazy Things Dogs Eat & Why

In people and animals the term for eating non-edible items is Pica. Dogs with pica have an almost compulsive urge to eat non-digestible items such as rocks, dirt and sticks. It is believed that animals with pica may be missing essential minerals or other nutrients from their diet. If you feel that your pup's urge to munch on nonedible items could be a sign of pica, see your vet.

Here are some of the most common substances that dogs seem to enjoy eating:

Grass

Dogs will often munch on grass, but it's true that 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.

Dirt 

Eating dirt is a common behavior in young puppies. Why dogs choose to eat dirt is unknown but it is generally believed that it's due in part 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 better understand the world around them. If your pup takes the odd taste of dirt there's probably nothing to worry about.

Nonetheless, eating large amounts of dirt can be a real issue since too much dirt could clog up your dog's digestive tract. If your dog loves to eat dirt, speak to your vet about what might be causing the behavior and what you can do to stop it.

Rocks & Stones

Many dogs love to play with and eat rocks, which can become a serious health issue. 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 rock-eating speak to your vet. Rock eating could be a symptom of boredom, anxiety, or attention-seeking. Your vet will be able to help you diagnose the cause of your dog's behavior and recommend some ways to curb your dog's appetite for stones.

Poop

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.

It is generally considered harmless for dogs to eat their own poop, 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 dogs may eat poop include:

  • Parasites
  • Diets deficient in nutrients and calories
  • Malabsorption syndromes
  • Diabetes,
  • Cushing’s
  • Thyroid disease, and other conditions that can cause increased appetite
  • Steroids and other medications

Other factors that can lead to poop eating in dogs:

  • Isolation and boredom
  • Restrictive confinement
  • Anxiety
  • Attention-seeking
  • Inappropriate association with real food

Tips for Curbing Your Dog's Unusual Eating Habits

No matter what your pup enjoys munching on, there are a few things you can do to try and curb this problematic 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 dog'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 vet can give your dog a comprehensive 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.

If you're concerned about something that your dog has eaten contact our Lincoln Park animal hospital right away to schedule an examination for your four-legged friend.

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Dix Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Lincoln Park companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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