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Why does my dog eat everything?

From foreign objects to toys, grass and even other animals' feces, some dogs will eat anything. If you're concerned that your dog is eating items it shouldn't, read this advice from our Franklin vets that may provide insight on why dogs keep eating everything. Plus, learn tips to stop the behavior. 

Dogs That Eat Anything

If your dog eats anything and everything, don't be embarassed — you're among many pup pet parents, many of who come to us worried or frustrated, saying, "My dog eats everything off the ground!"

While your pooch's behavior may gross you out, our canine companions are actually engaging in an instinctive scavenging behavior. This may be be particularly common with puppies as they explore their new world and eat things they find — which might include anything from leaves, stones and trash to dead animals.

What Dogs Eat & Why

The term for when people and pets eat non-edible objects is called pica. In dogs, this can manifest as an almost compulsive urge to eat non-digestible items such as rocks, sticks and dirt. It's believed that animals with pica may lack essential minerals or other nutrients in their diet. 

If you suspect that your dog's urge to dine on non-edible objects might be a sign of pica, schedule an appointment with your vet These are some of the most common non-food substances that dogs love to chomp on:

Dirt

It's common for puppies to eat dirt. Though why they choose to do this is unknown, it's generally believed this behavior can be blamed partly on the various scents emanating from different areas such as a field behind your house, the pile of mulch in your backyard or a forest floor. 

Dining on dirt might also help puppies to understand the world around them better. You likely need not worry if your puppy chomps on dirt the odd time However, eating a large amount of dirt can lead to problems in your dog's digestive tract. If you've noticed your pooch loves to eat dirt, discuss what may be causing this behavior with your vet and get some ideas on how to stop it. 

Grass

Provided your dog is otherwise healthy, you probably don't have reason to worry if your dog enjoys the odd nibble of grass, either. As long as the blades aren't heavily coated in chemicals, it's generally considered safe for them to eat 

It's believed dogs chomp on grass for many reasons, including out of boredom, for enjoyment or as a way to get more fiber into their gastrointestinal tract. If you see your dog is eating a large amount of grass, talk to your vet and ask how you can cut back on the behavior. 

Poop

This is often the item most pet parents become embarassed by and we've seen more than a few come into our office exasperated by this unpopular and disgusting habit their dog has. You may ask, "Why does my dog keep eating poop?!"

You may not be aware of the fact that poop eating is so common that it has its own term: ‘coprophagia’ (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh). You may able to blame this behavior on a combination of psychological, behavioral and genetic factors. It's generally considered harmless for dogs to eat their own poop, but eating other animals' poop is a cause for concern since viruses, toxins and parasites can be transmitted through feces. 

One theory is that poop eating might be part of your dog's innate scavenging tendencies, which your pup develops as a survival mechanism for times when food might be scarce. After all, when a pooch isn't able to find food, they can't afford to be too picky. 

Physical reasons for poop eating in dogs might include: 

  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Parasites
  • Diets deficient in calories and nutrients
  • Malabsorption syndromes
  • Steroids and other medications
  • Thyroid disease and other conditions that may lead to increased appetite

Other factors that can cause poop eating in dogs:

  • Restrictive confinement
  • Attention seeking
  • Boredom and isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Inappropriate association with real food
  • Rocks

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 rock eating it's a good idea to head to the 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.

Signs & Symptoms Your Dog May Have Overeaten

If your dog has overeaten, he may start panting, acting restless or drooling. They may also be unable to lie down in a comfortable position or act like they want to vomit (this can include frequent retching with little to no food or items brought up). The most obvious sign of overeating is a distended abdomen that's hard to the touch. If you observe any of these symptoms, this is classified as a veterinary emergency. Quickly bring your dog to your vet's office to be examined. 

Ways to Curb Your Dog's Unusual Eating Habits

Regardless of what your pooch enjoys munching on, there are a few things you can do to try and curb the habit if you find yourself thinking, 'My dog won't stop eating."

  • 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 can give your dog a full physical 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.

Are you concerned about your pet's strange eating habits? Contact our skilled vets at Advanced Veterinary Care for a consultation today.

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