If your dog has an appetite for inedible items like dirt, socks, or rocks, you’re probably concerned about the reason behind this abnormal behavior — and what it’s doing to Fido’s health.
As it turns out, the consumption of non-nutritious substances is a known disorder called pica. Pica has numerous causes ranging from underlying health conditions to behavioral issues requiring modification. At worst, pica can give your dog a serious intestinal blockage needing surgery.
Not only is this upsetting for you both, but you’ll also take a financial hit of about $3,000 per Healthy Paws Pet Insurance estimates. If your dog is experiencing strange cravings, visit your veterinarian to determine the root cause and the right treatment to protect his health — and your bank balance!
Address Health Issues
Your vet will run tests to determine if your dog has any underlying health issues driving him to eat non-food stuffs. It may be that his pica is due to a nutritional imbalance, iron deficiency, or digestive disorder that needs treating.
More serious causes of pica may include brain lesions, stomach tumors, or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Chances are your dog doesn’t have a serious physical illness, but it’s best to be on the safe side.
Improve Quality of Life
When dogs are bored or lonely, they tend to create their own forms of entertainment. If you think lack of stimulation is causing your dog’s pica, work on enriching his life. Give him plenty of attention, play with him regularly, and take him on long walks. It’s important for your dog to burn off excess energy, so he’s tired and content at home.
Use Verbal Cues
Teach your dog verbal cues to get him to break his behavioral habits. As soon as you see him eating something he shouldn’t, interrupt his behavior by making a noise like a kissy sound (which is more attention-grabbing than using his name). Tell him to “leave it” or “drop it” and lure him away with a treat. Recall is also an invaluable command, especially if he tends to eat things when you’re out on walks.
Lastly, keep objects out of your dog’s reach tidy laundry away, put trash straight in the bin, and keep cleaning products off-limits. You can also spray taste deterrents (like black pepper) on certain items. If you need to, muzzle him on walks.
Although it may take a while to resolve pica, it’s certainly possible with dedication and perseverance. If you’re giving your dog plenty of exercise and a balanced diet, pica should no longer be an issue. If, however, you find it continues despite your best efforts, go back to your vet for advice. It may be the case you need to constantly enforce the above preventative measures to keep your dog safe and prevent potential intestinal blockage.
Likewise, it’s important to determine if the issue is related to the need for behavior modification. Mark “Dogman” Castillero, founder and owner of Pro-Train Innovative Dog Training, specializes in behavior modification. He and his team can help stop an undesirable behavior and help dog owners commit to a program to refocus their dog.