Why Does Your Dog Eat Dirt And What To Do About It

Ok let’s face it…us dog owners have likely caught our canine companions eating some pretty weird stuff, dirt included, at some point, right?

While that’s likely true, if your dog begins to suddenly eat large quanities of dirt or just simply cannot be discouraged from doing this, it’s time to take a closer look at what might be going on.

Technically, the term for eating non-food materials is known as pica (say PIE-cah). Sometimes this behavior can be triggered by stress or boredom and when either of those two things are relieved, the dirt eating should go away. 

Sometimes there may be underlying causes for the reason a dog starts to eat dirt. Among these are dietary deficiencies (especially minerals), feeding low quality food, anemia (low red blood cell count), a disturbance or disease of the gastrointestinal system or a simple upset stomach.

Also, you really don’t want to allow your dog to continuously eat dirt because it’s potentially dangerous. One of the big problems veterinarians see in dogs that eat a lot of dirt at once is an impaction or blockage of the intestine. This is very dangerous and can be fatal if not immediately treated, often with surgery.

Dirt can also be contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides or other toxins which could potentially poison your dog. Plus, if the di has rocks in it or is very gritty, your dog’s teeth can be damaged or a rock could become lodged in his throat or esophagus or somewhere else along the digestive tract. 

Dirt often contains sticks and these could very well cause a puncture inside your dog’s mouth or could injure the lining of his throat, stomach or intestines. And, dirt is very likely to contain parasites, which can then infest your dog.

If you suspect a nutritional imbalance behind your dog’s dirt eating, consult your veterinarian for advice and also to rule out any underlying disorders such as anemia. Prevent boredom by giving your dog plenty of opportunity for exercise, play and mental stimulation.

Many dogs have favorite areas in their yards which are their go to spots for eating dirt, and you may have to block his access to these areas permanently to stop the dirt eating behavior.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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