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Why does my dog eat everything?

Why does my dog eat everything?

From your kids' favorite toys to grass and even other animals' feces, some dogs will eat anything. If you're concerned that your dog may be eating things they shouldn't, you may be in the right. Today, our Scottsdale vets share insight on why some dogs keep eating everything, along with advice to stop the behavior. 

My Dog Eats Everything. Why?

If your dog eats anything and everything, it may be small comfort to know that you're a member of a very large group of pooch parents. While your pup's tendencies may be nauseating to you, our canine companions are actually following a natural scavenging instinct. This behavior may be particularly common in puppies as they explore their world and eat items they discover, including anything from trash, leaves and stones to dead animal carcasses. 

What Dogs Eat & The Logic Behind It

There is a medical term for pets and people who eat non-edible objects: Pica. Dogs with pica have 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 feel that your dog's urge to seek out non-edible items may be a symptom of pica, schedule an appointment with your vet. There are some common substances dogs love to eat, including:

Dirt

It's common for puppies to eat dirt. While the reason for this is unknown, it's generally believed that this behavior can be at least partly attributed to the fact that different scents originate from different areas such as the floor of a forest you may be strolling through, your pile of compost or the field or playground behind your house. 

Puppies may also better understand the world around them by eating dirt. You likely don't need to worry if your puppy eats dirt infrequently. That said, eating large amounts of dirt can lead to problems occurring within your pup's digestive tract. If you find your dog loves to eat dirt, discuss potential causes for this behavior and prevention methods with your vet. 

Grass

While some dogs enjoy the odd blade of grass more than others, if your pooch is otherwise healthy they are likely fine to eat grass provided it's not heavily coated in chemicals. 

It's believed that dogs nibble on grass for many reasons, including to relieve boredom, to get enjoyment and to consume more fiber for a healthier gastrointestinal tract. If you see your dog eating an alarming amount of grass, talk to your vet about the issue and ask for tips on how you can cut back on this behavior. 

Poop

We’ve seen more than a few pet parents come into our office at their wit’s end with this unpopular habit many deem disgusting. You may ask, “Why does my dog keep eating poop?!"

The fact is that poop eating is so common that it has its own term: ‘coprophagia’ (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh). The behavior may be influenced by a combination of genetic, psychological and behavioral factors. It’s generally considered harmless for dogs to eat their own poop.

However, eating poop of other animals or dogs is a cause for concern because toxins, viruses and parasites can be transmitted via feces.

One theory suggests poop eating may be part of your dog’s innate scavening tendencies, which your pup develops as a survival tool for times food may be in scarce supply. After all, when a dog can’t find any food they can’t afford to be too picky.

Physical reasons that dogs might eat poop include:

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

Other factors that can cause poop eating in dogs:

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

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 hazzard. 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.

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:

  • Clean your backyard frequently to remove any rocks, poops, or other items. If it isn't there, your pup can't eat it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Teach your dog to 'drop it' and 'leave it' on command. Essential know-how for every dog.

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 people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Are you perplexed by your dog's strange eating habits? Contact our Scottsdale Ranch Animal Hospital veterinary team to book a physical exam today. 

Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

(480) 391-3699