We’ve all been there before. You walk through the door to find your dog munching on the dirty laundry. The toilet paper has a chunk missing and your new running shoes are missing their laces. So, what gives? How is it that non-edible items always find a way into your pup’s mouth? The nibbling habits of some dogs are problematic both to your wallet and to their digestive systems, so why do they keep doing it? The reasons are endless but there are a few common reasons that your doggo has an appetite for such strange items.
1. They have Pica
Dogs, especially puppies, eat non-edible items; it’s a fact of life. This disorder, known as Pica, can cause some serious internal issues and costly vet bills. Even though Pica is normally a thing that puppies grow out of, some dogs are just hardwired that way. Some breeds, like Labradors, always feel hungry. There are three genes that don’t “turn off” so they don’t know they’re full even if they’ve just eaten a meal.
If you know that your dog ingested something they shouldn’t have, be alert! While your dog may pass the object in their stool, they also might not. Taking them to the vet is the best course of action before things get serious for your dog. Signs that your dog has eaten a foreign object include inappetence, vomiting and lethargy, among others.
2. Everything smells soooo good!
Dogs have a sense of smell up to 10,000 times better than ours, so it’s no wonder their nose gets them into things that they have no business being near. This doggie superpower often causes them to eat things they shouldn’t – like trash, feces or even the cores of fruits or veggies (think corn or apples). Some studies assert that when a dog smells a dinner, they can smell each individual ingredient that went into making that meal. Pretty impressive, huh?
Dogs will eat whatever source of meat that they can find. That means meat from bones, tendons and organs are all fair game. For your average indoor dog, that means any plastic, plates, napkins or fabrics that even remotely smell like food are also intriguing. A garbage can with a locking lid is a great way to keep your pup out of the trash!
3. Underfeeding or lack of nutrition
A hungry dog or a dog that isn’t getting enough nutrients will seek out other food sources – and they don’t discriminate! Feces and other things that humans wouldn’t dare to eat are suddenly on the table – literally and figuratively – for our furry friends. A high-quality diet and consistent meal times can help keep your dog on the straight and narrow when it comes to what they seek out to eat.
If your dog knows when meal times are, they likely can wait for that time to come instead of seeking out snacks in between. Consistent meal times are also important for your dog’s digestion and metabolism. Their diet is just as important! Dog foods with a lot of grains and little meat are lower in the nutrients that dogs need. To enhance their diet, give your dog real food! Adding whole food snacks can provide the nutrients that your pup is searching for. Any little bit that you can improve their diet is helpful!
Complete and balanced meals make sure your dog gets all of the vitamins and minerals that they require to thrive. A simple dog food, one without fillers and additives, is a good place to start. Pay attention to how many calories your dog should be eating and read the label to find how much your dog should be given daily.
4. They are anemic
Dogs that are anemic are attracted to things that contain iron – the list is endless! Some of the most common sources of iron that your dog will go after are rocks, dirt and even concrete! None of these items are even slightly nutritious for your dog, so keep a close eye on this strange habit and take a trip to the vet if it becomes obsessive.
While some dogs who eat dirt and rocks are anemic, it won’t be the case for every dog. Some squirrely pooches just have weird habits! Dogs upturn the yard because they’re searching for all the smells below the surface. As long as your yard isn’t treated with pesticides or chemicals, a little dirt here and there won’t hurt them. Rocks, on the other hand, shouldn’t be ingested as they can cause blocks in the gastrointestinal tract.
Boredom is the easiest of the reasons to understand. Many humans eat when bored, so how can we blame our dogs? Even when you’re at home, if your dog is bored and seeking your attention, chewing may be the way they shift your focus from the TV to themselves. Whether you’re gone while your dog is eating inappropriate items or at home, the action can be easily amended.
Exercise and mental stimulation are two ways to stop your dog’s chewing from boredom. Dogs are meant to be active, so if they aren’t getting the proper amount of exercise, they’ll take it out on your house and the objects inside of it. Wear your dog down a bit before you leave with a half hour walk to stop destructive behaviors in your absence. Treat puzzles and other toys are another great way to stop your dog from eating things they shouldn’t. Puzzles keep your dog occupied as they work to retrieve the yummy treat that they can smell! No matter the toy that you choose, make sure it’s sturdy and bigger than your dog’s mouth so they can’t swallow it!
No matter your dog’s reason for using non-edibles as grub, keep an eye on them and work to solve the problem! Exploratory surgery is an expensive route for dogs who can’t pass whatever foreign object they decided to eat. Your vet is always a good place to turn for additional pointers on how to curb your dog’s strange eating habits.