Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?
Being a pet parent is full of surprises and unexpected situations. It is much like raising a human child in many ways! While dogs entertain and amuse with their antics and lovable behavior, some things can be downright strange to humans. You might find yourself wondering why my dog eats grass? Other times, you might be grossed out by your old dog sniffing or eating poop! One common issue that many pet owners face is a puppy eating dirt or rocks.
While this sniffing and interest in odd material might seem out of the ordinary, it is common for dogs to follow their heightened sense of smell and explore. From dirt to poop, toilet paper, and even trash, dogs like to dig in and eat these tasty delicacies. But if your dog is showing extraordinary interest in eating dirt, it might be time to explore further.
Reasons Why Dogs Eat Dirt
There may be many reasons why a dog is eating dirt. These could range from mental or behavioral problems to a poor diet or just boredom! Some of these reasons are more problematic than others. Let’s dig down and see if eating dirt is bad for dogs.
Is Your Dog Eating a Balanced Diet?
A lack of key vitamins and minerals could be one of the critical reasons for dogs’ interest in non-food items like dirt. This condition is called Pica. A deficiency in essential nutrients is generally the cause.
Often, the cause of this deficiency is a diet that consists of processed food like kibble or more cooked food than raw. Home-based meals that are not thoughtfully designed can lead to a lack of essential nutrients such as minerals or vitamins. This deficiency leads to a dog eating dirt, maybe even from your precious potted houseplants!
In nature, a dog’s diet would be based on raw food rather than cooked. Bones especially provide a substantial portion of a dog’s essential nutrition. If the problem persists past a few days or seems compulsive, it is necessary to see a doctor to receive guidance on what the dog lacks in its food intake. A dog’s instincts help identify problems and should not be overlooked.
Are There any Underlying Health Concerns?
If a puppy is eating dirt habitually and is fed a healthy mix of cooked and raw food, it could go beyond a food issue. Some underlying, undiagnosed health conditions could be the culprit in this case.
In situations like this, a vet would run tests and observe the dog, to eliminate any severe illness. A dog could be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or hypothyroidism. Some other problems could be kidney disease, ulcers, or parasites. These conditions can lead to poor absorption of nutrients from food and anemia. Combining these conditions can cause deficiencies in the dog’s body, leading them to seek non-food items such as dirt and soil.
If a dog has digestive problems, they could be using the dirt to clean their system from the inside. Small amounts of dirt may be acting as an abrasive material helping clean out the insides.
Is Your Dog Suffering From Behavior Issues?
Just as humans suffer from stress or boredom, so can dogs. If a dog is not adequately stimulated mentally and physically, they may eat dirt just out of plain boredom. If a dog is left inside all day or kept in a kennel, they may not be getting physical exercise and activity.
Dogs also thrive on tasks. If a dog has nothing to do, then they may develop odd behavior characteristics. More serious issues may also crop up or preexist, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. In other situations, your dog might be trying to get your attention. Even if it is negative, the act of eating dirt may be eliciting a reaction from you.
Is The Dirt Just Darn Delicious?
A simple explanation could be the place where the dog is eating dirt. If they are drawn to a specific area, explore and see what is going on there. Perhaps it is where you grill your weekly burger meal, and there are inevitable food bits left over for the dog to discover. Or maybe a source of food is close by that the dog can smell from a particular place.
Sometimes, the reason could be small, harmless, and easy to fix.
Is Dirt Harmful to My Dog?
While you investigate and figure out why your puppy is eating dirt and soil, it is imperative to know if this is causing the dog harm. It is generally common for dogs to eat dirt, so most often, it should not be a cause for concern.
Dirt is not likely to get stuck in the dog’s digestive system and will not harm the delicate stomach lining or intestines. However, dirt is not always just dirt. So just pay attention to where the dog is eating their tasty dirt meal.
If your dog is licking dirt inside your garden or from your houseplants, it is probably not a cause for concern. One important caveat regarding houseplants needs to be kept in mind. Some plants can be deadly for animals. Common houseplants such as jade, ivy, pothos, and flowers such as lilies can be poisonous for dogs. Another possible issue can be mulch. Mulch is often used in gardens and is sometimes made of cocoa shells. Cocoa shells can be deadly for dogs, so keep an eye on the composition of your yard or neighborhood dog park.
On the other hand, if your dog is outside of known areas, you need to be mindful of fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals and toxins in the soil. If you happen to be near an industrial site or a field full of crops, then you need to be more careful about keeping the dog away from dirt.
Preventing Your Dog from Eating Soil
We’ve discussed why dogs eat dirt and soil, and whether it is dangerous for them. Here, we will talk about some ways to stop your dog from eating dirt.
Eliminate Potential Health Problems
The first step is obviously to get a full checkup and rule out any potential health problems. The vet will run the necessary tests and prescribe requisite medicine.
Step Up Physical Activity
Make sure your dog is getting the right amount of physical activity. The dog’s age, size, and breed will determine how much exercise. A long walk or run, as well as activities and new toys, will keep your dog stimulated and physically healthy.
Consult an Expert
Some dogs can benefit from professional trainers or behavioral experts who can help them work through bad habits.
Help Replace Bad Behavior with Acceptable Habits
Your vigilance and quick action will be imperative in making this technique possible. Any time you see your dog heading to eat dirt or already indulging, redirect towards an acceptable alternate. These could include exciting chew toys or an activity such as catch or running.
It may not always be possible for you to keep all dirt away from your dog. If the dog is primarily snacking on dirt in your garden or inside your house via your potted plants, consider ways to temporarily cover up the dirt until you can break a bad habit.
Spend Time with Your Pet
You may find that your dog is acting out to gain your attention. If this seems to be the case, make sure to spend quality time with your dog. This doesn’t necessarily need to be the length of time but can also be how you use your available time. Take your dog with you for errands, take it with you on the run or play with it at home. You may also find that your dog needs socialization. In a situation like this, you may consider a pet sitting facility or daycare for your dog while you are away.
Though dogs like to dig through all sorts of strange and disgusting items, your puppy eating dirt or soil is not uncommon. Still, if it continues more than a few days or becomes a chronic problem, it is vital to pay attention to the problem and find a quick resolution. A visit to the doctor and some time and attention will take care of the problem quickly.
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