Dog owners know that dogs can eat some pretty odd things. However, it can be an indication of more serious issues if you catch him eating just regular dirt. Known as pica, or the ingestion of a nonfood material, this issue can be caused by physical, behavioral, or nutritional reasons. It can also be caused by boredom or stress.
So, why do dogs eat dirt? No matter what the reason is, it’s important to stop the behavior before your dog eats dirt that contains broken glass or pesticides.
Why do dogs eat dirt?
There are several reasons why dogs will eat dirt including gastric upset, mineral deficiencies, or something that they like is in the dirt. Called pica, this behavior can signal a deficiency in your dog’s diet or that he’s bored, particularly if he is still a puppy. Here are a few reasons why your dog may be eating dirt.
We all know that dirt contains a lot of minerals, and if you have a dog digging with his tongue, he may need more minerals in his diet. Ensure that your pet receives a well-balanced diet that is full of minerals and vitamins. Talk with your vet if you feel your dog’s diet is lacking minerals and see if your pet has other signs of a mineral deficiency like a dull coat or lackluster eyes. Your vet may suggest another type of food or trying a multivitamin.
Something He Likes is in the Dirt
It also might not just be the dirt but may some food that has gotten into the ground. You still don’t want your dog continuing to eat dirt since he can also find broken glass or pesticides in the ground along with that delicious food he’s searching for.
After you rule out a medical issue, you need to consider if it is behavioral. There are a few techniques that you can use to get him to stop including praise and rewards every time he doesn’t eat dirt. Also, make sure he’s not bored and that he has plenty of attention and toys to keep him busy.
Believe it or not, dirt can be considered a natural pain reliever for indigestion by dogs. Eating dirt can be an indication of a tummy issue, especially if you also find bile or vomit around the house. In this case, try adding fiber into his diet to help alleviate a tummy issue or dog food designed for sensitive stomachs.
What are the Risks of Eating Dirt?
There are several dangers in allowing your dog to eat dirt including intestinal impaction, which is a very real issue when your dog is continually eating dirt and can require surgery to fix. Other issues are toxins or poisons that can be in the dirt like fertilizers and pesticides.
Rocks in the dirt can also damage your pet’s teeth as well as also cause an impaction. And, finally, parasites in the dirt can cause a variety of issues.
Preventing Dirt Eating in Dogs
Since there are many reasons why a dog will eat dirt, there are a few different approaches you can take to getting him to stop eating it. If your dog only occasionally eats dirt, it’s not something you should worry about as much as if he eats dirt frequently, which can be an indication of a larger problem. It’s important to watch your pet closely to figure out when he eats dirt and determine why he’s doing it, which will allow you to take steps that are effective enough to fix the issue.
Keep your dog entertained – Some dogs eat dirt out of boredom, so give your dog more attention and buy him new and entertaining toys to keep him occupied. Also, take him on extra walks and keep him so busy that he will be too tired to bother eating dirt.
Changing your dog’s food – Eating dirt is sometimes an indication of mineral deficiency, so changing his food may provide those missing minerals. Wet food often contains more nutrients and is healthier for a dog. Also, look for dog foods that use natural ingredients or food that is designed for special diet needs.
Deworm your pet – Worms like whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms are intestinal parasites that can absorb nutrients that your pet needs and cause him intestinal distress and anemia, either of which can trigger a dog to eat dirt. When your dog has visible worms in his feces, then you know he’s infected, but you may also see other symptoms like loss of energy, low appetite, and diarrhea. If you think your dog has worms, get a good dewormer from the pet store or your vet. Remember that some dog breeds are sensitive to dewormer ingredients, so it’s important to check with your vet before giving it to your dog.
Eating dirt in specific places – If your dog is only eating dirt in specific areas of your yard, try to avoid those places when you take him outside. This is a sign that your is actually interested in a specific thing in the dirt and not the actual dirt. If this behavior still bothers you, make a point of keeping him away from that area.
Supervise your dog – Anytime your dog is outside, make sure to keep him well supervised. Keep him on a leash or harness for his walk and watch him when he is in the yard. Verbally discourage him if you see him start to eat dirt and pull him away if he does it when he’s on the leash. You can also redirect or distract him while also giving him praise when he does leave it alone in order to try and break his habit.
Keep houseplants out of reach – If you have plants inside, keep them out of reach of your dog to prevent him from eating the dirt. You can also try a spay that discourages the taste. When you see your dog walk towards the plants, tell him to sit instead making sure to give him a treat as a reward for the positive behavior.
Anxiety – When your dog shows signs of anxiousness as well as eating dirt, it can be an indication of anxiety. Remove stressors from your dog’s life and add more entertainment, but if that still doesn’t work, you may want to ask your vet about anxiety medication.
Work with a dog trainer – If all else fails, consult a behavior specialist or dog trainer. An experienced behavior specialist or dog trainer can give you tips to help prevent your dog’s dirt-eating behavior.
What is a dog lacking when it eats dirt?
A type of pica, eating dirt can be caused by a parasite or a mineral deficiency in your pet’s diet. It can also simply be an indication of boredom, which is particularly trying in a young dog or puppy.
How do I get my dog to stop eating dirt?
You can try to redirect or distract him as well as give him praise when he doesn’t eat dirt. If you have a dog that only eats dirt from a particular part of the yard, you can avoid that area completely when you are out with him or treat the area with pet spray that tastes like a bitter apple or cayenne pepper.
Is eating dirt bad for dogs?
The short answer, yes, eating dirt is bad for your dog. The main reason its bag is that your dog can end up eating dirt that may have pesticides, toxins, or poisons in it. So, it can be just a matter of time until your dog ends up eating an unsafe area of dirt.
Can my dog become sick from eating dirt?
It is possible for your dog to become sick from eating dirt if it contains bacteria that can make your pet sick. There can also be critters, sharp objects, and toxins in the dirt, which can also harm your dog. Plus, if you have a dog that likes to eat dirt, he can be prone to other destructive behavior like digging.