Pica in Dogs - Why Does my Dog Eat Everything They See?

Pica in Dogs - Why Does my Dog Eat Everything They See?

Author WDF Staff


Have you ever witnessed your dog eating something that wasn’t meant for that? If the answer is yes, then you had a close encounter with pica in dogs. Sometimes, dogs can’t help themselves, and they will eat things like metal, feces, garbage, dirt, plastic, or anything they can get their paws on. If you are about that happening more often, and you would love your dog to stop acting like a vacuum cleaner, stay with us and read more about this condition.

What is pica in dogs?

Pica is a condition where dogs consume things that are not edible. The most common form of it is coprophagy, which is when a dog eats feces. As you can imagine, pica can cause several underlying problems and is very unsanitary.

This is usually a compulsive behavior issue for dogs, but that is not the only reason dogs can develop these issues. Pica can be a result of poor diet and medical problems. You must start working on eliminating this type of behavior because your dog can get hurt if they ingest something toxic or something that will cause a blockage. Plus, feces can contain various parasites that can infect your dog and cause all sorts of medical issues.

What causes it?

The root of the problem can be medical or psychological. Most cases of pica in dogs are connected with psychological issues, and resolving them will require changes in your dog’s lifestyle. In rare cases, pica can be associated with medical problems.

dog eating dandelion

Psychological pica

Here are some common psychological reasons why dogs might develop this problem;

  • Stress
  • Separation anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Attention-seeking behavior
  • Not enough socialization
  • Lack of mental stimulation

Medical pica

Some medical emergencies can cause dogs to eat non-food objects. If you see that sort of behavior, you should take your dog to the vet. Some of these health concerns are;

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Anemia
  • Stomach cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Parasites
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Neurological diseases
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Malnutrition

In the rarest cases, some dogs can start eating inedible objects due to a specific therapy. If the dog is on anti-seizure medication like gabapentin, one of the side-effects can be eating non-food items. The second medication that can cause pica is some types of corticosteroids.

dog on trash can

Pica symptoms

If you have to leave your dog while you go to work, catching your dog in the act of eating non-food objects could be difficult. There is usually no evidence - the dog ate it. We must understand what pica symptoms are, so we can provide our dogs with the help they need. Keep in mind that pica symptoms are not always the same; they can be different and depend on which object your dog ate. The most common pica symptoms in dogs are;

  • Bad breath
  • Constipation
  • Strained defecating
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Burping
  • Ulcers
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the abdominal region
  • Black, tarry stool
  • Coughing or sneezing (if the object your dog ate is blocking their airways)
  • Infections (especially in the case of coprophagy)
  • Choking
  • Collapsing
  • Lethargy
  • Poisoning (especially if the dog ate things like alcohol or other poisons)

What to do about it?

You can’t have your dog running around and eating everything they lay their eyes on. That is extremely dangerous, and if pica isn’t treated, your dog can develop serious medical issues that will require a vet’s intervention. You might have seen videos online and in some vet TV shows about vets pulling out different things dogs have eaten. We saw cases of dogs eating plastic grocery bags, washcloths, envelopes, and even a smaller TV remote.

It is clear that letting this sort of behavior go on is not acceptable, and you should talk to your vet about what to do. If they suspect pica results from psychological problems, then try one of these solutions that should resolve this problem.

Durable chew toy

If your dog is eating things while you are not home, the reason for such behavior is probably anxiety. You can provide them with a durable chew toy they couldn’t destroy and eat. It will divert their attention to something they can’t swallow and gives you more time to work on a solution for anxiety. Check out this article for chew toy ideas - Best dog toys.

Doggy daycare

In case your dog developed pica because of the lack of socialization, you can enroll them in a doggy daycare. That way, you will make sure they have company at all times and other dogs and people to socialize with. It can ease their anxiety and boredom. Here are some useful tips for socialization - Socialization tips and tricks.

Mental and physical stimulation

Most behavioral issues come from the dog being unhappy, and they have excess energy. A tired dog is a happy dog, and if you suspect that is the reason your dog is eating everything in its path, you can start exercising them more. Make sure they have plenty of running time, and you can give them dog puzzles at home for additional mental stimulation.

Poor diet

Pica can be a result of poor nutrition. Your dog is not getting everything they need from their diet, so they might be trying to replace nutrients by eating non-food items. To resolve this type of pica problem, you should switch your dog’s diet and make it more appropriate. Check out this article for more information about great dog food - Best dog food.

Talk to a behaviorist

Dog behaviorists could help you deal with that issue. They have plenty of experience and knowledge on how to battle psychological problems in dogs. Getting in touch with one could be a good idea.

Medical pica treatment

When it comes to treating pica caused by medical issues, the best thing you could do is consult your vet. There is not much else you could do other than sticking to medications the vet has prescribed your dog. If the problem is the thyroid gland, the vet will know how to solve it. Make sure you follow their instructions, and your dog should get rid of their pica problems.

World Dog Finder team

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