Why Does My Dog Eat Dirt? - Main Reasons
If you are a dog owner, chances are you witnessed your dog eating some pretty weird stuff. One of these things is dirt. The first thing that popped into our mind was - Why is my dog eating dirt? We were rather interested in such unusual behavior, so we decided to look a little deeper and see what is hiding behind dogs eating dirt.
Why do dogs eat dirt?
You might be surprised to find out there are different, legitimate reasons dogs can feel the need to eat dirt. It is a form of “pica,” which is defined as ingesting and eating non-food objects and things. If you want to know more about pica, check out this article - Pica in dogs.
This specific form of pica is called geophagia. There are all sorts of -phagias we can encounter in the animal kingdom. The most common ones in dogs are coprophagia and geophagia. Gephagia is when animals eat dirt, and coprophagia is when animals eat feces.
This is not considered “normal” behavior, and vets advise against allowing that sort of behavior to go on. Dirt eating is potentially dangerous, and dogs can get seriously hurt by that sort of behavior. Some of the common reasons dog eat dirt are;
Dogs usually start eating non-food things if they are not getting everything they need from their regular diet. The most probable cause is a mineral deficiency. Their diet isn’t providing all the necessary minerals, and the dog will have an urge to eat dirt.
If the diet is balanced, there might be a problem with their mineral absorption. Dogs eating dirt can be a sign of hormonal imbalance and issues that are blocking their bodies from absorbing these necessary nutrients.
Dogs that have anemia will develop unusual behavior, and seeing your dog eating dirt can be one of those behaviors. Anemia in dogs is characterized as low blood cell count or low hemoglobin level. It can be caused by an imbalanced diet, and the dog can start eating dirt to replenish things they are not getting from their food. The vet will confirm anemia when they make blood tests.
Suppose your dog is not feeling very well, and they have some sort of stomach issue or gastrointestinal upsets. In that case, they can start eating dirt in an attempt to soothe their aches. This is not the only thing your dog might try; when dogs have stomach problems, they can also start eating grass. It is not entirely clear why dogs do this. Still, one of the possible reasons is to make themselves vomit and eject anything that might be causing them distress. If you want to know more about dogs eating grass, check out this article - Why do dogs eat grass?
Dog eating dirt - the dangers
If you notice your dog is acting weird, and one of the odd behaviors is your dog eating dirt, you should stop that as soon as possible. There are many different risks associated with dirt-eating, and here are some common ones;
- Dirt can impact the dog’s intestines, and the only way to solve that is through surgery.
- When dogs eat dirt, there is a possibility they can ingest pesticides and toxins.
- Dirt is tough and hard to swallow. It presents a significant choking hazard.
- Many parasites live in the dirt, and if your dog eats dirt, there is a chance they might ingest them.
- Dogs can seriously injure their teeth, throat, stomach, and digestive tract when eating dirt. Tiny rocks or sticks can cause perforations and blockage. Constipation is another problem dogs might encounter if they eat too much dirt.
How to prevent your dog from eating dirt?
Responsible owners shouldn’t allow their dogs to continue this habit, and dogs that eat dirt need to have their behavior adjusted. The best way to do that is to understand the root of their problem. If the dirt-eating results from dietary imbalance, you can talk to your vet or dog nutritionist and adjust your dog’s diet. Some supplements are rich in minerals and will add them to your dog’s usual diet.
If the problem still persists and you are still asking the same question, “Why is my dog eating dirt?” the solution might require a bit more work. Here are some techniques you can try if your dog continues to eat dirt even after the diet change;
This is a known training technique that works on all sorts of behavior problems. When your dog starts eating dirt, you should make a distraction. Make loud noise or take them away from that spot and give them their favorite toy.
When walking the dog outside, make sure they remain on the leash when approaching areas with exposed soil. If you see them preparing to dive into dirt muzzle first, lead them calmly away.
Home plant control
Plants we have at home can be a source of dirt. Your dog can easily come to a plant and start eating the dirt from the pot. Take your indoor plants to a room where the dog can’t reach them, or put them somewhere high, out of the dog’s reach.
Providing your dog with plenty of mental and physical activity might solve the problem of your dog eating dirt. They can do it out of boredom. By getting their minds and bodies engaged, they might be happier, and the problematic behavior can stop.
Make sure your dog is not under a tremendous amount of stress. Check all the potential stressors in your dog’s life and make sure they are not feeling overwhelmed. Another potential problem can be separation anxiety. Take care of that issue, and your dog will stop eating dirt. If you don’t know how to handle separation anxiety, check out this article for more information - Separation anxiety in dogs.
Suppose none of these things stop your dog from eating dirt. In that case, you can take them to the vet again and have them checked for underlying health problems that might be causing your dog’s compulsive behavior.
World Dog Finder team