Weird Stuff Dogs Eat

Owners fill bowls with nutritious food to keep dogs healthy. So why do dogs eat weird, disgusting and even dangerous stuff?

Dogs use their mouths the way we use our hands. They pick up objects and explore their world by mouthing, tasting, and chewing. That sometimes gets them into trouble if they swallow something they shouldn’t.

Eating Grass

As omnivores dogs benefit from eating vegetables or fruits. Even coyotes and wolves eat vegetable matter found in the stomach of prey, as well as roots, grasses and fruit. Dogs often beg for and enjoy snacks of raw vegetables like lettuce, green beans and carrots. Magical-Dawg loves broccoli and asparagus, for instance, but for some reason turns up his nose at green beans. And he likes to eat grass, especially the fresh growth, usually during his early morning walk before he’s had breakfast. And then he URPS it back up.

Most pet dogs occasionally eat grass, which may provide vitamins the dog craves, or he may simply like the taste. Dogs also eat grass to stimulate vomiting when they feel bad. That happens with Magic, when his empty tummy makes him feel yucky. Occasional grazing isn’t a cause for concern unless he turns it into an obsession or he gnaws poisonous houseplants.

Poop Eating Pups

Poop eating—called coprophagia—disgusts owners but this common habit comes naturally especially to puppies. Mom-dogs keep the nest clean by picking up after the babies, and youngsters typically copy-cat the behavior. Most pups outgrow the habit. But many dogs continue to snack on cat box “treats” or the leavings of cows and horses because—well—it must taste good to them. Also, the cat, horse or other critter may not have completely digested all the nutrients so the dog relishes giving the poop another chance. Magical-Dawg did this when he was a baby. Thank heaven he outgrew the nasty habit! I have some more info and tips how to curb the habit in this poopy-licious article.

Eating Dirt

We’re not sure why dogs eat dirt but many seem to relish certain types of soil. Some wild animals target clay-like soils that naturally absorb toxins, and others are known to eat mineral-rich dirt to supplement their diet.

For dogs, scent probably plays a role. Perhaps another animal has “marked” that spot of dirt, so the dog tastes to get a better “read” on the message. Dogs seem to preferentially target specific types or locations of dirt, too. Eating too much dirt can plug up doggy plumbing but an occasional taste probably isn’t worry-worthy.

Eating “Stuff”

Dogs swallow an amazing range of nonedible items and it goes beyond eating the kid’s homework. The behavior is called pica, and can be an accident when the dog gulps down a piece of a toy. Pica may be purposeful if the object proves too tempting—baby bottle nipples that smell of milk, used tampons, and grease-smeared foil or turkey-basted string prove irresistible to dogs.

The most common item is socks, followed by underwear, panty hose, rocks, balls, chew toys, bones, hair ties/ribbons, and sticks. Most items tend to be owner-scented objects and dirty diapers are another favorite—it combines the attraction of poop-eating.

But some dogs seem drawn to such weird items as pagers, hearing aids, drywall, batteries, rubber bands, or anything (including sand!) with bacon grease poured on it. Dogs develop bad habits out of boredom, stress or even obsessive-compulsive behaviors and turn into garbage disposals. These dogs chew and suck down rocks and sticks.

Poke The Poop

In most cases small objects pass harmlessly through the body and end up on the lawn within 24-72 hours. Get a stick and wear gloves to poke through the doggy droppings to be sure he’s gotten rid of the object. Feeding your dog a meal can turn on digestive juices, cushion the item, and help move it along.

But sharp objects can cut, heavy stones can plug the system, and string-type material (thread, ribbon, Easter grass, Christmas garland, tape from a cassette) can cut and strangle the intestines. Swallowed coins, batteries or other metal objects can poison pets once they react with digestive juices. String hanging out of either end of the dog shouldn’t be touched, or you risk hurting him worse. You can find detailed first aid tips for specific swallowed objects in the book The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats.

If you’ve seen the pet swallow something he shouldn’t but it doesn’t pass, or the dog begins vomiting, retching without result, won’t eat, looks or behaves distressed, or coughs repeatedly, seek help. It may require X-rays to figure out what’s wrong on the inside of your pet, and surgery to get it out.

Most puppies outgrow indiscriminate munching. But if your dog vacuums up anything that hits the floor, pet proof doggy toys as well as your home. It could save you veterinary bills—and your pet’s life.

Has your dog ever eaten something he shouldn’t? What happened? Did everything come out all right? (literally!) How do you prevent such things in the future? Please share!

With the recent spate of pet foods and treats being recalled due to salmonella contamination, even the foods we choose could at times put pets at risk. Do you know how pet food is made? Check out this enlightening video from Hill’s. I got to visit their facility (but not the plant itself…had to leave early) and was quite impressed with the folks I met. What do you think?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!


Weird Stuff Dogs Eat — 26 Comments

  1. My younger mini doxie was a poop eater when she was younger. Totally gross. And our older one chews EVERY bit of bedding we put in with them. He won’t sleep in the kennel without a towel or blanket or pillow – he’ll just whine and cry – but he chews and I have to constantly stay on him. He had surgery a year ago for an obstructed bowel (nearly killed him) so I have to be very vigilant now. And he still chews. And our Golden will happily destroy anything plastic that’s outside.

    Never a dull moment!

    • Stacy, we once had a St Bernard come into our vet clinic that ate blankets–and was allergic to them. His head would swell. Very weird. So glad you got your dog help in time, obstruction IS deadly!

  2. I soooo enjoyed these videos and learned so much! You and your ADORABLE self! I have to tell you, a few years ago Dakota ate part of a CD (the case…thankfully he chewed it up well!) and he ate part of my cell phone (chewed through it, I caught him before he got to the battery!)
    Thanks again for this most informative blog!

    • Oh no! Dakota must be like Stacy’s Golden and likes hard plastic stuff. My first shepherd ate a TV remote control…luckily everything came out okay, literally. *ahem*

  3. Very good article. Question – if one of my 8 year old cats throw up my 7 month old kitten wants to eat it. Grosses me out! I’m so praying he will grow out of that! Any suggestions?

    • Ewwwwwwwwwww! That’s more of a dog thing–dogs will do that at any age. With cats I suspect it’s a “kitten” thing and yes, should outgrow it. My question would be–why is the adult cat throwing up? *s* Maybe if it’s hairballs, some regular cat-lax-type treatment would reduce that.

      • Anubis ate his own once. x.x This is when we found out he seems to have developed an allergy or something of the like to beef. Gave him some hamburger before we stumbled across the good fatty cheap chicken to bulk up his weight, because he’s used to getting bits of meat. Chomped it down, then hacked up ALL of it, and while I was trying to wait a minute for it to cool off (because warm vomit… eurgh) he ate it all, and went to throw it up again. But then, he really, REALLY likes beef. Which makes it that much more of a shame he can’t seem to eat it anymore.

  4. My 11 yr old Female Husky/Shepherd Mix is “OBSESSED” with Earth Worms!! I mean she cannot get enough!!!!!

  5. And my trash can filled with dirty nose tissue!! I come home and all the kleenex is on the floor!!

    • Jacob, my Magical-Dawg is the same way about dirty tissues. At our house, waste baskets set on counter tops I call a “decorating choice.” *s*

  6. Luckily our Rita doesn’t eat poop, dirt or random things. She won’t even eat certain foods – she’s pretty fussy! But she does like to nibble a bit of grass when we go on walks. We don’t have any grass in our yard, so I guess it’s a rare treat for her!

    Funny about the socks being the #1 odd item eaten and then the undies. My novel, What the Dog Ate, begins with a Lab that’s eaten a pair of thong panties… that don’t belong to his Momma. ;)

      • Thanks for posting the link to my book! :)

        I guess I should post more about dogs and underwear on my blog. (Don’t you love looking at the search terms that bring people to your site??)

  7. We used to have a dog that didn’t just eat grass, he grazed. I swear sometimes he thought he was a cow. But then, this is the same dog that came to “here kitty kitty” and ate sponges… *facepalm* Dumbest dog I’ve ever met in my life, but he was a sweetheart.

    • LOL! Well, canines are omnivores so I guess he came by it naturally–that is, the grass. The sponges…well, that could be a major problem!

  8. Blizzard eats just about anything; in fact, he is constantly finding new things to ingest just to keep me on my toes, no doubt. I think he eats the cats’ toys just out of jealousy. The most dangerous though is an unopened can of cat food! The first time it happened I think the cats must have knocked a can off the shelf and Blizzard grabbed his chance.

    I only noticed because the other cans were all over the floor. When I replaced them I thought one was missing but wasn’t sure until I checked Blizzard’s kennel. There it was – in pieces! Wouldn’t you think it would cut into his gums? But no, he did it again last week.

    The good thing is that when I actually catch him going after something he will drop it on command. For instance, just the other day he picked up one of the cat toys and tried to slip out of the room with it but when I told him to “leave it” he dropped it and and went to hide in his kennel. :)

    • Wow…gives new meaning to “can opener.” Yes, I’d be afraid he’d cut his gums, too. Magic loves the cat toys, too, but I think lots of that is the “fun” he gets when we chase him down to take it from him. Usually he’ll drop it…but not always. So he ends up with sparkly poop…and one day vomited a cat toy, thank goodness. Makes me be a better house keeper (dang, I hate housework!).