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.
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.
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.
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!