Owners fill bowls with nutritious food to keep dogs healthy. So what’s up with all the weird stuff dogs eat? why do dogs eat rocks, eat dirt, eat poop, and even eat dangerous stuff?
Weird Stuff Dogs Eat–And Why They Do It
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. Find out why dogs eat grass in this post. Cats also eat grass for similar reasons. But that’s not nearly as objectionable as some other targets.
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 critters may not have completely digested all the nutrients so the dog relishes giving the poop another chance. I wrote more about litter box grazing in this post, and you’ll get some quick tips in the Ask Amy videos, below.
Why Do Dogs Eat 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 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 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. Here;s more information on why dogs eat dirt.
Dogs Eating Weird Stuff
Dogs swallow an amazing range of non-edible items and it goes beyond eating the kid’s homework. The behavior, called pica, can happen accidentally 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, pantyhose, 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. In these cases, you may need to make your dog vomit to get rid of the dangerous item.
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, 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. Don’t touch string hanging out of either end of the dog, or you risk hurting him worse.
If you’ve seen the pet swallow something he shouldn’t but it doesn’t pass, or the dog vomits, 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.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!