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Weird Stuff Dogs & Cats Eat

by | May 12, 2020 | Ask Amy Videos, Dog Training & Care | 21 comments

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.
rottweiler chihuahua and food bowl

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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21 Comments

  1. Cathy Armato

    I thought my dogs ate weird stuff, this is quite an exhaustive list! I had forgotten how my dogs loved eating my cat’s poop – it was like a delicacy to them. It took a stealth mission to keep them away from the litter box! Thanks for a great post.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks for visiting and sharing. I thought Magic outgrew the litter box grazing and then he relapsed this year.

      Reply
  2. Patricia H.

    Enjoyed your blog – very informative. Well I don’t have a dog but my cat Termite is now 2 years old and if his 10 year old brother (Thomas) pukes Termite wants to eat it and has always wanted to do this. However, he does not prefer his sister’s puke. It grosses me out. Your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Dogs do this a lot, cats not do much. Probably depends more on if it’s actual vomiting (fully digested ) or regurgitation (more immediate & not digested).

      Reply
  3. Ryan

    Bentley likes to snack on foliage. I’ve made sure the plants in our yard are safe and keep an eye on him when we leave home.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Magic likes to eat grass, too. If I bring roses inside, the cats get them.

      Reply
  4. carleenp

    One of mine occasionally eats poop. I read that feeding pumpkin will sometimes discourage it and have done that. Can’t really say if it clearly works or not though!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      There are some things you can add to the food–pineapple also helps. *s*

      Reply
  5. Beth | Daily Dog Tag

    My sister’s Pug eats everything and everything. She can’t go outside in the backyard unless she’s on a leash, because she eats rocks, sticks and leaves.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Yikes! Beth, the leash saves her life then. Literally.

      Reply
  6. Robin

    Very interesting info. I love the videos! Dogs and cats do eat some crazy things sometimes. I’ve been really fortunate and my cats are not big on eating things other than food. I’m very careful about house plants though, just in case they decide to give one a try.

    Reply
  7. wolff den press

    The worst thing my Corgi Scarlett ever ate was a rotten fish on the riverbank that she grabbed a bite of before I even realized she had anything. Fortunately it didn’t hurt her but man did she stink!!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      My dog used to roll in stinky fish when given the chance, and probably would have eaten it, too.

      Reply
  8. Patty

    I don’t have dogs but I don’t understand why my cats eat each other’s vomit. Makes me want to toss MY cookies.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Ewww….Hi Patty, that’s actually more common in dogs but cats do sometimes to that. It could be a combo of “cleaning up the next” or if regurgitation (not vomit) could simply be predigested and yummy to the cat. *shrug*

      Reply
  9. Val Silver

    After seeing this list I don’t feel too bad about what Ted eats – grass that needs to be pulled out the other end and wild animal poop. His favorite is snacking at the goose poop buffet. I just worry about him getting a parasite, so he gets a full poop analysis every year. All clear.

    Reply
  10. Amy Shojai

    I worry about the parasites, too. Here we’ve got lots of bunny “Easter eggs” for the Magical-Dawg’s delight.

    Reply
  11. Jana Rade

    JD is a dirt eater. He doesn’t seem to have any health issues that we were able to discover. So I guess he just likes it. Can’t imagine why LOL

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      LOL! Maybe it just tastes good.

      Reply
  12. mykidhaspawsblog

    What a fun post! Rooney is a grass eater…and occasionally he will eat a stick he comes across as well

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Magic once tried to eat a stick, and it got caught across the roof of his mouth. Scary! He came running to me, screaming, mouth wide open…and luckily let me get it out.

      Reply

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