Okay, I admitted it. I, for months, have had a hard time grasping that perhaps my dog has rocks for brains because he eats grass, soil, dirt… anything, as a meal supplement.
Every time I see him doing so, I stop him but I didn’t get really adamant about it until I saw him munching on rocks for his afternoon snack. This sort of activity is extremely dangerous, so I stopped him from doing so and took him in the house. The next day, I see him trying to fit his mouth around a rock the size of a softball. My dog is a still a puppy, so I am still ruling out a lot of behavioral issues such as boredom and anxiety; and also some nutritional issues. I have him on a high protein diet right now, so his stomach may not be able to handle it and he’s grazing on grass, dirt, and rocks to help his stomach settle. But in the back of my head I know that I need to fix this quick because his consumption of nonfood items has already developed into a disorder known as Pica.
Pica is a disorder that occurs with the consumption of non-food items. While a lot of the disorder can be explained by puppy boredom, the disorder gets extremely dangerous when your dog starts consuming rocks, wood, plastic, etc. The consumption of these items can cause your dog’s teeth to break and blockage in their digestive tracts.
I admit I became nonchalant about my dog eating everything in sight because I attributed it to puppyhood. It is important to not become complacent about it though. Gobbling and eating inedible objects can morph into a compulsive disorder and once that happens, it is harder to break the pattern. Like me, if you think your dog might have Pica, you need to rule out several things:
First, what kind of enrichment does he have during the day? How much daily playtime and exercise does he have? A dog that has a Kong or Buster Cube to work on during the day will be less likely to chew on siding or trees. Similarly, if your dog is playing fetch with you and going on walks, he will be less likely to play with the rocks in your yard.
Have you taken your dog to the vet?
Talk to your vet about your dog’s nutrition including the type of diet you have him on. Have the doctor rule out parasites or digestive disorders. Your dog may be consuming grass and soil to help with nausea or to induce vomiting.
Resolving Pica is not impossible.
Using taste deterrents such as Bitter Apple and Fooey can help by making the items that you don’t want your dog eating unappealing and bad tasting. The key to success is supervising your dog’s whereabouts and behavior. When he has something that you don’t want him eating, remove it from his mouth and replace it with an appropriate toy or tasty treats that he can consume. Increase his physical activity and make sure that he has plenty of fun enrichment items when you are not around.
If Pica has turned into a compulsive disorder, such as your dog seeming motivated and obsessed to find the non-food/non-edible item to consume it, and you cannot resolve the problem with behavior/medical changes, you may need to seek the advice of a Veterinary Behaviorist.