Why Do Dogs Eat Strange Things?

Dogs have been known to eat non-food items like rocks, razor blades, plastic, glue and even cat poop -- but why? There are a number of possible reasons why Fido may be stuffing himself with strange stuff.

Nutritional Deficiencies and Medical Conditions

Today’s dog foods provide adequate nutrition for Fido’s needs. However, some foods may be lower in certain nutrients, resulting in Fido’s need to supplement his diet. Some dogs with certain medical conditions, such as Cushing's disease, malabsorption syndrome or hyperthyroidism, are prone to eating feces. Coprophagia, or stool eating, is a form of pica. It’s a good idea to have a vet check Fido for any nutritional deficiencies or medical conditions. Rotating the types of food you feed Fido helps ensure he gets a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Boredom and Anxiety

Dogs get bored easily, especially if Fido doesn’t have an outlet for burning energy. Eating whatever he can find is something he does to pass the time. Dogs who are stressed or have separation anxiety will often eat anything in front of them to relieve stress or out of frustration because you aren’t there. Make sure Fido gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to decrease boredom. If Fido suffers from anxiety, talk to your vet or a certified animal behaviorist about how to treat him.

Need to Chew

Dogs love to chew, and Fido may be so into whatever strange thing he’s found that he accidentally swallows it. Make sure your dog has appropriate toys that he can’t swallow, and always keep anything you don’t want chewed out of his reach.

Instinct

Dogs who have been confined to a crate or small area for long periods of time often eat feces to clean up their living quarters. As scavengers, Fido’s ancestors ate the feces of other animals simply because it was available. Fido may still have that instinct to eat whatever he can find. Instinct can be hard to overcome, but a certified dog trainer can help you learn how to reduce his impulse to scavenge.

Curiosity

Fido tastes and explores the texture of strange objects with his mouth. Sometimes he swallows the object accidentally or because it tasted good. As much as possible, keep objects Fido can swallow out of reach and be alert to anything he could swallow while walking or playing in the yard.

Cravings and Taste

Fido’s craving for a certain taste might be responsible for what he eats, especially in cases of grass and dirt eating. Pet Library suggests that dogs in the wild ate grass for fiber and that they would have eaten grass or leaves in or around the animal they ate for dinner. Dirt and sand often contain traces of other animals, insects or garbage residue, making the dirt just part of the yummy treat. Keeping Fido away from tasty dirt is the only way to stop him from eating it.

By Jodi L. Hartley

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References

PetWave: Why Dogs Eat Dirt
Sacramento SPCA: When Your Dog Eats Weird Stuff
Pet Library: Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
PetWave: Why Dogs Eat Poop (Coprophagia)

About the Author
Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for a pet service/retail business, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and an M.B.A.