Why Does My Dog Eat Paper?

Kids love dogs: petting them, feeding them, cuddling with them. Dogs can help give kids their first sense of responsibility — and they also provide a source of excuses when it comes to dodging responsibility. But while "the dog ate my homework" is one of the most classic examples of stories children come up with to get out of trouble, some dogs do actually eat paper, whether its homework, business reports, cardboard, toilet paper, or paper towels. If your dog is eating paper, a trip to the vet may be in order to determine the cause.

Home pet destruction on white bathroom floor with some piece of toilet paper. Pet care abstract photo. Small guilty dog with funny face.
If your dog ate cardboard or another type of paper, he could just be seeking attention or trying to entertain himself.
credit: zayatssv/iStock/GettyImages

Behavioral reasons for paper eating

As Barks Blog points out, some of the main reasons a dog will turn to eating paper are behavioral. If your dog ate cardboard or another type of paper, he could just be seeking attention or trying to entertain himself. In many cases, the dog will start by shredding the paper and inadvertently end up eating some.

If your dog is bored, he could be ripping up and eating paper just to entertain himself the same way some dogs do when they shred shoes or destroy furniture. More exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation could be all he needs to dissuade him from doing it anymore. Similarly, if he doesn't think he's getting enough attention from you, he could just start trying to rip up your papers to get you to chase him. Give him more attention and playtime that doesn't involve paper and he'll probably lose interest in it.

Finally, sometimes dogs will eat napkins, paper towels, or paper doggy bags simply because they taste good. If a piece of paper was in contact with food debris, your pup might just think it smells and tastes delicious. If this is the problem, the good news is you just need to throw away your trash, and if your dog is getting into the trash, get a locking trash can lid.

Pica in dogs

Eating non-nutritive items like paper is known as pica, according to Pet Health Network. Pica in dogs may be caused by a number of medical issues, including nutritional deficiencies, electrolyte imbalance, diabetes, high blood sugar, endocrine disorders, or even starvation, but it is not always related to a physical problem. Sometimes dogs have mental health disorders such as anxiety or polyphagia, a psychological condition where a dog constantly feels very hungry and wants to eat all the time, according to Wag.

Handling pica-related issues

If your dog seems to have developed pica, it's important to take her to the vet. Your veterinarian can help determine the underlying cause of the condition and what the proper course of treatment may be. In order to do this, the vet will likely ask you quite a few questions related to your pet's health history and behavior, particularly related to her habit of eating paper and her diet. Medical tests such as blood work, urinalyses, ultrasounds, or endoscopies may also be required.

When the problem is related to a medical issue, treatment will vary based on the specific diagnosis. If the problem is psychological in nature, training may be required, or simply keeping paper out of reach of your dog may be enough to curb the problem. Finally, if there is no medical or psychological issue detected, your vet may determine the problem is behavioral and give you advice on how to alleviate the boredom or attention-seeking problems your dog is demonstrating. If the problem is particularly bad and the problem is behavioral, your veterinarian may even suggest you see a pet behavioral therapist.