Why your dog eats gross things, and how you can help prevent him from doing so.
Smelly garbage, used tissues, even (don’t gag)—poop. Dogs eat some really gross things sometimes. What seems unappealing and nasty to humans sometimes smells so interesting or out of the ordinary that a curious dog has to fully investigate it. Sometimes boredom or anxiety leads a dog to eat things that seem truly disgusting.
In some cases, too, the tendency to eat non-nutritive items (a condition called “pica”) might indicate that a dog has a medical condition. A mineral deficiency, electrolyte imbalance, or anemia might compel a dog to eat things such as dirt, clay, sand, paper, plastic, chalk, fabric, compost, moldy garbage or—you guessed it—poop.
This behavior, the most common type of pica in dogs, has an official name: coporophagia. And while it seems completely gross, it typically isn’t harmful to your dog, unless he is eating feces from another animal that might contain intestinal parasites.
So how can you keep your dog from engaging in this behavior? First and foremost, if your dog begins displaying signs of pica, that is, eating items other than his regular food or treats, have him examined by your vet. Again, pica can be a sign of a medical condition, and you’ll want your vet to rule out any underlying veterinary issues.
Eating objects such as rocks, string, fabric or plastic can also lead to gastric upset, vomiting, diarrhea and even intestinal obstructions. Your vet can offer suggestions on how to prevent the behavior, including making sure your pet is receiving all the nutrients he needs from his regular diet. Other tips for discouraging your dog from eating weird or gross things include:
- Clean up after your dog right away, so he doesn’t have access to his own feces.
- Consider using an additive with his food that makes his feces unappealing to him. Check with your vet before adding this to his food.
- Make sure he can’t access the litter box (but make sure your cat still can!).
- Watch him carefully when you visit areas frequented by other dogs so he doesn’t ingest another animal’s waste.
- Use garbage cans with lids that close securely.
- Take out indoor trash frequently, especially particularly smelly items.
- If your dog still goes after the trash when you’re not home to supervise him, consider crate training him so he can’t access it when you’re away.
- Be vigilant about keeping items such as string, plastic, and fabric out of his reach.
About the Author: Stacy N. Hackett is an award-winning writer with more than 25 years’ experience in the pet industry. She is the former editor of Pet Product News and a former staff editor with Cat Fancy, Cats USA, Critters USA and Ferrets USA. To learn more about her work, visit stacynhackett.vpweb.com.