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Ever stumbled upon your pretty Poodle eating rocks one too many times? Your pup could be suffering from canine pica, a compulsive eating disorder where a dog eats non-food items regularly. Canines with this problem often chew on rocks, paper, dirt, flaking paint, grass, even feces.
Canine pica is best dealt with as it can lead to choking, poisoning, gut blockages, and other issues. If you catch your mutt constantly chewing on rocks or non-food items, be sure to consult your vet for proper diagnosis. This type of eating disorder rarely goes away on its own. The vet will tell the root cause of the behavior and offer long-lasting solutions.
To keep you on the loop about this behavior, here are 16 facts about dogs that eat rocks you should be aware of.
1. Poor Nutrition Could be the Cause
If your dog is eating rocks, he could be looking for certain nutrients lacking in his food. Perhaps the diet doesn’t have sufficient minerals, probiotic bacteria, or some vitamins. If this is so, you will need to ensure that your dog’s meals are nutritionally-balanced to avoid the recurrence of the disorder.
2. A Raw Diet May Eliminate the Behavior
Vets have said it over and over again: when it comes to dogs, raw diets are better than cooked diets. Cooked food doesn’t contain some essential minerals present in raw pet food. For instance, having your furry friend feed on raw bones regularly ensures he has plenty of minerals in his body. This may help him avoid chewing on rocks, shoes, and furniture.
3. Some Rocks May Help With Nutritional Supplements
In case you are wondering if your dog gets essential minerals and vitamins from eating rocks, the answer is yes, sometimes. Some rocks contain calcium, potassium, and other important stuff for a dog’s body. The problem is that these usually have toxic substances that end up causing more harm than good.
4. Dogs that eat Rocks Could be Having Gut Inflammation Problems
The search for minerals and vitamins could also stem from a chronic medical condition such as hypothyroidism or inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammation in the bowel can cause ulceration or bleeding which may result in anemia. Fortunately, a vet can help alleviate these issues medically.
5. Rocks are Tasty To Some Dogs
If a dog is into eating dirt, it may not be as a result of poor nutrition per se. Maybe your pup just longs for a specific taste such as a hamburger or bacon that they hope to find in the dirt. Luckily, this is a less-serious cause for worry.
The way you exhibit a strange behavior due to boredom or stress is the same way your canine friend can act out when going through the same behaviors. In that case, when they chew on rocks for hours on end, think of it as a way of entertaining themselves.
7. Eating Rocks Can Calm The Stomach
Eating rocks isn’t all bad, after all. Apparently, certain types of clay can actually help soothe the gut and help fight parasites. Dogs even detoxify their digestive tracts through eating rocks. The principle is simple: rocks help push through whatever is the gut. It could also act as an abrasive to clean the intestinal wall. Finally, it also aids in more contractions in the gut to help move material faster.
8. The Behavior Introduces Toxic Substances To A Dog’s Body
Whether it is rocks, dirt, or grass, dogs can suffer greatly by ingesting non-food items. Some of them contain poisons, pesticides, and toxins that can severely upset your dog’s stomach.
9. Add mineral supplements to avoid Rock eating Behavior
If your dog doesn’t have enough nutrients in their diet, adding mineral supplements is highly recommended to stop the rock-eating behavior. Use bone meal or a range of other mineral supplements if you cannot afford meaty bones. Try chicken backs, chicken necks, chicken thighs, duck necks, and chicken wings for the best results.
10. Eating Rocks Can Cause Respiratory or Gastrointestinal Blockage
Eating rocks or dirt can cause a respiratory blockage. And if that’s the case, your dog may need to undergo surgery to clear the obstruction. In some cases, however, an endoscope may be used if smaller objects get caught in the digestive tract.
11. Psychological and Medical Causes
Besides, nutritional causes, most rock-eating cases in dogs are also related to psychological problems and medical conditions. Some of the psychological reasons why your dog may suffer from pica include stress, depression, frustration, lack of socialization, anxiety, attention-seeking, and lack of physical or mental stimulation. Medical reasons why a dog may go for non-food items include teething (in puppies), diabetes, hyperthyroidism, vitamin deficiencies, parasitic infection, anemia, stomach tumors, exposure to anti-seizure drugs, corticosteroids, and neurological diseases among others.
12. Removing Rocks from Your Dog’s Environment Can Help
Whether the cause of the behavior is nutritional, psychological, or medical, limiting the dog’s access to objects that he constantly eats can go a long way in eliminating this harmful behavior. If your dog loves eating rocks, for instance, keep him out of rocky areas or parks. In case you feel that this is too restrictive, always have more attractive treat options—such as Kong—when your dog is in rocky environments. There are also sprays that can deter your dog from eating non-food items. You can opt for basket muzzle in extreme cases but you need to ensure that the muzzle doesn’t limit your dog’s ability to breathe. It is not also advisable to let your dog wear the muzzle for long.
13. Rock-eating Behavior Doesn’t Just Go Away
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), rock-eating behavior doesn’t just go away. Besides giving your dog the right foods to combat any potential nutritional deficiencies or drugs to cure the underlying medical condition, you may still need to expose it to special training to restrain this behavior.
14. The rock-eating behavior can be used as a cue to get something better
Also referred to as operant conditioning, the rock can be used as a cue to help the dog do something better. For instance, it is possible to train your dog to learn that if he seeks rocks, he is going to get a treat if he turns around and goes to the house. If done properly, it can be a good way to manage the rock-eating behavior because it gets you (the owner) out of the picture and teaches your pup to make decisions himself.
15. Meals are best spread throughout the day for dogs that eat rocks
When treating rock-eating behavior in dogs, leading vets recommend feeding your dog three or four small plates of food rather than two large ones. This way, the body can easily digest and absorb it effectively.
Rock-eating behavior is not welcome news to any pet owner. The constant worry that your four-legged friend could be sick not to mention the possibility of respiratory or gastrointestinal blockage is not pleasant. If you notice that your dog has a craving for rocks, contact your vet as soon as possible.