You may have noticed that from time to time, your dog picks up strange things and eats them. Some dogs do this more than others and some never do it at all. However with some dogs this develops into a real behavioural problem which is known as “pica”. Dogs have been seen to eat all sorts of things including sweet wrappers, toilet paper and even their owner's socks!
Pica can be a real issue because sometimes your pet might just swallow something that will cause them a serious injury. As such, you need to try to stop them from doing it as soon as you notice they have picked up this bad habit. But why do dogs do this? There are several reasons why your pet may start to eat and swallow strange objects which are listed below:
There are a few medical conditions that dogs suffer from which could lead to them swallowing objects they shouldn't. This includes esophageal dysphagia which is a condition that would need to be ruled out by a visit to the vet before you do anything else.
Your dog's diet is very important and needs to be a well-balanced one that includes all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants so they remain strong, healthy and happy. If there are deficiencies in your pet's diet, they may just start eating strange things in an attempt to make up for the deficiencies. If you need help or advice you should talk to your vet or contact a pet nutritionist.
If the vet manages to rule out the root cause of the problem as being either physical and dietary, then it could be that your dog has picked up a bad behavioural habit which needs to be addressed as soon as possible. There are many reasons why a dog might be eating things they shouldn't which includes the following:
Dogs are clever creatures and quickly learn things which includes picking a foreign object up and eating it to gain their owner's attention. As soon as an owner realises what their pet is doing, they immediately go to them to take the object away – this is in fact reinforcing and rewarding your dog for their behaviour, albeit unintentional. You can tell your dog off, but the result is the same, they have got your attention which is what they wanted to do.
Some breeds of dog get extremely bored very quickly and if they are left to their own devices for too long will find ways to amuse themselves. One of these is to start chewing things and then eventually this can progress to swallowing any objects they get in their mouths. Remember, a dog explores the world with their mouths – especially when they are young and as such this could lead to them developing the pica behavioural problem.
As mentioned above, young dogs and puppies explore the new world they live in with their mouths. As such, they can quickly learn things whether good or bad and this includes behavioural problems like pica. If a puppy is left on their own for long periods of time, they may well develop pica which then becomes a carry over into their adult lives if not stopped early enough.
Because dogs explore the world with their mouths and noses, they can easily pick up the habit quite by accident. Your pet may have taken possession of an object and liked the smell of it and the feel of it, which led to them eating it. This means you would need to spot the problem early so it does not become a habit.
By far the easiest way to treat this type of behavioural problem is to make sure your dog gets loads of exercise and plenty of “play time”. You also need to make sure they are being fed a correctly balanced diet which includes all the essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino-acids and antioxidants so it's not deficient in anything.
In an ideal world you should exercise your dog at least twice a day and then provide them with as much companionship as possible so they never feel lonely or get bored. A tired and happy dog is far less likely to want to pick up something they shouldn't and then eat it.
Another great idea is to provide your pet with lots of safe things they can chew and swallow. This includes rawhide doggy treats, but make sure they are good quality ones. The one thing you must never do is tease your dog with a chewy toy because this will just stimulate them and they may then start to chew on things they shouldn't.
If your dog is eating things as a way to get your attention, then you need to ignore them even if they already have an object in their mouths. No reaction from you is the best course of action and dogs are not silly, they will soon get bored with their actions. However, if the item poses a danger to them, you have to intervene. If you can divert your dog's attention, all the better because then you can intervene before they get a chance to pick the object up.
Other ways that may help prevent your dog's pica behaviour include the following:
Some dogs develop this behavioural problem and it can be hard to break but with time and a bit more supervision, it is possible to stop them from eating things they shouldn't. As long as you give your pet plenty of exercise and a well balanced diet your dog will be happy and healthy - but most of all they will not be bored or deficient in any of the nutrients they need which may lead to them having pica.