What are Consumption of Nonfood Items?
Consumption of unusual objects by canines can be a behavioral problem such as boredom or may be a condition called pica. A dog with pica seeks out and eats feces, material, sticks, stones and other non-food items.
If it seems to be a compulsive behavior, then a physical check-up with your veterinarian is advised to rule out dietary deficiencies or any other health issues such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or brain lesions. While grass acts as a dietary supplement to aid your dog’s digestion, other items may cause severe health problems if your dog swallows parts of the object.
Chewing on non-food items is not uncommon, and only becomes a problem if your dog constantly seeks out strange objects to chew and ingest.
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Symptoms of Consumption of Nonfood Items in Dogs
Your dog may be eating unusual objects such as soap, dirt, clay, plastic or rubber and other items that are not ‘normal’ to eat. The ingestion of non-food items can cause pain or endanger your dog’s health as it affects the gastrointestinal tract.
- Bad breath – especially when your dog is eating feces, either its own or the cat's poop
- Damage to your pet’s teeth from eating or chewing hard objects
- Compulsive behavior
- Poor coat and health condition
- Attention seeking behavior
- Abdominal pain
Causes of Consumption of Nonfood Items in Dogs
- The eating of non-food items can be a behavioral problem (to get more attention or relieve boredom), or it can be medically related
- Disease of the endocrine system such as high levels of thyroid hormone in the blood
- Medications your dog is on may lead to increased appetite
- Low levels of digestive enzymes to manage food intake
- Anemia, which results in low red blood cell count
- Inability to digest or absorb food causing hunger
- Internal bacterial or parasitic growth
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Eating feces is a disgusting habit for dogs in human terms of thinking, but your dog is attracted naturally to it; for example, cat faeces have a high protein content which is why your dog seeks it out (while eating feces is not appealing to see it will not harm your dog, but can become an unpleasant habit if not guided away from the habit during the early stages)
- Punishing your dog for eliminating in the house may teach your pet to eat their poop to avoid further punishment
- Chewing on sticks (which leads to the swallowing of sharp chunks) can become a self-destructive behavior
- Low roughage diets can lead to excessive grass eating
- Anxiety at being left alone for long stretches of time
Diagnosis of Consumption of Nonfood Items in Dogs
While the eating and chewing of non-food items can be annoying, it can become a huge risk to your dog’s health if left unchecked. The swallowing of sharp non-food items can cause internal injuries, blockages within your pet’s system, and deteriorating health due to parasitic or bacterial overgrowth. Punishment for your dog can only make the condition worse. The first thing to do is get your pet checked by your veterinarian to see whether a medical condition or nutritional deficiency exists. Your veterinarian will want to know the full history of your dog, the diet you are feeding him, exercise regimen, and any recent changes in behavior. As well as all that, he will want to know about your handling methods and the dog’s environment.
A full physical examination will be done to rule out any underlying medical causes. If your dog passes the medical side of the examination, then attention will shift to how to fulfill your dog’s needs and change destructive or compulsive behaviors to more acceptable habits. It is a fact that once a dog forms a lasting habit, it can be very hard to break it. Any unacceptable habit or behavior from your dog needs to be dealt with (in a kind and positive manner- harsh punishment never works and is unacceptable) immediately to prevent it becoming part of your pet’s normal behavior.
Treatment of Consumption of Nonfood Items in Dogs
Once all possible medical reasons are ruled out, your veterinarian may suggest changing your dog’s diet and providing a variety of textures and flavors rather than just the same old bland diet. If there are nutritional deficiencies, he may suggest a supplement in addition to your pet’s diet. Treatment then comes down to prevention and retaining. Prevention includes ensuring your dog’s environment is clean from plastic, metal objects, plants (especially toxic plants) and the removal of their poop. You will need to be consistent in your observation of your dog's behavior. Providing more exercise in your pet’s day to burn off the energy that all dogs have will help.
Put a leash on your dog so you can control what he gets into while out walking. You may need to use a muzzle to prevent your pooch from eating everything in sight at home but watch for overheating, your dog cools itself by opening its mouth to pant. Retraining your dog to ‘drop it’ when it comes to foreign objects will help. Reward good behavior and be patient, dogs take some time to relearn things. Spend more quality time with your pet to decrease his anxiety when left alone. It takes time to overcome this condition, patience and a loving heart are the requirements you need to cure this situation.
Recovery of Consumption of Nonfood Items in Dogs
If the consumption of non-food items is a habit, retraining is essential to break the cycle of the unwanted behavior. Cleaning up your dog’s environment so he cannot eat inappropriate articles is essential. In return, reward your dog with some nice new (safe) toys. If your dog is at left home alone often, provide quality time as in a walk first thing in the morning before you go to work, and again when you return home.
A fun game or two will burn off that energy and combined with a varied diet full of interest that is satisfying to your dog may help refocus his attention on other things. It takes time and patience to get your dog to break a long-established habit, so the trick is to watch out for inappropriate behavior such as chewing everything in sight and redirect his energy to other things.