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What is Pica?

Pets with pica eat objects that are not considered edible.  Coprophagy is the consumption of feces.  Coprophagy is a natural behavior in nursing dogs, to eat their puppy’s excrement. It is not a natural behavior in adult dogs. Pica is more common in female canines. 

In most cases, pica is a compulsive behavior problem. Pica can cause serious problems to your pet’s health. If your pet is eating non-food items, you should take him to a veterinarian. According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), compulsive behavior will not just go away on its own. The veterinarian will determine if your pet is showing behavior or if there are any underlying medical conditions.

Pica refers to a canine craving and ingesting non-food items.  Items being ingested may include dirt, rocks, paper, cloth, mulch and even feces.

Pica Average Cost

From 414 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,000

Symptoms of Pica in Dogs

You may observe your pet eating non-food objects.  Be aware that depending on what non-food items are being ingested; they can cause serious problems to your pet’s health.  Ingested foreign objects can cause internal ulcerations, gastrointestinal irritation and blockage in the intestines. Your pet may have one or more of the following symptoms, after ingesting a non-food item:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose Stool
  • Chronic bad breath

If there is a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract symptoms may include:

  • Straining during bowel movement
  • Unable to move bowels
  • Dark, tarry stools
  • Burping
  • Excessive drooling
  • Abdominal contractions
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Causes of Pica in Dogs

Pica may be caused by behavior disorders such as:

  • Anxiety or stress 
  • Trying to get attention
  • Boredom - lack of stimulation or exercise

  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Lack of socialization

Pica can be triggered by several medical conditions; which cause increased appetite such as:

  • Immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) 
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) 
  • Hookworms intestinal parasites
  • Stomach tumor
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Malnutrition 
  • Unbalanced diet

Pet prescribed medications that can increase appetite and lead to pica:

  • Corticosteroids (for example, prednisone)
  • Anti-seizure (such as phenobarbital)
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Diagnosis of Pica in Dogs

The veterinarian will take a thorough medical history of your pet.  He may ask you about your dog’s diet, appetite, thirst, bowel movements, behavior, and his activity level. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination which may include: 

  • Palpation of the stomach and lymph nodes
  • Listening to his lungs and heart with a stethoscope
  • Dog’s general body condition (weight, skin, coat)
  • Taking a look inside his ears and mouth
  • Checking eyes for redness or discharge

After the physical exam your veterinarian may recommend a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, and a serum biochemistry profile. These tests will help rule-out any underlying diseases such as iron deficiency anemia, thyroid problems or diabetes mellitus. The veterinarian may also recommend x-rays, to check for any blockage in the digestive tract.

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Treatment of Pica in Dogs

Treatment of pica in dogs will depend if it is a behavior or an underlying medical condition.

If it is determined that pica is due to behavior issues, your veterinarian may recommend increasing physical activities for your pet.  There are natural herb remedies that may help your dog with anxiety issues and have a calming effect on him. It will be necessary to keep your pet away from the non-food objects he has been ingesting. Leash walking your pet will help prevent him from eating rocks and feces. Using bitter tasting spray on the objects he is attracted to may deter him. Provide your pet with plenty of chew toys. The veterinarian may also suggest and recommend a dog behaviorist for pets that may not have been not been properly socialized or have extreme behavior disorders.

If the veterinarian team diagnosed an underlying disease or condition; a treatment plan appropriate for your pet will be discussed with you.  Additionally, a new dietary plan may be recommended.

If your pet has a gastrointestinal blockage, he will have to be hospitalized and undergo surgery. X-rays or an ultrasound will help identify the location of the obstruction. Sometimes, an endoscope can be used to remove small foreign objects that are lodged in the stomach. Your pet will be giving general anesthesia in both procedures.

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Recovery of Pica in Dogs

Follow-up visits will be necessary for your pet.  In the case of blockage of the intestinal tract, post-surgery visits will be needed to check on the incision and the removal of sutures. If an underlying disease was diagnosed, follow- ups visits will be needed to check on your pet’s progress and response to the treatment plan.

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Pica Average Cost

From 414 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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Pica Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Sierra

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Husky

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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Serious severity

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3 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Complusive Eating

My husky Sierra will not stop eating anything she can get ahold of, she has been like this since she was a puppy and had to have surgery because she swallowed a towel and socks. We watch her 24/7 but she eats fur and anything else that touches the floor before we can get it. She is even trying to eat the couch! We don't want to muzzle her 24/7 and even when I try to play with her to assure she is not bored, she gets distracted and will try to eat something.

Aug. 11, 2018

Sierra's Owner

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3 Recommendations

It can be difficult to determine whether there is just a behavioural issue in consuming everything or if Sierra is trying to compensate for a nutritional deficiency or something else; you should think about going over training repetitively to try and curb this behaviour, I’ve place two training guides linked below for you to go through, the first is more useful and you should have a look through it and try the principles. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/not-eat-everything https://wagwalking.com/training/not-eat-garbage

Aug. 11, 2018

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Myla

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American Staffordshire Terrier

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Eats Coins
Eats Rocks
Eats Paper Towels
Eats Dust
Eats Toy Filling
Eats Bugs

My American Stafforshire Terrier mix, who I've had for over a year and a half now, and just turned two in early July, seems to have many symptoms of PICA. She doesn't have much of an appetite for her regular dry food (we've tried switching it up, she refuses to eat any brand/flavor, she eats wet food without protest), however she does seem to have an appetite for coins (seeing as within two weeks of my family having her she needed an endoscopy to remove 3 from her stomach), rocks, sticks, the metal part of her leash, and even dust and bugs inside the house. We have been told by many vets and pet store owners/employees that she may have an iron deficiency, which makes sense, however the supplement we tried for a month seemed not to work. We have also been told it may be because she is bored. We are hesitant to give her any toys including the ones advertised as unbreakable because she will chew on them long enough to break them and then continue to eat the filling or pieces. She gets plenty of exercise and is outside for the majority of most days. When she's inside, my family and I keep her in a small area of our house gated off from the rest, because she will eat anything on the floor. She also has habits of growling at people when they try to stop her from doing any of these actions, although she's never hurt anyone. Anything you may suggest is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading this.

July 23, 2018

Myla's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

That is a strange problem for Myla, and some dogs are very prone to dietary indiscretion, or eating things that they shouldn't. There are basket type muzzles that might help - they aren't actual muzzles, they just prevent them from eating things they shouldn't, that you can talk to your veterinarian about to see if it might help her. They aren't very much fun, but can prevent life threatening problems. If she will eat wet food, you may be able to mix that with dry food and make her less hungry so that she isn't eating so many strange things.

July 23, 2018

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mamaB

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Pit bull

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3 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Excesivedrooling

our puppy has been caught eating and chewing on items such as, rubber, metal, wood, crayons, paper, plastic, the stuffing from their toys, chairs, sofa couchens, cords, shoe laces, and even cigaritte buds. when we catch her we usally get it out of her mouth before she can actually swollow it . but we find crayon color and sometimes hair/fur from her toys in her poop.

July 18, 2018

mamaB's Owner


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0 Recommendations

Training a puppy can be difficult and getting them to not eat everything can be challenging; the cause for consumption of non-food items may be due to a few different conditions which may include true pica, boredom or curiosity. Training and keeping items away from her is the best course of action as well as buying more hardy toys; see the link below for some tips on controlling indiscriminate eating. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/not-eat-everything

July 19, 2018

and wood peices has been visable in her poop aswell

July 18, 2018

mamaB's Owner

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Auro

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Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Pica

My Golden Retriever is 2 years and 4 months old. The problem is he never eats of his own he needs to be hand feed. he eats two good meal a day. Till this point things are okey. But the problem is when ever he is walking off leash he will run to eat newpaper, napkin, Match boxes which are seen on the road or pathway. We stay in a society thus we dont have any traffic movement that s the reason he is let off leash at time. He will never listen to command at that time and will run around like a zombie. Kindly suggest why does he behave such.

July 17, 2018

Auro's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

If he was not trained well to come and stay, he is acting like a normal dog, actually. Dogs are notorious for eating things that they should not, and most dogs that are not on leash will try to get away with that. Solutions for you would be to either keep him on a leash, or start working with a trainer to strengthen his understanding of commands.

July 17, 2018

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Demi

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Doberman Pinscher

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Eats Plastic, Paper, Dishrags

Our 3 year old Doberman came to us 6 months ago . from a rescue who rescued her and 5 more of her siblings . She was covered in her own feces and had every type of heart worms , tape warms ...etc. She only weighted 30 lbs at the time of her rescue. she is now 60 lbs. with in the first week we had her, she seemed to be adjusting nicely , other than her being spooked, scared and having trust issues . She is our 5th doberman rescue over a 25 year span .what we are concerned about , is she will eat anything, and anything she sees. Cardboard, toilet paper. 2 weeks ago , she was not eating and kept going outside all night long . We noticed she had not hand any recent bowel movements within the past 24 hours. It was over 4th of july Holiday , so we had to take her to a 24 hour veterinarian. We informed her of " Demis" liking to unusual things .. She informed us . she has pica . She tried to get a stool sample .. and hit something very hard, but mushy . she then put cloves on , and pulled out ( what looked like a washcloth ) all in one piece . For our sake and hers, she did not have to have surgery , but kept her overnight , with iv fluids, and took new x-rays the following day , to ensure all had been removed . which it was . A vet bill of $1,200 later we walked out . Now today , we caught her eating latex gloves? My husband and i both realize we can not keep everything out of her way or reach ! We are now concerned she may end up with another blockage... which we are unable to keep spending that kind of money every time we turn around ... we also had to take away all her soft squeaky toys, cause she was eating the stuffing,squeakers as well. She is supplied with many big bones, and plastic toys ( which she does not tear up ) PLEASE what can we do to get her through this ? We have taken her to our local dog park the past 2 nights where she gets along with all the dogs and runs , and runs. We were hoping that would get her anxieties out. I have also noticed , she grinds her teeth on a regular basis .. and bites her nails .. Any input would be greatly appreciated . Thank you so much

July 16, 2018

Demi's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

1 Recommendations

Sometimes there is no shortcuts when it comes to the consumption of non-food items, training can help along with the restricted access to items when not supervised; another common cause is boredom but if you’re exercising her regularly and she has plenty of toys it can be difficult to determine a specific course of action. Unfortunately there is no quick fix, ensure that she has a complete diet appropriate for age and breed as well as lot of activity and toys; I cannot think of anything else to suggest. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 16, 2018

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Sylvie

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English Springer Spaniel

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

None

Sylvie has been eating non-food items her entire life. Mainly paper and mud. Her obsession with mud makes it difficult to exercise her because she would rather eat mouthfuls of it than run/walk. The vet does not think it is related to an underlying medical issue, as she is very healthy otherwise. What makes this extra difficult is soggy napkins and gobs of mud (especially clay-like mud) are more important to her than treats or toys, so it is very hard to divert her attention. She goes on at least a 30-45 minute walk every day, and I try to take her somewhere she can off-leash run for 1+ hours at least 3 times a week. If the weather allows, she goes on 2-3 hour runs up to 5 times a week. Her consumption of paper and mud has never caused GI issues such as vomiting or diarrhea.

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Lewis

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Goldendoodle

dog-age-icon

18 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

None Other Than Chewing

My 18 month old Goldendoodle has always eaten napkins, toilet paper and socks but recently has started chewing my baseboards, staircases and bannister. Those are items I can't pick up or hide from him. I had to by a crate to keep him in when we are gone which I would prefer not to do, but he is destroying the actual house. Any advice?

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Finn

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Miniature Australian Shepherd

dog-age-icon

9 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Pica

My Finn is a 9mos old Mini Aussie who eats anything and I mean anything he can get in his mouth...such as rocks, concrete, rags, socks, sheets, blankets, toys, sticks, bark etc. I seriously don't know what to do. Please help me I'm open to any suggestions. I'm afraid we're gonna end up in a pet hospital soon. I feed him Diamond All Life Stages 1 1/2 cup morning and evening. Does he need any vitamins?

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Bernie

dog-breed-icon

Rottweiler Mix

dog-age-icon

9 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Anxiety
Chewing

Our 9 month old puppy Bernie has been in and out of the vet because of his odd eating/chewing behavior. He eats our cats poo, his own poo, grass, bird seed, blankets, pillows, dirt, etc. He barbers his tail & legs, most recently on his rear paws causing them to turn red and inflamed. We took him to the vet about a month ago and had blood work & stool work done - they reported back that there doesn't seem to be anything wrong and that he just had anxiety. When we first adopted him, he had intestinal worms and the same vet helped us treat those. He always eats grass when we take him on walks and on days when my husband and I are out of the house longer than usual (we don't leave him alone for more than 1-3 hours at a time per day) he gets really bad diarrhea for the next couple of days. We give him CBD treatments and loads of hardy chew toys (he will go through a large Himalayan cheese chew in less than 12 hours - which means we have to monitor his chew toy intake), but he still finds chewing on himself the best option. He can no longer have tennis balls because he will rip off the felt and eat it. He was kenneled about three weeks ago and came home with a cough and bad diarrhea. We had the vet confirm that he had kennel cough, which we believe he had recovered from now. Whenever he gets bad diarrhea (which feels like more than half of his life) he chews on himself, especially around his bum & tail, even worse. We have changed his diet four times already in the assumption that it might be allergy related, but at this point we are fairly sure it is psychological. He is in training classes and goes on 5k walks 3-6 times per week. He has daily playtime outside and we work on trying to keep him occupied as much as possible. We crate him when we are out of the house and at night and we never have any issues as he usually sleeps in his crate and chews on himself when he is around us. Any advice or recommendations on what to do for him would be helpful. He is an incredibly happy dog who suffers from major anxiety...

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Wheatie

dog-breed-icon

terrier

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Depression,

My 14 year old dog was Up last night grazing our floor in the house and eating any dirt, grass or foxtails he could find. He even started putting clothes in his mouth. I did give him food and he ate every bit of it. He has a history of eating foxtails. We had about 30 removed from his teeth not long ago and then had many rotten teeth pulled.

Pica Average Cost

From 414 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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