What is Eating Dirt?
There may be several reasons why your dog is eating dirt. Pica is referred to as the consumption of non-food objects. When consuming only dirt (earth, soil, or clay), the condition is known as geophagia. Typically, dogs, especially young dogs and puppies, tend to do a lot of exploration within their environment. This, unfortunately, can result in the eating of items that are not quite understood by owners, such as the eating of dirt. Dirt can include soil when they are outside, especially when they are kept outdoors for long periods of time. Dirt can also include indoor potted plants, and even sand. This condition can be a mild to moderate behavioral disorder or a more moderate to severe disorder in terms of dietary insufficiency. If your dog is eating dirt on a consistent basis, contact your veterinarian for an appointment.
While seemingly confusing to many owners, your dog may be eating dirt for a few reasons. Reasons for eating dirt may include:
- Enjoys the taste
- Dietary Insufficiency
- Gastric upset
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Why Eating Dirt Occurs in Dogs
There are several different reasons why your dog may partake in the consumption of dirt. Fortunately, many of these reasons can be effectively treated by your veterinarian. The conditions which cause this habit may include:
Perhaps your dog is spending too much time outside without any stimulation, and that is what could cause him to want to dig and eat the dirt. Dogs that are bored tend to show odd behaviors, but to them, it is just something to do to pass the time.
Enjoys the Taste
Believe it or not, some dogs enjoy the taste of dirt. This may be for the same reasons as some that enjoy the taste of cat droppings in the litter box. Your dog may be eating dirt because he has been accustomed to the taste since he was a puppy, a time in his life in which he used his mouth and tongue to explore his surroundings.
Anemia or Dietary Deficiency
As a result of the deficiency of healthy red blood cells, your dog could be eating dirt to recover any deficiencies in the blood. Your dog could also be eating dirt due to dietary and mineral abnormalities.
Indigestion or a sour stomach can occur in dogs, and some dogs actually find dirt soothing to the stomach. This natural remedy may act as a scrubbing agent for the stomach and intestines. The dog may be looking for something to help make digestion a little easier.
What to do if your Dog is Eating Dirt
If you witness your dog eating dirt or if he comes inside with dirt on his face and mouth, take some time the next time he goes outside to see if you can observe his behavior. If you notice he is eating dirt often, make an appointment with your veterinarian to get him checked out for any medical issues.
Once you arrive at the veterinarian, your veterinarian will want to know more about his dirt-eating habit. He will ask questions about his diet, home-life, lifestyle, how long he is outside at a time, and other questions to gather more information.
He may then decide to perform a biochemistry profile to check his organs, blood testing, and a urinalysis. These tests will tell the veterinarian if your dog is suffering from a deficiency or anemia. The urine test will also check for sediment or stones that may be formed from the ingestion of dirt or sand.
Prevention of Eating Dirt
In order to prevent your dog from eating dirt, and if this behavior is not because of a health issue, you will need to take certain steps to make this behavior stop. This will take some time and energy from you; however, it may be worth it if you want the dirt eating to end. Supervision is the key to stopping your dog from eating dirt. You will need to go outside with him every time he goes out. If you have a fenced in yard and typically allow him to go out without a leash, it will be crucial to monitor him. As soon as you see him begin to eat dirt, you will need to immediately distract him. You can use a verbal command, a loud noise or the clapping of your hands to divert his attention. You can have play toys outside to play with him so he can get some energy out of his system and prevent boredom.
If this method does not seem to help, and if your dog continues to want to try to eat dirt, you may need to put him on a leash and take him out that way. Having your dog on a leash will help you pull him away from any dirt he is starting to eat. It is very important that you use a harness rather than a traditional dog collar for this, because a harness allows you to safely pull him away rather than choking him or damaging his trachea in the process.
A behavioral therapist can also be considered if your dog is still adamant about eating dirt, even if on a leash. A behavioral therapist will teach you how to properly divert your dog’s attention, as it is very important to not punish your dog for his behavior. You may contact your veterinarian and he will recommend an effective behavioral therapist for your dirt-eating dog.
Cost of Eating Dirt
If you choose to see a canine behavioral therapist as treatment for your dog, it may cost you approximately $500, depending on the length of time you need with the professional. For anemia treatment, it can cost up to $5500, and for a painful abdomen up to $1800.
Eating Dirt Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hello, My name is Bianca. About two weeks ago I took home a 2.5 month old feral kitten! It's winter and I felt bad for her so I decided to give her a home where her basic necessities will be meet. I read online that feral cats are very hard to socialize but she warmed up after a couple of days! At first she was very scared and distant. But now she playful, affectionate (rubs against my ankles, loves to be pet etc.) and I'm 110% sure that she was a feral kitten! Anyways, this morning I noticed a swollen pus-filled puncture near the back of her neck. She's beginning to lose hair around the area, and inside the puncture is white pus. The smell isn't too great either. I looked more into it and found out the cause was probably from being bitten by another cat in her colony! Before I never noticed it! It was never there! Maybe it takes time get infected? Immediately, I gave her a warm bath and rinsed the wound as best as I could. She doesn't seemed to be isn't effected by it at all. I tried draining it by pressing against the sides of her skin, but it did not work.(She did not show signs of any pain, otherwise I would've stopped!) And I definitely don't want to make matter worse. Will she be okay? Is there anything I can do to help? My mother is very broke, and cannot afford to seek medical help. I'm at a lose, I'm not sure what to do. I don't know if it will heal by itself or if she NEEDS medical attention. If she did I couldn't help... If there is anything I can do please let me know. Thank you :/ SHE IS NOT EATING DIRT. I didn't know where else to ask this question, sorry :p
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