Is It Dangerous for My Dog to Eat Cardboard?

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Does your dog seem to be obsessed with eating things like paper and cardboard? While chewing on a bone or munching on the occasional table scrap is quite normal, eating any type of paper product most definitely is not. If your pup only does this on an occasional basis, there may not be anything to worry about, as most cardboard products made today are non-toxic. However, if your four-legged friend can't seem to get enough cardboard in his diet, you should probably get him in to see the vet as soon as possible.


Pica: Obsession with Eating Things Your Dog Should Not Be Eating

There is a medical term for the condition in which your dog seems to be obsessed with eating things that should not be eating such as cardboard or paper. Pica.

Why your dog seems to be obsessed with eating cardboard is a condition that has puzzled veterinarians since time immemorial. Questions arise such as: Is your dog hungry? Is he getting sufficient nutrition in his diet? Is he still teething or does he have some type of mental illness?

The origin of the word “pica” dates far back in the annals of history as reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Pica was first used as a term for a perverted craving for substances unfit to be used as food by Ambrose Paré (1509-1590). Pica is the medieval Latin name for the bird called the magpie, who, it is claimed, has a penchant for eating almost anything. When we say a child is suffering from pica, we are really calling him a magpie.”


Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you take your pup to the vet, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. These are the same ones your vet is going to ask you.

■ Is your dog getting enough nutrition in his diet?
■ Is your dog suffering from any type of biological imbalance? (You may not be able to answer this one)
■ Do you give your dog enough opportunities to enjoy his chew toys?
■ Does your dog display any unusual or odd behaviors that could be relevant to his eating cardboard?
■ Do you think your dog's health might be affected by his eating cardboard?

The idea behind these questions is to help your vet rule out a variety of other medical conditions, in particular, those which may have what is called a "discreet treatment pathway." Once your vet has determined that none of these conditions exist, the next step is to decide what to do about the fact your dog likes to eat cardboard.


Health Risks Associated with Your Dog Eating Cardboard

While most types of cardboard are considered to be non-toxic, there are still potential health risks associated with eating cardboard. The most common of these are either a gastric or intestinal blockage. Depending on the severity of the blockage, your dog may require emergency surgery to remove the blockage and it does have the potential to be fatal if not caught soon enough.
Symptoms associated with an obstruction are vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, a fever in excess of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, and a refusal to eat or drink. Your dog may also exhibit pain in his abdomen. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, you must get him to the vet as soon as possible for a checkup to see what is causing his symptoms and to get the appropriate treatment. Your vet may also be able to suggest medications that can also help with your dog's pica.


Preventing Your Dog from Eating Cardboard

If your vet has examined your dog and determined that there is no medical reason for your dog eating cardboard, then it is more likely to be a behavioral issue. Try exercising him more frequently and spending as much time as you can with him during the day. You should not punish him for his eating issues, instead, you should work with him using commands such as "drop it" or "leave it" each time he picks up paper or cardboard to eat.

Finally, do your best to keep any paper products and cardboard up and out of your dog's way. Keep products in cabinets up and out of reach, keep the bathroom doors closed, and be sure to give your dog plenty of toys for him to chew on.