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 their diet, you should probably get them in to see the vet as soon as possible.
Does my dog have pica?
There is a medical term for the condition in which your dog seems to be obsessed with eating things they should not be eating, such as cardboard or paper. It is known as pica and includes eating items like plastic, dirt, and rocks.
Why your dog seems to be obsessed with eating cardboard is a condition that has puzzled veterinarians since time immemorial. Questions may arise when discussing your dog's cardboard obsession with the vet. Is your pup hungry? Are they getting sufficient nutrition in their diet? Are they still teething or do they have some type of canine mental illness?
Remember that canines have an innate desire to chew and explore the world with their mouths. The point here is to determine if the behavior is obsessive and related to a condition like pica, or just a simple form of exploration.
Think about your dog's health
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 furry companion getting enough nutrition in their 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 their chew toys?
■ Does your pooch display any unusual or odd behaviors that could be relevant to the eating of cardboard?
■ Do you think your dog's health might be affected by their 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.
Are there health risks for a dog that eats cardboard?
While most types of cardboard are considered to be non-toxic, there are still potential health risks associated with eating it. The most common of these are either a gastric or intestinal blockage. Depending on the severity of the blockage, your little buddy 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 their abdomen. If your four-legged companion displays any of these symptoms, you must get them to the vet as soon as possible for a checkup to see what is causing the symptoms and to get the appropriate treatment. Your vet may be able to suggest medications that can also help with your dog's pica.
It's easy to prevent
If your vet has examined your dog and determined that there is no medical reason for them eating cardboard, then it is more likely to be a behavioral issue. Try exercising your pooch more frequently. Go for long, stimulating walks that allow for sniffing and exploration. Spend as much time as you can with them during the day and provide interactive toys at playtime. You should not punish your dog for their eating issues; instead, you should work with them using commands such as "drop it" or "leave it" each time they pick 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 and out of reach, keep the bathroom doors closed, and be sure to give your dog plenty of toys to chew on.