Our dog Sherlock became obsessed with eating worms and dirt a few years ago. If you share the same dilemma, you’re probably asking: how do I get my dog to stop eating earthworms? In this post, discover effective methods to prevent your dog from eating earthworms and keep them safe.
Can earthworms make dogs sick?
While earthworms are generally harmless to dogs, there are a few risks associated with their consumption. One potential danger is that earthworms may carry parasites, such as roundworms or hookworms, which can be transmitted to dogs upon ingestion. These parasites can cause various health issues, including gastrointestinal upset, weight loss, and even anemia if left untreated.
Another concern is that some earthworms may have come into contact with pesticides or other harmful substances in the environment. If a dog ingests an earthworm that has been exposed to toxic chemicals, it can lead to poisoning and potentially serious health complications. The soil could also be harboring ticks, fleas, and the dreaded Cryptococcus.
Furthermore, if a dog consumes a large number of earthworms, it can result in digestive problems such as vomiting or diarrhea. Given these potential risks, it is advisable to take steps to discourage your dog from eating earthworms. But, how do I get my dog to stop eating earthworms?
Why do dogs eat earthworms?
The first step to fixing your dog’s appetite for earthworms is to understand why he is eating it in the first place. Below are some of the most common reasons:
Boredom can lead your dog to graze around and they may happen upon an exciting earthworm crawling around. Dogs that are not given ample physical and mental stimulation will channel their energy into other activities. It could be eating earthworms, eating cat poop, or eating goose poop outdoors.
2. Scavenging instinct
Canines are scavengers by nature, so don’t be surprised if your pet will look for weird snacks on the ground. Unfortunately, scavenging is a hard-wired instinct among canines, so it’s hard to train a dog out of it fully.
3. Dietary indiscretion
Dietary indiscretion is very common among dogs. Unlike humans, canines aren’t aware that some items aren’t supposed to be eaten. This is why dogs also chew and eat socks, shoes, couch material, and other indigestible matter. Many cases end up requiring surgical intervention to remove the ingested material.
4. Nutritional deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies can also trigger grazing in canines. It explains why some dogs eat grass, earthworms, and other organic matter. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from this problem, you should bring it to the vet for proper examination. This way, you’ll also know if diet changes or supplementation are necessary.
If your dog is eating earthworms and other inedible items obsessively, it might be suffering from a condition called Pica. Dogs with this condition will eat non-food items up to life-threatening extents. The reason behind Pica isn’t fully known. Still, many dogs diagnosed with this problem often suffer from nutritional deficiencies, anxiety, or organ disease, among others.
How do I get my dog to stop eating earthworms
Once you identify the cause behind your dog’s earthworm obsession, let’s answer: how do I get my dog to stop eating earthworms? Here are the steps you can take:
1. Limit its access outdoors
Limiting your dog’s access to soil outdoors will stop it from picking and eating earthworms. Still, it’s essential to offer alternative outdoor access such as walking around the block or areas with less soil and more grass.
2. Intervene with the behavior
Monitor your dog closely in soft soil areas and teach your dog the command ‘leave it’ with positive reinforcement. Make sure to reinforce it during walks or playtime. This will help them understand that they should not touch or eat anything on the ground, including earthworms.
3. Keep your dog leashed and/or muzzled.
If your dog has to go outdoors, it’s best to keep it leashed at all times. This way, the doggo won’t look after earthworms without your control. For dogs that are difficult to train, consider a soft muzzle that covers their mouth to prevent them from eating anything on the ground, including earth worms.
4. Avoid ‘wormy’ areas
If there’s a specific spot where your dog tends to harvest earthworms, it’s best to avoid it. However, if it’s inside your yard, you can set up an electric dog fence to block your dog’s access to the area.
5. Provide distraction
Playing fetch, tug ropes, and ball toys are excellent distractions for your dog. These toys and activities will keep your dog busy, so it won’t search and eat earthworms in your yard. Make these distractions as physically and mentally stimulating as possible so you satisfy your dog’s play drive.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does earthworm taste like?
From what I heard, earthworms have a distinct earthy taste. This isn’t surprising since earthworms are composed of soil and other organic matter. In fact, earthworms are considered a delicacy in some parts of China, New Zealand, and the Amazon. Earthworms are actually a source of proteins, iron, and other minerals.
Can earthworms carry parasites?
Although small, earthworms can have many intestinal parasites. They can be hosts to different protozoa, nematodes, and Platyhelminthes. Most of these parasites don’t pose severe threats to canines and humans. Still, it’s not wise to let your dog snack on them because some can experience stomach upset.
Take note that earthworms can also ingest roundworm eggs. So if your dog ate the earthworm, the eggs might proliferate inside its stomach.
Can earthworms live in your dog’s stomach?
Earthworms aren’t capable of surviving on the acidic nature of a canine stomach. So the moment the worm reaches your pet’s tummy, digestion will start, and the worm will die.
How do I get my dog to stop eating earthworms? The key here is interrupting the behavior, providing alternative activities, and limiting your dog’s access outdoors. Never punish your dog for eating worms, no matter how frustrating it gets. Dogs can’t understand what’s edible or not, so always train them with positive reinforcement. Stay patient and consistent with your approach. If all else fails, you can always consult with a professional dog trainer.
Leana is a passionate animal lover and has worked in various roles with animals for over 10 years. With a heart committed to furry companions, Leana has cultivated a rich background in animal care. Her journey started in high school when she volunteered with her local pet shelter. Today, she continues to volunteer by fostering with the local shelters, running a successful pet sitting and walking business, and running this website to give everyone easily accessible pet advice! She is the lead editor on PetCosset.com and runs all of the social media herself.