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?
The biggest challenge with dogs is they explore the world around them through their mouths. That means they will eat just about anything, even those wriggly earthworms.
So for this post, I will share my own experience in dealing with the earthworm problem. Read on, and I hope it helps your dog’s case.
Can earthworms make dogs sick?
Technically, an earthworm or two won’t hurt your dog.
Still, there are extremely rare cases when dogs contract giant kidney worms from eating earthworms. However, this is very much unlikely unless your dog is eating earthworms on a daily basis.
Overall, it’s not the earthworm itself that you have to think about. Instead, it’s the bacteria and dirt that surround it.
The soil harbors various parasites, bacteria, and a slew of pathogens. So as your dog munches through an earthworm, it could also catch the likes of ticks, fleas, and the dreaded Cryptococcus.
Aside from that, the soil can also be contaminated with animal feces. Earthworms eat their way through this filth.
Another thing that you should be concerned about is fertilizers. Earthworms survive on organic fertilizer, which, unfortunately, can trigger stomach upset in canines.
Overall, it would help if you discourage your dog from eating earthworms. After all, these worms aren’t food and are more harmful than helpful to your dog’s health.
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 since earthworms are moving, it will surely catch your dog’s attention.
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.
Remember that even if your dog is eating full meals, it can still scour the ground for earthworms. So basically, dogs will grab every chance of feeding they can get.
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 to stop your dog from eating earthworms
Once you identify the cause behind your dog’s earthworm obsession, here are the steps you can take:
1. Limit its access outdoors
Limiting your dog’s access outdoors will stop it from picking and eating earthworms. Still, it’s essential to offer an alternative behavior indoors.
For example, you can play with your dog indoors, so it won’t have the urge to go outdoors. You can also set up a scavenger hunt indoors to satisfy your pet’s grazing tendencies.
If it’s impossible to keep your dog indoors all day, you can set up a dog cable run instead. This way, your pet can still explore outdoors while preventing him from searching for earthworms.
2. Intervene with the behavior
If your dog starts to hyperfocus on a specific spot on the ground, you should call its name right away. It would be best to give your dog a treat once it approaches you.
Over time, your dog will realize that leaving the worms alone is a rewarded behavior. Nevertheless, the results of this method vary across canines.
3. Keep your dog leashed.
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.
Leashing your dog outdoors will also help prevent untoward behavior like chasing after stray animals or jumping into dirty puddles.
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.
Another option is to get rid of the worms in your yard if possible.
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.
It would help if you kept these distractions both physically and mentally stimulating as much as possible. This way, you also satisfy your dog’s play drive.
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.
The astonishing fact is that earthworms are actually a source of proteins, iron, and other minerals. However, they also have a fair share of parasites that they could carry and transmit.
Can earthworms carry parasites?
Although small, earthworms can have many intestinal parasites. They can be hosts to different protozoa, nematodes, and Platyhelminthes.
Nevertheless, 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.
Even if this is the case, you should never let your dog eat earthworms. The fact that it comes from the ground is enough reason for you to stop your pet.
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. After all, if dogs can’t understand what’s edible or not, what more violence and punishments?
Stay patient and consistent with your approach. If all else fails, you can always consult with a professional dog trainer.