Dogs seem to have an affinity for bad things sometimes. My dog Sherlock loves eating goose poop, grass, and other things he can find in the yard. But one thing that baffles me is this: why does my dog eat dirt? After some research and a phone call to the vet, I found out that this behavior could be due to stress, boredom, or chronic medical problems. On a lighter note, the dirt might taste better than the dog food, which is why some dogs love to snack on the soil.
To give you a better understanding of this dog behavior, here are the potential reasons behind it:
- Stress and boredom
One of the most common culprits behind dirt-eating among dogs is stress and boredom. Your dog may not be getting enough physical and mental stimulation, so it vents its energy toward eating soil. Also, dogs have a habit of digging, and since they explore the world through their mouths, it’s not surprising if they will start eating dirt, too.
Most dogs will stop eating dirt once you give them things to get busy at. If not, the following reasons might explain why.
- Bad dog food
Regardless if you have a picky eater or not, dogs will eat bad things if their food doesn’t taste good. Bad-tasting or spoiled dog food is unappealing to some canines. Also, it’s possible that the diet is unbalanced, so your dog tries to compensate by eating dirt.
Remember that canines have a natural instinct to survive. If their bodies are not getting proper nutrition, they will forage in their surroundings to suffice that deficiency. And since your yard is far from the wild, they may resort to eating grass or dirt.
According to pet owners I’ve talked to, this problem occurs more to canines that are on cooked or kibble diet than those in raw food.
- Upset stomach
While it may look strange, eating dirt can be a dog’s way to ease its upset stomach. True enough, some types of clay found on the ground can help detoxify your dog’s tummy and even flush out parasites.
Dogs with an upset stomach will often look for something to push out the matter that causes discomfort. Sometimes, they reach for a lumpier and solid thing instead of food. Upon ingestion of dirt, the dog will experience more intestinal contractions, which can lead to diarrhea or vomiting.
- Behavioral problem
If your dog is on the pink of health, you have to consider behavioral problems as the reason behind the dirt-eating habit. Like humans, dogs can have unnecessary practices that could pose a health risk.
Dogs that are left alone for hours or not given enough exercise are prone to behavioral problems. This is why dogs will dig under the fence or consume dirt to pass the time.
If you need to leave your dog for extended periods, it’s best to bring it to a boarding facility or a friend’s house. This way, your pooch will remain accompanied to combat the dirt-eating habit.
Lastly, you should be wary of the obsessive-compulsive disorder among dogs. Such behavioral issues can trigger a canine to eat dirt and other items around. Canine OCD also includes symptoms like excessive licking, chewing, drinking, and ingestion of inedible matter.
- Underlying health condition
Another possible reason for dirt-eating is health problems. Your dog might be suffering from Pica, a condition that involves the consumption of inedible items. Dogs with this condition may eat anything, from dirt to rocks, toys, books, and bathroom wipes. The vet can help diagnose and treat this problem correctly.
If not Pica, dogs that eat dirt might be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. This condition happens when the intestinal tract gets irritated. It can be due to a parasitic infection or a reaction to specific types of protein in their food. Canines who have this condition will eat dirt to increase their vitamin and mineral consumption as a way to cure the problem.
Lastly, bring your dog to the vet to rule out the possibility of hypothyroidism. And while it’s uncommon, it’s best to have your dog checked for the chance of cancer, tumors, internal bleeding, ulcers, and kidney problems.
Can my dog get sick from eating dirt?
Eating dirt is not normal, and it’s also far from healthy. If you let your pooch eat dirt regularly, it may suffer from the following dangers:
- Parasitic infections. The likes of hookworm, ticks, tapeworms, and so on thrive on the ground. If your dog ingests any of it, a parasitic infection will ensue. This can lead to anemia, weight loss, weakness, poor appetite, and other complications if not addressed right away.
- Blockage. If your dog happens to swallow a large chunk of compacted soil, it may lead to choking. This is a fatal condition that can kill your dog within minutes. Also, it’s possible that the compacted soil or rock will cause a blockage on your dog’s intestinal tract. In the worst cases, it may require an emergency surgical operation to remove the foreign matter.
- Teeth damage. The dirt-eating habit of your dog will expose its teeth on rocks and hard surfaces. Over time, it will chip its tooth and sustain gum problems. And if such dental issues don’t get addressed right away, infections may set in.
- Poisoning. At some point, your dog may eat dirt that’s been treated with pesticides and other chemicals. This is very dangerous and can even put your dog’s life at risk.
Why does my dog eat dirt from potted plants?
But what if your dog is eating dirt, but only on your potted plants. It’s possible that the earth on your pots is tastier than those in the ground. This isn’t surprising since we often use compost on potted plants. Also, if your soil came from your mulch, your dog might be detecting some tasty bits from food leftovers you dunked on it weeks ago. However, you must watch out because it might be the plant your dog is really targeting to chew.
How do I stop my dog from eating dirt?
Once you identify why your dog is eating dirt, the next step is to stop it. As to how it’s called, trash is dirty and must never be ingested at any point. Here’s what you can do:
- Keep your dog busy. Make sure that you take your dog to regular walks to drain its energy. Also, give it interactive toys that will distract them away from eating dirt.
- Keep your doggo indoors. If your pooch doesn’t stop eating dirt, it’s best to keep it indoors. Also, remove any potted plant inside the house.
- Remove any stressors. If stress is the reason behind dirt-eating, you must remove it to calm your dog. Also, avoid sudden and significant changes in your household that can trigger anxiety on your pet.
- Leash your dog. When taking your dog outdoors, keep it leashed so you can keep the pooch away from any exposed soil.
- Change the food. Switch to tastier and smellier dog food with balanced nutrition. You can always ask the vet about the best option that meets your dog’s needs.
- Train your dog. You can train your dog to stop eating dirt by associating it with something negative. Feel free to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer to address the matter.
- Treat any health problems. If dirt-eating is triggered by a medical condition, the only way to stop it is to treat the health problem your dog is suffering from.
So why does my dog eat dirt? For Sherlock, it’s actually boredom. After we increased his exercise and playtime, he eventually stopped snacking on the soil. Still, your dog might be dealing with a different condition. It could be an underlying medical problem or a behavioral issue. It’s always best to consult the veterinarian for proper diagnosis and immediate treatment.