Seeing a puppy playfully chewing on a shoelace might be cute, but this behavior can turn obsessive or dangerous if not gently corrected. Today, our Benicia vets talk about the reasons for this behavior and whether or not to be concerned.
Why do they eat it if it's not food?
In many cases, the answer is pica. Pica is a relatively common disorder that often stems from an attempt to obtain nutrients that might be missing from their diet. This disorder can lead your dog to chew on or eat things that are not food, such as socks, shoes, or toys.
This differs from your dog chewing on something for attention; it manifests as an obsessive desire to eat objects (like sand, rocks, sticks, etc.) that could have nutrients that your dog needs.
Aside from pica destroying your favorite belongings, many of the things your dog eats can be unsuitable or dangerous to consume. They can lead to an obstruction of the intestines could lead to severe complications requiring emergency surgical intervention.
If you feel that your dog might be displaying symptoms of pica, call to make an appointment with your vet.
Puppies are curious and learn through discovering... and since they lack hands, puppies use their mouths to investigate their world.
Many puppy caretakers are unfortunately familiar with a common non-food item that puppies often try to eat: feces, especially from a cat's litter box. Not only is this unpleasant, but it can also cause your puppy to become sick if the feces have parasites.
Luckily, most puppies will outgrow this unhealthy and unappealing habit, although you may need to train your puppy in order to curb this behavior.
Your dog's curiosity and an urge to explore new items don't fade with age, and many adult dogs will eat whatever they come across while out on a walk or whatever may be lying around the house.
Like puppies, they like to examine new or unfamiliar items by picking them up in their mouth or chewing them. Accidents also happen; a dog could only be trying to play with something and unintentionally swallow it.
Possible reasons for eating non-food items
Aside from pica, there are other reasons your dog may be chewing or eating inedible things. Some possibilities include:
- Attention-seeking behavior
- Stress or anxiety
- Habits left over from puppyhood
- Health reasons
Fortunately, many of the causes for inappropriate eating or chewing can be addressed through behavioral training.
What should I do?
While training is a potential solution, there are other ways to try to curb your dog's behavior yourself.
- To relieve your dog's boredom, try spending more time with them and use fun, interactive toys
- Move any dangerous objects out of your dog's reach, in case they don't respond to training
- Don't give your dog attention if they're misbehaving; it may reinforce the behavior
- You can try spraying the items your dog typically tries to eat with a non-toxic dog repellent spray
- If your dog is acting out due to stress or anxiety, your vet may recommend drug therapy if other methods aren't effective
- If your dog acts out this behavior on walks, prevent them from eating items off the ground
Should I be concerned?
If you think that your dog's inappropriate chewing or eating stems from pica or another medical condition, it's important to talk to your vet to resolve it. However, if it is more of a behavioral action, it's most likely something you can correct with some time, patience, and love.
Regardless of the reason for the behavior, the important thing is ensuring the health of your dog and to keep dangerous objects out of their reach.
What happens if my dog eats too much?
If people overeat, they can experience bloating, painful gas cramps, or feel uncomfortable until it resolves itself. It usually abates with little damage done.
Dogs, however, can experience canine bloat if they eat too much or too fast. This results in a build-up of gasses and twists the dog's stomach. Canine bloat can become very serious, leading to fatal consequences within hours for many dogs.
If your dog displays any of the following symptoms, bring them to the vet or emergency clinic immediately:
- Pacing or whining
- Shallow breathing
- Stomach seems distended or enlarged
- Unable to get comfortable
- Avoids laying on their side
- Unable to pass feces
- Change in the color of their gums (dark red, blue, white, and cold)
- Licking at the air
How can I prevent canine bloat?
- Feed your dog smaller, more frequent meals
- Use a slow feeder bowl to cut down on overeating or eating too fast
- Try to separate dogs at feeding time if you have more than one