Why Does My Dog Eat Dirt?
Dogs are omnivores. They eat both plants and animals. Some dogs are vegetarian while others will eat meat. However, all dogs need some kind of food to survive. Dogs do not have teeth like humans or even other mammals such as cows, sheep, goats or pigs; therefore they cannot chew their way through tough plant matter without getting sick afterwards.
Dog’s digestive system works differently than ours. Dogs’ stomachs are made up of two parts – the small intestine (or large intestine) and the colon. The small intestine is where most of the digestion takes place. When a dog ingests something, it passes through this part of the body first before moving on to digesting another item. The small intestine is lined with mucus membranes which helps absorb nutrients and waste products.
When a dog ingests dirt, stones, or trash, it moves on to the colon. There, the feces pass through the intestinal tract into the large bowel. Here they are broken down further and absorbed into your pet’s body. Dogs don’t have any special glands in their intestines that secrete enzymes to break down organic material such as soil or rock fragments.
When dogs eat dirt, it can lead to a lot of complications both internal and external. Some of the problems that can arise are as follows:
Dehydration – If a dog eats too much dirt, it can dehydrate them. Without enough water in their body, this can lead to many health issues including kidney or liver disease. It can also cause electrolyte imbalances which could lead to a heart attack.
Obstruction – Sometimes when dogs eat dirt, it can get stuck in their intestines. This will eventually harden and lead to an obstruction. This problem is very serious and if it is not treated immediately, the patient will die.
Toxin Intoxication – If a dog ingests poisonous plants, it can cause toxification of the animal’s body. Depending on the type of plant this can cause anything from stomach pain to a coma or even death.
Foreign Bodies – Eating dirt can also lead to other foreign objects being ingested along with it. This can cause choking or blockages in the digestive tract. It could even cause an infection if the materials are contagious.
There are many reasons why does my dog eat dirt and other items. Some of these reasons are health-related and others are behavioral. By knowing the reason, it can help you treat your dog and solve this problem once and for all.
Pica – Pica is a condition in which patients eat non-nutritious objects. It is more common in children but it can also occur in dogs. Some of the common items eaten include: candle wax, laundry starch, paper, and soil.
Pica can occur for many reasons including but not limited to:
Low levels of certain minerals or vitamins
Undetected food allergies causing gastrointestinal upset
Abnormal development of a fetus in the womb
Anemia – Anemia is a condition in which a patient does not have a sufficient number of red blood cells. This can lead to them trying to eat non-edible items as their body is craving iron.
Diabetes – If your dog has diabetes and eats too much sugar, they can develop a condition known as glycosuria. This causes them to urinate out large amounts of sugar which leaves them depleted. In order to replenish their supply, they try to eat non-edible items that contain sugar in them. Soil is one of the few sources that dogs can easily get this mineral from.
Puberty – During a dog’s growth phase, it is not unusual for them to eat non-nutritious items. This is especially true for boys as they go through puberty as their testosterone levels increase.
Boredom – If you work all day and leave your dog at home, he may become bored and want to eat the first thing he sees when you’re not around to entertain him. Eating dirt is just more interesting than the toy you bought him.
Mental Health – Some dogs tend to engage in obsessive compulsive disorders such as blanket sucking or tail sucking. In these cases, eating dirt is just a nervous habit that the dog kicks when they’re bored or trying to relieve stress.
Attention-Seeking – If your dog knows that by doing something wrong, such as eating dirt, you’ll scold him and give him attention, he may continue to engage in this behavior.
Boredom – Just like children, dogs get bored if they don’t have enough toys to keep them occupied. If a dog is left at home alone for long periods of time with nothing to do, they’re going to get into something.
How To Stop A Dog From Eating Dirt
As I mentioned before there are several reasons why your dog may be eating dirt. By determining the cause, you can better treat the disease.
Most of the time, a dog eats dirt as a result of boredom so the solution is to provide them with a healthy alternative to satisfy their needs. You may also want to consider getting another pet such as a cat as the constant companionship will also reduce the likelihood that your dog will eat dirt or anything else that they find on the ground.
If you’re convinced that your dog is eating dirt because of a health related issues such as anemia or pica, then make an appointment with a veterinarian so they can perform tests to determine what’s causing it and give your dog the proper medication.
Whatever the cause you should make an effort to stop your dog from eating dirt, not only because it’s bad for their health but also because it’s incredibly annoying to clean up.
How To Clean Up After A Dog Eating Dirt
When a dog eats dirt, it ends up in their poop. When a dog eats a lot of dirt, their poop turns black. Most people don’t like stepping in dog poop so most people prefer to clean it up as quickly as possible.
If you’ve ever stepped in dog poop, you’ll know that it’s pretty gross so you’re going to want to wear shoes in areas where your dog frequently poops and is likely to have digested dirt.
You should also have a shovel or a pooper scooper on standby so that you can clean up after your dog quickly before the dirt dries. The longer the poop sits there, the harder it is to get up.
When it comes to the poop, you have two options on what to do with it. You can either throw it away or dispose of it properly.
If you choose to throw it away, you’ll want to put several layers of newspaper or a plastic bag over the poop before putting it into a trash bag. This prevents the poop from leaking and making a mess in your trash can.
If you choose to dispose of it properly, you should go far away from your house and throw the poop over a wall or into a field so that it doesn’t come back to haunt you when the wind blows.
Due to health risks, you should always wash your hands after cleaning up dog poop. You also need to wash your hands after playing with your dog. Dogs eat a lot of stuff on a regular basis and you don’t want to risk spreading harmful bacteria to your eyes, nose or mouth.
Where Should I Keep My Dog If I’m Gone All Day?
The most important thing that you need to do if you are going to leave your dog alone all day is to make sure they have enough food and water to last them throughout the day. Your dog should be fine if they eat once a day and as long as you’re only gone for a few hours at the most.
Ideally, you want to use a slow-feed bowl so that your dog doesn’t wolf down their food in five minutes. You do not want to leave water in a bowl as dogs have been known to accidentally tip it over, especially if they are jumping around or playing.
Instead, you want to use a water bottle or a watering can with a spout. This prevents your dog from knocking it over and it also ensures that they are getting hydrated properly.
If your dog happens to be one that eats really fast, you can always mix up their food so that it takes a bit longer to eat. You can do this by buying a larger bag of food and only filling his bowl with a cup or so. Every day you can refill the bowl with more food. It’s also a good idea to mix up the type of food that you give your dog, especially if they are getting the same thing every day.
As far as toys and things like blankets and beds go, you can put those in their crate so at least they have something to do. You can also try leaving the radio or TV on for them. Although, this can lead to them becoming bored if it’s on a loop and they hear the same thing on a continuous basis.
Most people choose to hire a dog walker or put their dog in a kennel if they are going to be gone for long periods of time. These are both fine solutions and probably the best ones if you’re going to be gone eight hours or more.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows: An introduction to carnism (J Axe – 2016 – Pan Macmillan)
- Dogwatching: The Essential Guide to Dog Behaviour (M Joy – 2020 – books.google.com)
- Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Dogs (SL Gerstenfeld, S Gerstenfeld, JL Schultz – 1999 – Chronicle Books)
- Dogs: A startling new understanding of canine origin, behavior & evolution (D Morris – 2016 – books.google.com)
- Trash animals: How we live with nature’s filthy, feral, invasive, and unwanted species (G Pugnetti – 1980 – books.google.com)
- Inside of a dog: What dogs see, smell, and know (R Coppinger, L Coppinger – 2001 – books.google.com)
- Garbage land: On the secret trail of trash (K Nagy, PD Johnson II – 2013 – books.google.com)
- The nature of animal healing: The definitive holistic medicine guide to caring for your dog and cat (A Horowitz – 2010 – books.google.com)