Even though they’re a man's best friend, dogs have a number of questionable habits, such as drinking from the toilet, rolling in mud, and sniffing other dog’s butts. Those are innocent enough, but when they start to eat foreign material, like children’s toys, socks, sticks, dirt and many other delicacies, trouble may not be far behind.
Pica is the technical term for eating things that aren’t food. Dogs can show signs of pica if they have some sort of nutritional deficiency, presumably in response to a deficiency in a particular vitamin or mineral they are lacking. However, with today’s commercial dog foods, this would be very unusual.
That said, their questionable snacking habits, more commonly practised by younger dogs, are much more likely a sign of boredom or the attraction of the odour and taste in the case of bits of clothing. Knowing that pica can lead to serious complications, such as intestinal blockage, here are simple ways to help prevent your dog from munching on anything other than food!
- The easiest way to keep your dog from eating anything you don’t want them to ingest is to simply keep it away from them. If you have children who leave clothing on the floor, this can be a challenge! It would be impossible to rid the outside world of anything your dog might want to eat, but if you pick up the sticks, chestnuts, poop, etc. in your own backyard, your dog won’t have as much to nibble on. When out for walks, using a shorter leash is usually very effective and, if absolutely necessary, a soft or cage muzzle will solve the problem for the most challenging snackers.
- If you suspect your dog is eating things because they are bored, it may be because they aren’t getting enough exercise. Engage in some fun activities with your best friend – such as tossing a frisbee or tennis ball.
- Sometimes all a dog needs is some environmental enrichment, so offer your pet a treat dispensing toy filled with their favourite food, and watch as they engage for hours trying to work the food out.
- If you believe all your dog’s needs are being met, and yet while they’re alone, they are still nibbling on anything they can find, it may be best to keep him or her in an area where there is less potential for them to get into trouble. You can try putting them in a gated area or crate and only allow your dog access to the outdoors when you can supervise them.
Remember that dogs are just like us; they thrive when they have a daily purpose or something to do, so if you sense they are at loose ends, try giving them a job such as working on a new trick together, playing with an interactive toy or even just a great game of fetch.
Hopefully, these tips will help keep Buster’s nose out of the dirt and you and your best friend can continue to enjoy the summer!