Just like humans, dogs can also get pica. It is a compulsive disorder in dogs and while some things like eating grass may not be harmful, in most cases, it can be quite dangerous. Veterinarians have removed the craziest objects from dog’s stomachs like hair, car keys, knives etc.
Many dogs may eat stool, however, as disgusting as it may sound, coprophagia is not pica and is, in fact, a normal phenomenon in puppies and lactating mothers.
Pica in dogs can be very dangerous and it must be addressed immediately. So, here’s everything you need to know about pica in dogs.
Pica In Dogs
Before we get into the symptoms of pica in dogs, it is very important to understand why they do it. If we know what is causing the pica, we can give them appropriate treatment.
What Causes Pica?
There are two major reasons for dogs to get pica. They may have a health issue or a deficiency that may lead to an urge to eating inedible objects. For instance, iron deficiency or parasites in their stomach may cause them the urge to eat dirt and rocks.
If you notice them eating strange things outside the first step would be to take them to the vet and rule out any deficiencies. Deficiencies are easy to treat and once they have enough vitamins and minerals in their system they are most likely to stop this habit.
However, unfortunately, pica is mostly caused by environmental factors like:
- Separation anxiety
- Deprived of attention
- Lacking physical and/or mental exercise
- General anxiety, etc
Lastly, we cannot rule out the chance that they like the taste texture and smell of the object. It requires a lot of patience, training, and sometimes, the help of a behaviourist, to wean them off the habit.
Symptoms Of Pica In Dogs
Of course, the primary symptom is the act of eating the inedible object. However, since most dogs are chastised for it, they start to do it when no one is looking. That’s when you need to start keeping an eye out for other symptoms.
The symptoms greatly depend on the object they have eaten. Like, dirt and mud may lead to more parasites, difficulty passing stool, hair loss etc, in which case they will need to be dewormed more often.
Some dogs are known to eat dangerous things like upholstery, wet wipes, bleach and other cleaning liquid and so on. These are extremely toxic and can be fatal if they aren’t removed on time.
Symptoms of pica include:
- Stomach upset
- Bad breath
- Stomach pain
- Loss of Interest In Food
- Infection – pain and blood while passing stool or skin eruptions
In severe cases, dogs can have a rapid heart rate, or they can collapse.
As we said earlier, when it comes to nutritional deficiencies, we can easily treat it and stop them from eating dangerous objects. However, in most cases, we need to train them, sometimes with a professional by our side, to wean them off the habit.
Training will vary based on what is causing the pica. For example, a dog that eats sofa cushions out of separation anxiety will have different training that when compared to a dog that eats grass because they are bored.
Nevertheless, here are some common things that you can do for all dogs with pica to prevent them from ingesting harmful products.
1. Create A Barrier
Does your dog eat up all the gossip in glossy magazines? Jokes apart magazine pages have a special glue that may bind their jaws together. They must be taken to the vet immediately.
They may eat it because of the texture of the magazine but mostly because the magazine is readily accessible to them. Hence, they take a bite every chance they get.
The most efficient way to battle pica, in this case, is to remove all the things they like to chew, from their environment. This means we need to keep the books and the magazines away from their reach, add a protective fence around the sofa, the bed and really anything they like to chew.
If your dog chews rocks, avoid the rocky path.
2. Anti Chew Sprays
There are special anti-chew sprays for dogs that have an unpleasant smell and taste and acts as a deterrent for dogs that want to eat inedible objects.
Our number one recommendation would never be to use a spray because they have chemicals and are not always the best thing for dogs to ingest either. Also, the effects of the spray start to wear off as it grows older. So you will have to apply it and re-apply it for it to work efficiently.
We always recommend natural barrier methods but if there is no other option other than to use sprays, try to pick an organic variety.
Sometimes a good physical workout may be all they need to stop the pica. They sometimes eat inedible objects because they want your attention, have a lot of energy or they are simply bored. If you increase their walking time and their playtime they will know they have your attention and after the play session, they may feel too tired to eat the cushions.
Exercise includes mental exercise too. So, if there is a particular time of the day when your dog indulges in pica, you can divert them by teaching them a few tricks or giving them a canine food puzzle to work on.
4. Fighting Separation Anxiety
Out of all the reasons mentioned above, pica caused by separation anxiety may be the hardest to resolve. This is because the problem occurs when you are away from the house when they indulge in these habits.
Nevertheless, with proper training, patience and consistency you can wean them off the habit. In severe cases, you can use a baby fence or keep them in a pica proofed room. If this does not solve the problem, you may have to find a good daycare facility that can keep your dog while you are out for work.
5. Correctional Training
Of course, with all the tricks above, you cannot solve the problem without addressing it directly. Avoid shouting or hurting your dog as that will only scare them and push them to indulge when you are not looking.
Rather you can teach them simple words like leave it and come. These simple commands will help them understand that the cleaning material is not for chewing. Of course, you need a lot of patience and level-headedness to work with them. This is why many pet owners hire a trainer to help them.
Pica in dogs is a struggle but they eventually learn that the sofa cushions are to be seated on and the newspapers are food for the eyes. With patience, training and constant vigilance, we can keep their pica under control.