Dogs have been known to devour a wide variety of objects that aren’t edible and certainly aren’t meant to be consumed. For example, Ozzy, an American Bulldog, swallowed a tennis ball whole, while Bear, a Pomeranian Poodle mix, has eaten everything from her own poop to shoes and dead birds. The formal name for compulsive consumption is called pica, and it can cause a lot of trouble, but before we go into how to prevent your dog from eating anything and everything, it’s important to understand why they do this. Here are just a few of the many reasons why some dogs will eat just about anything:
Human babies learn about the world through their mouths, and dogs do, too. Puppies are born deaf and blind, which means that they have to rely on their skin, nose and mouth to learn about their environment. Additionally, puppies don’t have opposable thumbs, and they use their mouths to pick things up and carry things around. Young puppies may not know how to properly differentiate between eating things and carrying them around in their mouth, and that learned behavior can follow them into adulthood.
Dogs, as well as their wild ancestors, are natural scavengers, eating whatever they can find. In fact, it was this natural instinct to scavenge that helped to build the relationship between dogs and humans that we now enjoy today. Dogs were naturally drawn to scavenge the garbage humans threw away because it was easier and took less energy than hunting. And, even though today’s dogs are fed plenty of high-quality dog food, their natural instinct to scavenge hasn’t gone away, which can cause them to eat almost anything they find.
Stress and anxiety can affect dogs just as much as it can affect people. When a dog is subjected to environments where they are in danger or in an otherwise stressful situation, it can cause them to start eating things that are inappropriate as a way to relieve the stress. Some dogs are anxious and restless even in the best environments. If you think that your dog might be eating things they shouldn’t due to stress and anxiety, consult your veterinarian.
In the wild finding food on a regular basis is not always possible. So when a pack of dogs took down prey they would often eat the whole thing in one sitting. This is because it might be days or weeks until they get another meal, and it’s not like they could store it somewhere safe for later on. As we mentioned in our second point, domestic dogs nowadays don’t have to binge because they get regular meals. But that doesn’t mean that the instinct to binge has been eliminated.
Boredom, which is often caused by a lack of mental and/or physical exercise and sometimes a lack of company, can cause a dog to eat things that they shouldn’t. Just as people will eat when they are bored, so will dogs. However, dogs can’t peruse the pantry or the refrigerator, so it often leaves them to dig in the trash or even to chew on objects that aren’t edible. Make it a point to keep your dog physically and mentally stimulated with regular walks, games and other activities.
Sometimes, dogs act out in order to get a reaction from their owners. If your dog isn’t feeling like they are getting the amount of attention they want from you they may eat things they know they shouldn’t simply because it causes you to react and give them attention, even if that attention is scolding them. For a dog that doesn’t get a lot of attention from owners even a scolding can be a welcome change.
Not all dogs who eat anything and everything do so because of instinct or bad behavior. Sometimes, dogs feel hungry all the time because they are suffering from a medical issue. A few of the health conditions that can cause pica in dogs are Diabetes Melitus, a stomach tumor, hookworms, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, hyperthyroidism and many more.
Now that you know what can cause dogs to eat just about anything, it’s time to learn what to do when you think your dog ingested something they shouldn’t. Be sure to stay tuned for our next blog to learn more!
In the meantime, if you suspect your dog has ingested something inappropriate, don’t wait to get your dog the help they need. Contact our veterinary clinic in Carroll Gardens right away.