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As bizarre as it seems to some dog owners, eating dirt and rocks is not uncommon in dogs.
Chewing on and ingesting non-food items is referred to as pica and covers a lot more than just dirt and rocks. Pica is a complicated condition with several possible causes ranging from boredom and stress to anemia and worms or even certain medications.
Some breeds also seem to have a higher disposition towards pica and the first that come to mind are labs and dachshunds.
In some cases, pica could even be considered a normal exploratory behavior for puppies.
Let’s take a look at a few of the causes of pica as they related to eating rocks and dirt.
Anemia occurs when a dog has reduced red blood cells, hemoglobin or both. It’s not clear why anemic dogs turn to rocks rocks and dirt but anemia has also been linked to craving for dirt in humans so our pups aren’t alone!
Anemia can be caused by several conditions which only makes the rock and dirt eating behavior more confusing. Prolonged hookworm infections are one of the more common causes of anemia and therefore also related to rock and dirt eating behavior.
Nutritional Deficiencies and GI Problems
When a dog is suffering from a poor or severely imbalanced diet, they’re compelled to eat non-food items like rocks and dirt. Their brain is telling them that they’re starving and that they need to eat anything they can find.
The same thing can occur in the case of stomach tumors or other GI conditions that can reduce nutrient absorption.
Certain neurological diseases have been linked to pica in dogs. These could be things like compulsive behaviors or a result of a brain tumor that’s rewired your pup’s brain into thinking rocks and dirt are food.
Thyroid Problems and Diabetes
Thyroid issues can wreak havoc on a dog’s appetite and even cause pica leading to eating dirt and rocks.
Diabetes can also cause wild swings in appetite and as a result lead dogs to eating rocks and dirt.
Certain medications can cause dogs to eat rocks and dirt which is quite the side effect. The most common drug that can cause pica is prednisone which helps treat dozens of conditions. Phenobarbital and other anti-seizure drugs have also been known to cause pica.
Teething in Puppies
This last one isn’t exactly pica but some puppies will chew on rocks to help relieve teething pain. Curious pups might then eat those rocks, whether on purpose or accidentally.
Talk To Your Veterinarian If You’re Worried
By now you’ve noticed that there aren’t a lot of healthy reasons for dogs to eat dirt so if you’re dog or puppy is picking up this habit it’s worth talking to your veterinarian. While trying to eat non-edible items like dirt or nails can be normal it’s not something that should be ignored.