Your dog eats everything and anything ? Whether it is paper, plastic, pebbles, grass, Earth, etc…, this is probably a disorder called pica in dogs. But what is the cause of this problem, What are the risks for your dog and how do you deal with them ? Here are all our veterinarians ‘ tips on ICAP.
What Is Pica In Dogs?
Pica is an abnormal eating behavior that consists of ingesting non-nutritive substances that are not logically intended to be eaten.
When a dog ingests excrement, this is also a particular form of pica called coprophagia. For more information on this specific condition, please see our dedicated health sheet: coprophagia in dogs.
The Causes Of Pica in Dogs
First of all, it is important to know that during their growth, puppies, like children, go through a phase of development called the oral phase, during which they discover the world with their mouth. They then, during this period, have the annoying habit of putting everything in their mouth and ingesting inappropriate things : pieces of toys, wood, soil, pieces of paper/tissues, excrement, etc.…
Pica is not abnormal in young dogs and proper training coupled with patience usually helps to overcome it.
In the adult dog, pica is however not normal, and is to be taken with the utmost seriousness, given the risks to your dog’s health that this may represent (see below).
Pica in adult dogs may have a “purely behavioral” origin. Dogs can do this out of frustration, boredom, anxiety, or to attract the owners ‘ attention.
Some dogs may also ingest their own droppings or damaged objects, in order to remove the object of possible punishment (often in memory of past reprimands).
Regarding coprophagia in particular, a current hypothesis would be that dogs would act in this way by mimicry, having seen their handlers pick up their stool.
If your dog eats grass, it’s also pica.
The interpretations given to eating grass are varied and varied. It is in fact an instinctive, ancestral behavior that allows the dog to vomit, and thus to relieve itself of all gastric heaviness.
While some have reported that eating grass allows the dog to make up for deficiencies, this hypothesis now seems obsolete, since even dogs with a perfectly complete and balanced diet exhibit this behavior.
Note: according to a popular belief, “the dog who eats grass purges himself”. If this is often true in the sense of “he makes himself vomit”, it is not necessary to believe that the dog acting in this way “is deworming itself”. On the contrary, the ingested grass may be carrying many parasite eggs and larvae, and is therefore likely to contaminate the dog, not rid it of any digestive worms.
Whether it is grass or any other inedible substance, the fact that a dog eats unsuitable things can be the result of some digestive discomfort, or many diseases. Among the causes to consider are: nutritional deficiencies, digestive parasitism, chronic gastritis, food intolerance, ingestion of hair by licking (although generally more problematic in cats), pancreatic insufficiency, etc.…
Certain diseases, of which bulimia (polyphagia) is part of the symptoms, can also induce the dog to eat everything and anything. Diabetes and Cushing’s disease are among those conditions that usually make the dog bulimic.
Finally, the appearance of pica is often seen in older dogs may be a sign of senility. Pica is one of the symptoms of ” involution depression “.
Risks Associated With Icap
Ingesting things that are not meant to be ingested is far from trivial ! There are real health risks to your dog, so you will need to be extra vigilant.
The main risks are :
– Intoxication: by the direct ingestion of potentially toxic products (including plants and medicines) or by the ingestion of any substance on which a toxic substance could have been dispersed (e.g. plants with pesticides, fertilizers, etc.).
– The appearance of digestive disorders of varying intensity and severity : simple irritation of the digestive tract, which can result in diarrhea and / or vomiting, sub-occlusion or digestive obstruction (strings, pieces of toys, tissues, plastics…), digestive perforation (pieces of wood, scrap metal, bones…), peritonitis,…
– The contraction of infectious diseases and parasites (by ingesting, for example, the excrements of other animals, contaminated grass, etc.).
Finally, pica can also be associated with destructive behaviour. So don’t let this behavior take hold : act fast, and well !
Treatment for Pica in Dogs
To get rid of this behavior often unpleasant for the owner, and which is dangerous for the dog’s health, we advise you to consult your veterinarian in order to rule out any medical cause. The best way to deal with a problem is to deal with the cause. After having possibly carried out the additional examinations he deems necessary (blood work, stool analysis, ultrasound, digestive endoscopy…), he can then prescribe a treatment if necessary, and tell you what to do in case of behavioural disorder.
In any case, it is necessary to take care to deworm your dog very regularly (every month until the age of 6 months then at least 2 to 4 times a year afterwards), and to offer him a Premium diet, in order to avoid any deficiency.
The use of a dog food with a sensitive stomach (e.g. Hill’s Science Plan Sensitive Stomach) or a medicalized hypoallergenic or hyperdigestible food (on the recommendation of your veterinarian) may in some specific cases improve things.
While waiting for your consultation and for the problem to be properly managed, taking your dog out on a leash under high surveillance will limit the possibilities of pica and thus the risks to your companion’s health.
In any case, the education of the dog is essential (and even more so if it is a puppy). In case of pica, the so-called interactive punishment (coming from you), is not effective in all cases and can even on the contrary strengthen the behavior of the dog that seeks your attention. In addition, the most “spirited” dogs may tend to limit the pica in your presence and increase their destructive efforts tenfold as soon as you turn your back !
Also the ideal is to put in place all forms of subterfuge that will make the dog associate the pica with something unpleasant for him, regardless of your presence : punishments while you are hidden, emission of a shrill noise, deposit of repellent or bitter substance on the object of the crime, etc.…
Know that to overcome coprophagy, Copronate is a food supplement that focuses on feeding the animals of the House. Copronat regulates the digestive flora of animals and makes droppings inappetent.
Finally, to finish, the treats/chewing bones, as well as the very strong toys (ex : Kong) are a good way to channel your dog’s need to chew !