Eating Dirt

Eating Dirt

Q: Why is my dog eating dirt?

A: Dogs do like to eat some odd stuff. Some eat dirt.  This can be frustrating for the guardian, but figuring out the reason is important for your dog.  Dogs do eat some odd stuff like garbage, poop, rocks, and dirt.  Most of the time it is the puppy who eats the dirt. Puppies, like all babies, experience their new world by putting everything in their mouths.  They usually outgrow this desire. When these pups continue to eat dirt or start eating dirt at an older age, the causes should be explored.

In the spring dirt has collected all the winter flavors and may be very tasty. This would be self-limiting as the weeks go by.  Many folks add bone meal to their gardens in the fall and again in the spring. Dogs love bone meal. It is part of a natural diet. The problem is the grade of bone meal used in gardening. Grease drippings from the back yard grill will seep into the ground making it irresistible to Fido. Contaminants such as winter run off from roads and walks, pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins can also be in the soil, which are a concern. Parasites in the dirt is another problem with your pup’s dirt eating habit. Sometimes a basket muzzle is needed when your pup is on a walk or unsupervised in the yard.

Some dogs have a behavioral problem called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  OCD is where the dog has no control over an excessive repetitive behavior like chewing feet, digging the carpet, or eating dirt. Seeing a veterinary behavioralist would be needed to diagnosis this disorder and to treat your best friend. More common is a bored Fido. Dogs need physical and mental engagement. Many pups are either left outside or inside all day without much to do.  Dogs are creative and can find ways to relieve this boredom. They may get into your house plants, start landscaping your yard or their kennel.  Giving him plenty of sniff walks, mental stimulation, and constructive interaction with you and the family can solve the problem.

Another reason is a diet lacking in minerals, vitamins, and other micronutrients. Many bags of kibble have been sitting around for weeks or longer since made. With time some of the nutrients disintegrate, others are not fully bioavailable. If a homemade diet is lacking, especially in calcium and other minerals and vitamins, dirt eating can occur. Addition of a high-quality vitamin mineral mix may resolve the dirt eating. Sometimes your dog is looking for a healthy mix of probiotics. These are often found in the soil. Adding a quality pre and probiotic to the diet may do the trick.

There may be health issues causing your dog to eat dirt. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and hypothyroidism are two possible concerns when dirt eating becomes a problem. Anemias will stimulate Fido to eat dirt because of the lack of iron. With IBD, absorption of nutrients can be difficult. When Fido has an upset stomach, dirt eating can help soothe the stomach and intestines because of the clay in the soil.  Caution needs to be taken so your pup doesn’t get intestinally impacted. Extreme dirt eating, especially with other symptoms, needs to be taken seriously. It is important to have your best friend examined by a veterinarian.

Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH
Animal Wellness Center
Augusta, Maine
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