Why does My Dog Eat Everything in Sight?
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A fairly common problem that dog owners need to resolve is pica: the consumption of things that aren't part of a dog's diet. For example, it's not uncommon to see a dog eating socks, shoes or plastic toys.
Pica is a compulsive disorder that not only ruins your possessions but can also endanger your dog: these objects, which are unsuitable for their diet, can cause an intestinal obstruction which would constitute a medical emergency. Furthermore, if they try to eat electrical cables they may receive an electric shock.
The pica phenomenon still isn't fully understood by experts, but there are a series of causes which lead to a predisposition of this behavior. Each dog is different and the causes vary according to the animal. Fortunately, there are some solutions for pica. Behavior can be improved through modification programs, but in order to solve this problem the first thing you need to do is understand the causes. By doing this, you can adapt the treatment or the modification program to the behavior.
In this AnimalWised article we'll answer the question: why does my dog eat everything in sight?
Due to a health problem
Whilst pica isn't usually caused by health problems, many medical conditions can cause the dog to eat strange objects, such as dietary deficiencies, or oesophageal dysphagia, which will be the first causes ruled out by the vet when performing examinations.
Pica can also be caused by other underlying medical problems such as general gastrointestinal problems, pancreatic insufficiencies, stomach pain, diabetes mellitus (causing an increase in appetite) and anemia (because it is subject to an iron deficiency). If there is no physiological or pathological cause, there are many other explanations for pica.
They are bored
Boredom or a lack of physical or mental exercise over an extended period of time, and even a lack of company, can be a significant explanation for the dog's interest in eating strange objects. A dog that doesn't have much to do during the day and is bored starts eating and chewing on inedible objects as a way of spending their time and 'exploring'.
It's important to note that dogs sometimes eat strange objects for the opposite reason: as a result of excessive activity. Sometimes, albeit rarely, dogs have energetic requirements that aren't met by their daily portion of food.
They are looking for attention
This is a fairly common reason as to why a dog eats everything they find: a dog quickly learns that eating something other than food gets the attention of their owner.
Whilst not intentional, the subsequent interaction between the owner and the dog can reinforce this behavior. Even telling the dog off can be some form of reward for a dog that doesn't usually get much attention from their owner.
Compulsive and repetitive behaviour due to stress or anxiety
A dog which is subjected to a stressful environment, such as violence or their owners fighting, can develop this behaviour of eating inappropriate objects as a way of relieving its anxiety. This is a compulsive behaviour.
It can also occur without any environmental causes. Rather, this can be a natural behaviour of an anxious and restless dog. Anxiety is a serious problem that needs to be properly treated, and as soon as possible. Discover 10 signs that your dog is stressed.
Habits from their puppy stage
Pica can be carried into adulthood by dogs that were encouraged to pick objects up in their mouth and play with them when they were small. Since they didn't learn how to properly differentiate between picking objects up in their mouth to play with and chewing food in an 'exploratory' fashion, they maintain this learnt behavior of picking up objects in their mouth when they are adults - and they also eat them.
The dog has accidentally eaten something
Dogs use their mouth as an exploratory instrument for the world around them: they explore objects, pick them up in their mouth to play with and, upon investigating an object, they may unintentionally swallow it or part of it.
This doesn't occur so frequently and shouldn't give rise to pica, but to small isolated incidents.
What to do if my dog eats everything in sight?
- Identifying the cause is the first thing you need to do in order to solve this problem. For example, if your dog is locked indoors most of the time, you should let them go out to a bigger space to help them shake off this behavior.
- If bored, a good option is to play with the dog and enrich their environment with toys and training exercises that stimulate them mentally.
- You must avoid paying them attention when they behave poorly so that you don't reinforce the behaviour: don't comfort them or tell them off as this could worsen the situation.
- Paying your dog regular attention and spending quality time with them at the same time every day is more efficient than stroking and consoling them, or even telling your dog off when they eats objects that they shouldn't do.
- You can apply a dog repellent spray over the objects which your dog is usually attracted to. This needs to be non-toxic, so that the dog's health won't be harmed if they continue to eat the objects.
- You should keep dangerous objects out of the reach of dogs that have this problem: threads and strings are especially dangerous for their digestive system.
- If your dog chews or eats hair, there is a chance that they have an allergy. In such situations, you should go to the vet before starting a behavioral modification program.
- The last resource to solve your dog's binge eating disorder would be drug therapy, if they are suffering from anxiety or stress.
If you want to read similar articles to Why does My Dog Eat Everything in Sight?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.
- Pica can endanger the life of your dog - we recommend that you consult your veterinarian and a dog behaviour expert.