Have you ever come across your dog eating strange things that you would not believe you would ever see? It can be a common issue for dogs to have weird cravings and some unhealthy cravings.
Maybe what you have seen is your dog eating everything, with no thought as to what it is. Trust me, this is not always bad parenting on your end. There are some dogs that just have some unhealthy cravings and seem to be obsessed with food.
Fixated or Obsessed
This can happen in absolutely innocent ways, where a dog seems to focus on one type of food. This obsession could be food from your plate or even food that was accidentally dropped. This can turn a seemingly angelic dog into a variable beast when it comes to table food or human food. One strong example I can give is that my 1.5-year-old granddaughter tends to spill food. She is a baby, it happens. The problem is that their dog follows her everywhere, sitting right at her high chair waiting.
This behavior has gotten so severe that the dog will take food right out of the child’s hand. The dog does it very gently, but that is not the point. The problem is that the labrador is so fixated and obsessed with getting the child’s food, she refuses to eat her dog food.
At these times, the labrador will begin to lose weight, since it is not enough food to sustain her properly. Try as you might, the behavior will get worse, before it gets better. You may find the dog will get into the trash can and find food, they may sit at the table and ‘beg’ for food from each person at the table.
Dealing With Fixation or Obsession
These times will weigh on you heavily. There are a few different ways to stop this behavior in the dog. If the example above seems familiar to you, what you are going to need to do is many-fold.
- Remove the dog from the house when it is mealtime. This could be as simple as putting her in the garage and giving her a dish of her dog food. Tell her it is time to eat and leave her be.
- If food is accidentally dropped, pick it up immediately. Reinforce that the family does so also.
- Be sure that there is a lid on the trash can. It needs to be a sturdy cover and not the motion sensor type. The point is to prevent the dog from getting in the garbage.
- Stop enabling the behavior. This means, do not toss food to the dog, for any reason. This is part of the issue. The sad puppy eyes are a ploy from the dog to be able to get some food from you.
- Do not allow rapid eating. When a dog gobbles the food rapidly, it could choke, you need to slow the dog down.
- Stay Strong. This is so important. Once you give in, the dog knows this and will continue the same behavior. A dog realizes that the fastest way to get food is through his human family. The dog should be on a meal routine, this prevents overeating. Their mealtime can be at the same time the family eats. The dog, however, should be kept away from the dinner table. Whether that is in another room or as stated, in the garage having his or her dish of food.
Pica In Dogs Is Real
Even dogs can develop pica. Pica is a condition where the dog will eat virtually anything. Humans may also have this condition. That is another time though. Pica involves non-food items. These include, but are not limited to:
Yes, feces. As unimaginable as it is, feces is something that many dogs will go for. Pica could be caused by stress or anxiety. However, it could also stem from one or more of the following:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Vitamin Deficiencies
- Parasitic Infections
Pica should not be ignored. It is not as simple to stop this condition as it would be to stop the dog from begging at the dinner table. When your dog has pica, this condition could cause an upset stomach
- Bad breath
That is terrible to hear, however, depending on what the dog eats, it could cause damage to the throat, the stomach, and the intestines, where they have bleeding. If you are not seeing a visible sore, you may tend to think it is nothing serious. You could be very wrong.
Veterinarians could relate multiple stories of dogs that have eaten dirty laundry, namely socks and undergarments. The dog originally just wanted the smell. The smell means it is their owner who they love dearly. Somehow, though, this behavior turns into the desire to clean the garments. In a sense, the dog feels like they are, in turn, taking care of their human.
Any visible change in your dog with pica should be worrisome. The dog should be immediately brought to the vet to be checked. Whether it is a tummy ache from eating too much, an ulcer or injuries or internal damage caused by something they ate, the only way you will know for sure is by having the vet check the dog completely.
Pica is not a condition you can stop on your own. The dog needs to be checked by a professional to determine the problem. This is done by running a series of medical tests and then treatment by a Professional.
Treatments That May Help Prevent or Stop Pica
As mentioned, the first thing to do is to take the dog to the vet for a complete check. Secondly, be sure that there is nothing unhealthy that the dog can get to. All dogs will eat grass. The grass is fiber, and roughage and that is something all dogs need. The really odd and unhealthy things such as feces, paper, plastic, or bits of metal, all should be kept out of the dog’s range.
The dog may be eating out of boredom. Increase the dog’s activities and stimulation. Purchase toys that the dog can chew on. Play fetch with the toys and your dog. Take walks to get the system flowing better.
Maybe the dog is experiencing Separation Anxiety. Taking the dog to doggy daycare or having someone come to the dog when you are at work will help to eliminate this issue. Locate and hire a Professional Dog Behaviorist that can help eliminate the issue.
Purchase a no-contact Spray available in many locations that will stop the dog from chewing or eating it. Now I know that many times it is impossible to spray all items that the dog wants to chew or eat, however, the spray will prevent items in the home from being chewed and eaten.
You do need to know that Pica is a psychological and compulsive disorder. It could stem from malnutrition or loneliness. Most often a change in lifestyle is all that is needed to remedy the problem with the dog. Stress is another contributing factor, just as attention-seeking is. With both of those, paying attention to your dog, spending quality time with the dog, and increasing the exercise will all help in slowing down and eventually stopping the disorder.
Frustration and depression are also behavior and emotional issues that dogs deal with, just as humans do. When you adopt or purchase a dog, be sure that you have the time to spend with the dog. Dogs are sociable animals and are fully engaged when they a mentally, physically, and emotionally stimulated.
When you have hired a Professional Behaviorist for your dog, to help end the PICA, you need to be sure to follow through with everything he or she tells you to do. If not, you will have wasted money and nothing will have changed for your dog.
If the Pica stems from medicine the dog is taking, the Vet will be able to determine this and change the medication when possible. However, the Vet is the only one that can actually determine this. Again, Pica can cause some severe damage to your dog. These issues could lead to emergency surgery if you choose to ignore the behavior that the dog is exhibiting when eating unhealthy items.
In summary, when your dog is eating unhealthy items, you need to remove the item from the dog’s vicinity. Unhealthy items and unhealthy cravings are not good for a dog and can cause some serious medical issues. The dog needs to be taken away from the dining area when it is mealtime. This will stop any family or friends from giving in to those adorable ‘puppy eyes’. Eating too much food is just as bad for a dog as eating other things. Obesity is very real in dogs and can cause multiple health issues.
When you suspect your dog is eating something it should not remove it. When you have concerns, speak with the vet