It might be cute to see a puppy gnawing on a shoe, but this behavior can turn obsessive or dangerous. Here, our Statesboro vets talk about the reasons for this behavior and if you should be concerned.
If it's not food, why do they eat it?
In many cases, the answer is pica. Pica is a relatively common disorder that causes your dog to eat things that are not food, such as socks, shoes, or toys.
This is not the same as chewing on something for attention, it is more of an obsessive desire to eat objects (like sand, rocks, sticks, etc.), often with nutrients that might be missing from your dog's diet.
Pica not only destroys your prized possessions, but many of the foods your dog consumes are unsuitable or dangerous to consume. They can cause an obstruction of the intestines, necessitating emergency surgery to save your dog's life.
If you feel that your dog might be displaying symptoms of pica, call to make an appointment with your vet.
Puppies learn about their world through discovery. And without hands to do that, a puppy uses its mouth to investigate.
Unfortunately, feces, particularly from a cat's litter box, is a common non-food item that puppies will try to eat. This is not only unappealing, but it can also make your puppy sick because the feces may contain parasites.
Thankfully, many puppies will outgrow this unhealthy and somewhat disgusting habit, although you may need to help with training to curb this behavior.
Many adult dogs will eat whatever they come across while out on a walk or whatever may be lying around the house.
They, like puppies, enjoy exploring new items by picking them up with their mouths or chewing on them. Unrelated to pica, a dog may be playing with something and accidentally swallow it.
Aside from pica, there are other reasons your dog won't stop eating non-food items. Some possibilities include:
- Attention-seeking behavior
- Stress or anxiety
- Old habits from puppyhood
- Health reasons
The good news is that many of the causes can be addressed through behavioral training.
What should I do?
While training may be a solution, there are ways to try to curb the behavior yourself.
- If your dog is bored, try to find more time in your day to spend with them, and include fun, interactive toys
- Always remove any dangerous objects from reach, in case they don't respond to training
- Do not give your dog attention if they're behaving badly as it can reinforce the behavior
- You can try spraying the items your dog typically tries to eat with a dog repellent spray, you'll need to be sure that it's non-toxic and intended for this purpose
- If the cause for constant chewing or eating non-foods is due to stress or anxiety, your vet may recommend drug therapy if nothing else will work
- If the behavior happens on walks, you may want to use a muzzle to restrict them from eating whatever they come across
Should I be concerned?
If you suspect pica or another medical condition is causing the problem, consult with your veterinarian right away. If it is more of a behavioral action, it is most likely something that can be corrected with time and love.
Regardless of the motivation though, the important thing is ensuring the health of your dog and to keep dangerous objects out of their reach.
Signs That Your Dog Has Eaten Too Much
If people overeat, they can undergo bloating, built-up gas, or feel uncomfortable until it resolves itself, with little damage done.
Dogs, on the other hand, can get canine bloat if they eat too much or too quickly. This causes gas accumulation and stomach twisting in a dog. Many dogs can die from canine bloat within hours.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should bring your dog to the vet or emergency clinic immediately:
- Pacing or whining
- Shallow breathing
- The stomach appears distended or enlarged
- Inability to get comfortable
- Won't lie on their side
- Unable to defecate
- Change in the color of their gums (dark red, blue, white, and cold)
- Trying to lick the air
How to Prevent Canine Bloat
- Feed smaller, more frequent meals
- Use a slow feeder bowl to restrict quick feedings
- Always separate your dogs at feeding time if you have more than one