February 18, 2022 4 min read

As pet parents, we all have caught our dogs eating the strangest things. Personally, I can never forget the time I walked outside to be a first-hand witness to a murder- my dog was fast enough to catch a lizard and had already started to make a meal of the poor thing.

One of the more common “snacks” dogs like to eat is dirt. Maybe they eat it accidentally in an effort to dig a hole to Australia, or they lay down and take a bite out of boredom. However, eating dirt can stem from several different causes and can be a great indicator of their current health.

Today, we’re going to talk about why your dog might be eating dirt, the potential harms of eating it, and how you can analyze your dog’s health through their eating habits.

Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?

Eating dirt may seem like an ordinary dog thing to do, but the act could signal underlying health conditions. If eating dirt isn’t a one-time thing, your dog may have an eating disorder calledpica.

If your dog is eating dirt, take a moment to consider the possibility of them having any of these health issues:

  • Poor nutrition: One of the biggest reasons dogs like to eat dirt is to make up for nutritional imbalances. If your dog is being fed kibble or canned food, there is a high chance that your dog is missing out on essential minerals and probiotics- which causes your dog to “search” for them in the soil. Switching to a high-quality diet designed to be beneficial rather than cheap is the best thing you can do in this instance.

    Read more: Nutrition Comes from Nature, Not Kibble.

  • Something aromatic may be buried: On a less serious note, your dog may be eating dirt because they smell something yummy buried! Maybe grease from the barbeque dripped into the soil, or another dog left a scent behind. Either way, this is generally a regular thing with no cause for concern, as long as the behavior is infrequent and your pup grows out of it.

  • Behavioral issues: Boredom and anxiety are common reasons a dog might be looking to munch on some dirt. Like humans have specific “tells” when they’re nervous, dogs have their tells as well. Eating dirt can signify that something is bothering your dog emotionally. For example, your pup may not be receiving enoughexercise or mental stimulation

  • Upset stomach: While the act of eating dirt doesn’t seem very soothing to the stomach, many dogs do it to soothe digestive irritation. Instinctually, dogs may be attempting to clean the intestines or get whatever’s bothering their stomach out quicker. If your dog displays other signs, like vomiting and diarrhea, they may have parasites, gas buildup, or other intestinal issues. Be sure to monitor your dog for additional symptoms, and take them to the veterinarian when proven necessary.

  • Anemia or another chronic illness: While a lack of nutritional deficiency may result in your dog searching for minerals in the soil, more serious health issues could also come into play. For example, anemia is a condition that is determined by low blood cell levels. Anemia can accompany, or even be caused by, nutritional imbalances in your dog’s food.

  • Other chronic illnesses may also be indicated by your dog’s desire to eat dirt. Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) or hormonal imbalance can both be traced topica in dogs.

    If other symptoms of illness, such as fatigue and disorientation, accompany your dog’s habits of eating dirt, it’s a good idea to take your pup to their veterinarian. 

    Potential Risks of Eating Dirt

    While it’s not rare for dogs to eat dirt, it definitely should be avoided. If your dog doesn’t already have an upset stomach, eating dirt can potentially give them one- along with many other health complications. If your pup has snacked on some soil recently, watch out for signs of any of the following health complications:

    • Consumption of soil-dwelling parasites
    • Choking and vomiting
    • Impacted intestines and damage to the digestive tract
    • Poisoning by pesticides and fertilizers
    • Dental wear and damage

    Overall, training your dog not to eat dirt and practice a healthy habit instead is the best way to go. Usingyour pup’s favorite treats, redirect them from the soil and give them a different task (i.e., sit, down, ‘go find,’ etc.), giving your pup lots of praise!

    It also may be a good idea to reevaluate your dog’s daily routine. Check if your pup’s food is nutritionally balanced, make sure they’re getting lots of stimulation, and keep an eye on them when they’re outside or around houseplants. 

    Other Common Demonstrations of Pica in Dogs

    Eating grass:Eating grass is, by far, one of the most common forms of pica in dogs. In fact, it’s even been observed in wild dogs! Eating grass is caused, for the most part, by the same things as a dog might eat dirt. However, being a more common occurrence, most of the time, a dog eats grass is out of boredom or stress.

    I have noticed that my dog likes to munch on grass when he’s physically tired. After spending a long day at the park and on the final stride home, he sometimes likes to plop on someone’s lawn and start munching away. Ensure that your dog has enough water and rest stops when you take them on an adventure!

    Eating wood:The consumption of wood usually stems from heavy chewers looking for their next victim and choosing a sturdy piece of wood to munch on. While eating wood is less common than eating dirt or grass, it can still pose dangers to your dog’s health. Splinters and ruptures to your dog’s digestive system can cause long-term damage.

    When you catch your dog chewing on a piece of wood, redirect them witha healthy chew and consider giving them more mental and physical stimulation. 

    Eating mud:Many dogs eat mud for the same reason they might munch on grass or dirt. You can show your dog that there are much better ways to fix their problem than eating dirt through redirection.

    While pica is an extremely common condition in dogs, it’s usually best to stop their habits due to the potential risk. Finding the root cause of your dog’s eating habits may prove to be tedious, but it’ll be worth it in the end when your pup’s well-being is enhanced.

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