Dogs can get into loads of mischief, and many times this happens due to smells and tastes they find appealing. Eating dirt though is not really a normal thing for a dog to do, so if your dog is doing it on a regular basis it’s time to take a look at the reasons he or she may be doing it.
1. Is your dog’s diet giving them everything they need?
When we look at animals in general, they are rather complex beings. For everything to grow, develop and function properly is it any wonder there are certain dietary requirements. Yes, bodies are amazing things and can do a lot for themselves, but they also need external support, to give them energy and the ability to repair at a cellular level. This external support includes minerals and vitamins. Many commercial dog foods, if produced by a reputable manufacturer, are designed to contain everything your dog needs.
However, if your dog is missing vitamins or minerals from their diet, they may eat dirt to try and resolve it. Think pregnant women and their weird cravings – the medical profession often say that it’s usually the body’s way of trying to “top up” something that’s missing. It’s the same principal really!
I will share a warning here too – beware of Kibble. It’s not really what nature intended for a dog, and it’s classed as a processed food. Just like for us, the more processed a food is, the lower the nutritional value tends to be.
However, there is a trend that continues to develop, for all the right reasons, that may be depriving your dog of everything they need to stay healthy.
Are you feeding your dog a home-made diet?
I can fully appreciate why this might appeal. In fact, we did it for quite a while for our dog when he developed digestive problems. You want to give your dog the very best, right?
With the way pet food manufacturers market dog food, to questionable origins of ingredients, I think it’s quite normal to want to “cut through all the crap” and control what your dog has access to. After all, who is better at quality control then you, the owner and lover of your dog? However, it’s not always the simplest and easiest thing to do. Why? Well, here are some of the reasons:
More often than not, a home-made diet will consist of cooked foods. Think yummy cooked chicken and rice, or a replication of our Sunday Roast. These sorts of foods will taste divine to your dog, and they will happily devour everything on the plate. But, over time it’s quite possible that they will start to miss out on some of the important minerals and vitamins.
Why? Well, if we stop to think about it, our dogs’ ancestors didn’t have ovens! And in the main, everything they ate contained bones. Bones provide wonderful stores of minerals and vitamins, so were a main source of these vital ingredients for dogs in the wild.
This leads me on to say (and I’ve done it myself) that many cooked meals we would make for our dogs don’t contain any bones. And, it may not be as simple as adding supplement sot your dogs diet, as lots of these are synthetic in nature and may not be what you want to give your dog – especially if you are wanting a natural approach. You can add in suitable bones – BUT AVOID ANYTHING FROM POULTRY! Chicken and turkey bones are more inclined to shatter, leaving sharp shards that can get stuck in a dog’s throat.
Many specialists would advocate a raw food diet, over a cooked one, as it’s closer to how dogs were designed to eat and absorb what they need.
==> Check out this handy books for more on Raw Food Diets for Dogs
The best advice I can give you, especially if your are feeding home-made diet in response to a medical condition, is to get advice from your vet. They can translate pretty well in terms of what foods your dog needs, and in what combinations to satisfy their needs.
2. Your dog may have a stomach upset
A common component of soil is clay, which is known to have a soothing effect on stomach upsets, by neutralizing anything toxic to the system.
Eating dirt can also be a desire to gently “clean out” the linings of the intestines. It’s can act as a gentle abrasive to scrub things clean in the gut.
Soil-eating in this instance would be more isolated. If it goes on for more than a few days, or if your dog is obviously unwell, there may be something more serious going on inside your dog’s stomach.
3. Is there an underlying chronic health issue?
There are some more serious conditions that may prompt a dog to eat dirt. The effects are usually still deficiencies in minerals and vitamins, but caused not by diet, but something else. For example, these conditions all cause anemia (or a lack of iron in your dog’s blood), which impact on absorption of the family of B-vitamins.
- Hypothyroidism – simply put, this is an under-productive thyroid gland. The body doesn’t get enough thyroid hormone, which helps bone marrow to produce red blood cells. This is where iron is contained, so if there aren’t enough red blood cells, there isn’t enough iron. It’s actually relatively common in humans too, and significant weight change is an indicator.
- Internal parasites – such as hookworms. Since they survive through latching on to the dog’s blood supply, they also deplete the levels of red blood cells in the body.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – this condition can result in ulceration and bleeding in the bowel, which if sever enough can impact on the body’s overall blood supply.
I think it’s worth noting here that there are also external blood-sucking parasites, like fleas and ticks. Unless these are left untreated and become a really severe infection, I don’t think these are likely to cause anemia. Just like humans, most dogs have the ability to replace small amounts of lost blood, so the odd insect bite is not going to have a major effect on their overall well-being.
4. It’s doggone tasty!
As I mentioned in the intro, dogs are really excited by smells – especially some that might smell really bad to us! If they are eating soil from the same place, and sniffing around it a lot, there may be a smell or taste that’s attracting them. Think extra-juicy fat splashes from your grill, for example!
5. Because they want to
This comes down to behavior – pure and simple. 9 times out of 10, this will be down to stress or boredom. Your dog may be doing it to express separation anxiety when you’re not there, or they may feel that eating dirt is a way to liven up their day.
It could be obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – who knew dogs could also get this? If this is the case for your dog, you will need help from a vert or animal behaviorist, as a habit that is that severely ingrained can be exceptionally hard to break, and trying to force a dog not to do it when it’s a compulsion can cause them to become highly stressed.
If it is purely something your dogs does to pass the time, try these handy tips to break the habit:
- Ensure your dog is getting enough exercise. A well-exercised dog will be a happy and relaxed one, and these dogs are less likely to get up to mischief! This is especially important for larger dogs.
- Try and keep your dog mentally stimulated too – a new training regime could be just the ticket (learning a new trick, for example) or leaving interactive chew toys for them.
- Use replacement techniques – by this I mean watching your dog for signs they are about to take to the ground with their teeth, and distract them You could either give them something they are allowed to chew, or take them away completely to do something else – a game of fetch maybe?
- Control the dirt environment – if it’s a small patch of soil your dog keeps returning to, cover it or fence it off for a while, or perhaps you could plant something there.
WHY EATING DIRT MIGHT BE BAD FOR YOUR DOG
The odd bit of soil may not harm your dog at all, but it’s not a thing you want to encourage. Even thought I have highlighted some of the reasons for them to do so above, let’s consider the dirt itself.
There may be nasty chemicals in it, some of which could be lethal!
- plant food
- weed killer
- snail or slug pellets – THESE ARE DEADLY TO DOGS!
WHEN SHOULD YOU GET HELP?
Ask yourself if your dog is otherwise acting and looking normal. If you think they are unwell, or acting strangely, and eating dirt – you should get them checked out by a vet.
I hope you have found this useful – dogs eating dirt is quite a common thing, but the reasons vary and if it becomes a longer-term habit, you should take a closer look at your dog. If you have anything to add, please do so below – and questions are always welcome!
Have a great day dog lovers 🙂