Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt? Let's Dig Into This Behavior

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 06, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Oct 12, 2021
Golden retriever puppy dog lying on a dirt biting
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.2 Min

Has your pet dog started eating dirt?

It can be due to various reasons. This habit of dogs may signal underlying health conditions and may result in several health issues. 

Dogs can sometimes show weird behavior. It may include eating dirt and this might leave you wondering 'why dogs eat dirt?' This condition is termed as ‘Pica’. Pica is the consumption of non-food substances which may include dirt, garbage, paper, soil. It is a common problem seen in pets like dogs.

Some dogs eat dirt due to stress or if they are bored. But it may be a sign of other underlying health issues like Anemia: less red blood cells, food deficiencies including vitamin deficiency, stomach issues, anxiety, depression, and low-quality pet food.

If your dog is inclined to eat dirt, it may be suffering from stomach and digestive tract ulcers, diarrhea, vomiting, choking, infection, poisoning, drooling, abdominal pain, constipation, laziness, upset stomach, and various other health problems.

You should immediately visit a veterinarian and get this dirt-eating disorder diagnosed. For other medical information and clarity on dogs, you may also read about why dogs cough and why dogs eat grass and vomit.

What is the best food to feed a dog that eats dirt?

Sometimes pets, including dogs, start eating non-food items like soil, dirt, and paper. This is caused due to various physiological or psychological reasons. In this case, it is highly advisable to provide proper treatment and give your dog a balanced and nutritional diet that is present in good quality pet food to address any underlying deficiency of nutrients.

Dogs eating dirt could indicate Pica, which may be a sign of deficiency of vitamins and minerals. So, it is highly recommended to feed your four-legged friend something that is rich in these nutrients.

You can feed them cooked meat. It is rich in protein but you should avoid cooking bones as it may contain toxic substances for the dogs.

Your dog might have had consumed cooked bones which may also have splinters that can internally hurt the digestive tract of the dog. You can also include pumpkin and carrot in your dog’s diet.

It contains a lot of fibers and will help them overcome the anemia, marked by a deficiency of nutrients. You could feed them brown rice, corn, peas, cooked potatoes, cooked eggs, broccoli, and fruits. You can also get your dog checked to determine a specific deficiency.

Doctors can give you vitamins and other nutritional supplements and suggest good quality dog food. There are some food items that could be toxic for your dog and may affect their health.

They may include chocolate, onions, garlic, citrus fruits, milk, salty foods, and foods rich in fat. Make sure you prevent your dog from eating these food items or it may make them sick.

What happens if a dog eats too much dirt?

Eating dirt due to boredom or stress can be quite common among dogs. But if they start eating too much dirt, it can be a signal towards serious illness.

The dog should be immediately taken to the vet for a better diagnosis. A vet will be able to diagnose the cause of this behavior or habit properly and suggest medicines and supplements. They could also suggest a suitable diet for your dog.

Pica can be caused due to psychological or behavioral illness. It can result in other issues and illnesses which can adversely affect the dog’s health.

The dogs can develop a parasitical, bacterial and viral infection. It can result in gastrointestinal infections, intestinal blockage, damaged gums, teeth, and food tract. It may need surgical removal of organs.

The dog may ingest contaminated and poisonous substances and suffer from poisoning, diarrhea, and vomiting. Eating dirt can also cause ulcers in the stomach, bad breath, constipation, drooling, choking, abdominal pain, coughing, and lethargy.

Is it bad that my dog eats dirt?

Yes, it is extremely bad behavior if your dog is eating dirt. It can be a symptom of serious mental or physical illness in your dog. The dog might have ingested some poisonous or contaminated substances along with the dirt which may result in various mild to serious health issues resulting from parasites.

The psychological disorders your dog may be suffering from if it is eating a lot of dirt are anxiety, depression, stress, and frustration. They may be suffering from loneliness and may want to seek the attention of their owner by eating dirt.

The physiological reasons for your dog to eat dirt may be diabetes, vitamin and mineral deficiency, growing tooth in puppies, stomach disease, anemia, lack of nutrition, infection, and tumor in the stomach. The dog may also lack mental or physical stimulation.

They can develop an infection in the digestive tract. It may also cause intestinal infection. Their teeth and gums may get injured while trying to eat solid particles like stones and marbles.

Ingestion of poisonous substances like pesticides which may be present in soil can lead to poisoning, vomiting, and diarrhea. The dog may choke on big objects like stones.

So, make sure to give your dog a proper nutritional diet along with attention. You can also visit a vet for proper diagnosis and better treatment of your pet.

Adorable Australian Shepherd chewing potted flowers and mud.

What are the ways to stop dogs from eating dirt?

Eating dirt can severely affect your dog’s health. After the diagnosis of the cause and starting treatment, their habit must be broken.

It is advisable to take some steps and precautions to prevent your dog from eating non-food items like dirt, soil, paper, stones, and others. Here are few steps you can take to help your four-legged friend with this issue.

Owners must give proper attention to the dog and also offer adequate training. It will improve their mental stimulation. Play with your dogs and shower them with lots of love.

You can give your dog chewable toys to distract them from eating dirt.

Whenever you go outside, leash your dog and keep it away from mud or soil. You can also identify the places where your dog eats dirt and make sure it stays away from that place.

If you have potted plants at your home, make sure they are out of the dog’s reach.

Give your dog proper meals which are rich in minerals, vitamins, and all types of nutrients as well as in taste for wholesome nutrition. You can also ask a vet to suggest you good and nutritious pet food and diet for your dog.

You can train your dog with the help of a specialist.

Do not give cheap dog food to your little friends.

What are the treatments for pica dogs?

Treatment of pica dogs is extremely necessary. If untreated, it can lead to various health issues. The treatment may include medication, nutritional diet, and training. There are some treatments available for dogs that eat dirt. Some of them are listed below.

Play with your dog outdoors for physical and mental stimulation.

Make sure your dog isn’t suffering from boredom. Play games with them and take them for a walk daily.

Consult a vet for a better diagnosis. They may give supplements for deficiency and other physiological problems.

If your dog is suffering from anxiety or depression, take medication for the same. Also, shower your dog with lots of love.

Provide the best quality dog food to your dog as it is full of nutrition and easier to digest.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do dogs eat dirt then why not about why dogs drool and Belgian Sheepdog facts?

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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