“Did My Dog Eat That?”
Dogs sometime eat some peculiar things. That’s the subject of a reality show that premiered on the Nat Geo Wild Network this past spring called, “My Dog Ate What?” In this show, dog owners relate the unbelievable things ingested by their darling pooches.
This show goes far beyond the usual fare: tissues, toilet paper, socks, undergarments, feces and, oh yeah, homework. It features much more interesting things like glass, rocks, fish hooks, glue and pacifiers. Oh my! Because I don’t particularly like watching dogs behaving badly, I’ve only watched a small portion of one episode. The fact that “My Dog Ate What” hit the airwaves illustrates this is a pervasive problem.
Why do some dogs do this? The medical term for the desire and craving to eat inedible objects is pica, and humans can be affected too. It’s a very potentially serious condition and the consequences can be fatal if the dog’s intestines become blocked or damaged. Due to their natural curiosity, puppies and adolescent dogs seem to be the most affected. Eventually most puppies do grow out of this, however if the behavior persists past adolescence or occurs out of the blue in older dogs, direct intervention is warranted. Any dog exhibiting these behaviors should immediately be evaluated for a veterinarian who will check for any underlying health problems. Conditions such as diabetes and other gastrointestinal problems can cause pica. Because pica is more often the result of anxiety and frustration, once medical issues are ruled out, some intensive behavior modification may be in order.
In the meantime, if you find your dog or puppy being attracted to inedible objects, here are some tips to make them less desirable:
Alter the Taste. Make licking or eating less desirable by spraying it with a non-toxic, safe, but unpleasant solution. Commercial products that contain bitters (apple, lime, lemon, orange) are available at most pet stores.
Puppy/Dog Proof. Just as we baby-proof our homes, we need to do the same for our puppies and dogs, especially if they display these behaviors.
Analyze the Diet. Some authorities believe pica could be a dog’s attempt to replace missing nutrients. A higher fiber diet might decrease the urge to eat more by making the dog feel more full. Consult your veterinarian for suggestions.
Provide More Exercise. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day to play with and exercise your dog, even more if you can. A well-rested, adequately exercised dog is less likely to have the energy to go searching for things to consume.
Supervise. Like children, dogs need us to supervise them. And a dog that displays pica or other destructive behaviors is basically screaming, “don’t let me fall victim to my own urges!” Set your dog up for success, not failure.