Although seeing a puppy gnaw on a shoe is cute, this behavior can become obsessive or dangerous. Our Los Angeles veterinarians explain why this behavior is occurring and whether or not 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 unfit or dangerous to eat. They can cause a blockage in 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, especially 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 may 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 to investigate new objects by picking them up with their mouths or chewing on them, just like puppies. Or, unrelated to pica, a dog may be attempting to play with something and swallowing it by accident.
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?
It's critical to speak with your veterinarian if you suspect pica or another medical condition is causing the problem. If it's more of a behavioral issue, however, it's most likely something that can be fixed with some 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 develop canine bloat if they eat too much or too quickly. Gases build up and a dog's stomach twists as a result of this. Canine bloat can kill a lot of dogs in a matter of 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