Why Dogs Eat Dirt & Mulch - Causes & Potential Health Risks
Why is my dog eating dirt? Learn why dogs eat dirt or mulch and understand the potential health risks associated with this type of behavior.
Why Your Dogs Eat Dirt
Veterinarians don't completely understand why some dogs eat dirt, but they do agree that dogs who habitually eat soil may suffer from boredom, mineral deficiencies or behavioral issues.
While most pet foods provide all the daily allowances of minerals that a dog needs, some dogs still develop mineral deficiencies. In many of these cases the dogs are extremely active or they are working dogs, and they need more minerals than the average dogs. In rare cases a dog may not be able to process minerals from the diet as well, and extra minerals are needed in the diet. In cases of mineral deficiencies, some pet owners have been able to stop their dogs’ dirt eating habit by switching to a higher quality brand dog food.
Boredom may be another cause as to why dogs eat dirt. Bored dogs may begin to develop a number of strange habits such as licking their paws constantly, chewing on furniture or walls, or eating dirt. Munching at the dirt may be just another way to pass the time.
Other Underlying Behavioral Problems
In some instances, dogs that eat dirt do so because they have an underlying behavioral problem. This could be due to obsessive compulsive disorder, mental problems which developed from painful past experiences, or due to a genetically inherited behavioral problem. Most dogs which eat dirt in these instances display additional types of unusual behavior.
Some dogs develop a taste for dirt because the dirt in their environment is especially tasty. If there are snails or other small critters in the dirt that the dog likes to munch on, the dirt that comes along with these little snacks may just be part of the meal. Dirt that contains compost or fish residue fertilizers can also be particularly appealing to dogs.
Problems Associated with Dirt Eating
While an occasional munch on dirt is normally not harmful to dogs, a tendency to dine on soil for extended periods of time can cause a variety of health problems. Dirt can also contain harmful chemicals or particles that can be dangerous to your dog’s health. If you notice that your dog is eating a lot of dirt, it is important to work with your dog to try to break the dirt eating habit.
One of the biggest dangers for dogs that eat dirt is the stones and other small particles in dirt which cannot be digested. These components can build up in the stomach and intestines, and over time can cause big problems. An abundance of stones and particles in the stomach can interfere with the digestion of foods and the absorption of nutrition. Non digested particles can also become lodged in the digestive track causing life threatening blockages that require immediate medical attention.
Chewing on dirt is a habit that is also harmful to a dog’s teeth. The constant grinding, and occasional biting on stones or pebbles, can wear teeth down over time; in some cases the teeth may chip, break, or crack. Damaged teeth can become painful and infected over time, and dental treatments will eventually become necessary to repair the damage.
Eating dirt may also cause dangerous poisons to accumulate in a dog’s body. Sadly many of the soils and dirt in the environment today contain traces of pesticides and chemical residues. While the occasional meal of dirt will not harm a dog, if eating dirt becomes a habit hazardous ingredients in the dirt will slowly build up in the dog’s blood and body. The result can be a gradual poisoning of the dog’s system which may cause permanent damage to the dog’s health.