If you notice that your sweet puppy has a disturbing preference for eating rocks of all things, don't just wish the behavior away. Although in some cases the strange eating habit may indeed simply be a short phase, unfortunately, not all puppies necessarily grow out of eating the inedible.
The consumption of the inedible is referred to medically as "pica." The compulsive disorder describes the inclination -- and actual action -- of eating things that are generally not considered to be edible, whether rocks, socks, shoes, paper bags, books or anything else. Pica is in no way exclusive to puppies or dogs as a whole. In fact, some people and cats also display the rather unconventional dining style. In the pica world, rock eating is especially prevalent.
If your cutie is still a bouncy young puppy, his pica may be a passing fancy, notes the ASPCA. When a dog is in the puppy stage, his world is one of wonderment, curiosity and investigative exploration. Whether your dog chews on rocks in your backyard or actually swallows them, it may be a sign of simple curiosity -- nothing more and nothing less. However, the majority of little ones cease this behavior by the time they reach the half-year mark.
Teething may also be a trigger for puppy pica. If your doggie is eating stones, it may be because he finds them comforting to his sore gums. Although the actual swallowing of rocks during teething is not the norm, it's not at all nonexistent, either.
A puppy may also start chowing down on rocks out of a yearning for attention and acknowledgement. If your puppy is lonely and feels neglected and ignored, he may start chewing and swallowing inappropriate items as a way of getting you to simply notice him. Whether you rush over to him with concern or firmly say "no" to him as you look him straight in the eye, his pica may just be a cry for help -- and companionship.
Your puppy's cringe-inducing rock eating may also be related to medical ailments, some potentially more serious than others. The compulsive behavior may be a symptom of a variety of conditions, including anemia, dietary deficiencies, intestinal parasites, stomach tumor, diabetes mellitus and overactive thyroid. Because of the danger of ignoring a possibly pressing health issue, it's very important to take your puppy to the veterinarian to check up on things. Don't wait around to do this. Apart from the possibility of pica being related to a disorder, it can also be very hazardous and trigger intestinal obstruction, especially if the rocks are on the larger side. Never ignore signs of pica in your pet, even if you suspect that you know the cause.
A mischievous little pup may also turn to eating rocks out of boredom. If your puppy is bored, then it's up to you to change that unpleasant reality for him. Whether you play fetch with him more often, take him on extended walks around the park regularly or buy some exciting and interactive new ball toys for him, keep your pooch's mind and body moving.
Frustration and stress can also encourage a puppy to act out in compulsive ways. If you keep your pup locked up in a tiny crate all day while you're at work, he may let his pent-up frustration out by eating rocks while he actually is roaming free in your yard. If your puppy has a source of major stress in his life, he also may turn to pica. Perhaps another bigger household dog is bullying him, and he's at a loss of what to do. Anxiety is a major source of compulsive and odd behaviors in animals.
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