If your pooch has a puzzling inclination to put his mouth on -- and actually eat -- the strangest of random items, he definitely isn't the only one in the world. The consumption of foreign objects is a compulsive condition that is actually called "pica."
When a dog develops a bizarre penchant to eat things that, simply put, are inedible to most, he may just be experiencing a type of compulsive disorder known as pica. Pica is in no way exclusive to dogs, and can also affect human beings and cats. If you spot your pet chowing down on blankets, sweaters, grass, stones, plastic bags, rubber bands, fecal matter or practically anything else under the sun, pica may just be the culprit.
As for the specific causes of pica, the Humane Society of the United States indicates that they are as yet uncertain. However, the disorder is often associated with a variety of things, including the desire for attention, curbing boredom and dealing with anxiety. If a dog is still a puppy, pica may simply be classic curious exploratory behavior that fades away with a little bit of time.
Many circumstances in a dog's life may be linked with the emergence of compulsive behavior like pica, whether abandonment or abuse, past trauma, lack of attention or insufficient socialization.
Pica may also be linked with a variety of health ailments. In some cases, your poor dog's bizarre eating habits may just be beyond his control. If you notice your dog eating foreign objects, take him to the veterinarian immediately to figure out exactly what may be wrong. He could be suffering from a dietary deficiency, gastrointestinal parasites, poisoning or a metabolic condition.
It's up to you as a pet owner to take control of your doggie's pica. After all, the condition is no laughing matter. A dog's swallowing random objects can often be a recipe for medical emergency. In some cases, it can even cause fatal intestinal obstruction. Employ a few techniques to discourage your dog against eating foreign objects, such as spraying harmless flavor deterrents over preferred "eating" items, investing in some exciting new toys to take his focus off of eating said items, encouraging daily mental and physical fitness sessions and placing inedible things out of his reach.
If you are concerned that your dog's pica may be an especially severe situation that requires professional attention, talk to your vet regarding recommendations for certified and qualified pet behavioral experts near you.
- Animal Humane Society: Unusual Eating Habits in Dogs and Cats
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Other Canine Behavioral Problems
- Nevada Humane Society: Pica
- ASPCA: Pica (Eating Things That Aren't Food)
- The Humane Society of the United States: Pica - Why Pets Sometimes Eat Strange Objects
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Behavioral Problems of Dogs
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