Rocks are one of the most common non-food items that dogs eat, but why do dogs eat rocks in the first place? Pica is the consumption of non-food items that provide no physical benefit to the dog and can be a manifestation of a true medical condition or a behavioral condition. Here’s why your dog might be eating rocks and how to stop it.
Why Do Dogs Consume Rocks?
Rocks are eaten by dogs for a variety of reasons. Here are a few common causes of your dog eating rocks.
Medical Conditions/Nutritional Deficiencies Depending on the type of rock, different types of minerals are present. A dog who is not eating a nutritionally complete and balanced diet, or who has a medical condition that causes a nutrient deficiency, may seek out missing nutrients in non-food items such as rocks.
Certain medical conditions that cause pain or poor nutrient absorption can cause dogs to eat non-food items. Intestinal parasites, food allergies, stomach ulcers, pancreatic disorders, and any other source of pain are all included. As a result, a thorough medical examination is a critical first step in determining the source of the problem and getting your dog feeling better.
Mental stimulation is an important part of caring for your dog. Many dogs require mental stimulation, whether through puzzle toys, interactive play, or dog sports like agility, dock diving, or flyball. A dog who lacks the stimulation provided by these activities may begin to act destructively. This can include chewing on furniture, shredding toys, or chewing on fabric items like shoes or clothes, but it can also include eating things they shouldn’t.
An anxious dog may exhibit symptoms similar to a bored dog. This includes destructive behavior such as chewing and consuming non-food items. Anxiety can be generalized or specific, such as separation anxiety, fear of noises, or other specific phobias.
Certain breeds of dogs are also prone to compulsive disorders. Compulsive disorders in dogs can manifest in a variety of ways, but they are all characterized by repetitive behaviors such as tail-chasing, constant licking, spinning, chasing lights and shadows, and chewing on and eating certain items.
How to Stop Your Dog Eating Rocks
Eating rocks isn’t just a strange, annoying habit. It can actually cause intestinal blockages, which necessitate emergency surgery and can be fatal in some cases. Furthermore, dogs who continue to eat foreign objects and require multiple surgeries develop scar tissue and may have permanent damage to their stomach and intestines. The best way to keep your dog safe is to keep your dog from eating rocks in the first place, which includes determining why your dog is eating rocks in the first place and preventing future access to rocks and other foreign objects.
Feed a Complete and Nutritionally Balanced Diet
A “complete and balanced” dog food contains all of the nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy, and those nutrients are in the correct ratio for your dog’s nutritional needs, as described in the AAFCO standard for your dog’s life stage. If you buy a commercial dog food with an AAFCO statement (usually near the guaranteed analysis table and feeding instructions) stating that it meets the nutritional guidelines for your dog’s life stage, you can be confident that it is nutritionally complete and balanced.
If you cook for your dog at home, it can be difficult to create a nutritionally complete and balanced recipe, which can be dangerous if your dog is deficient in important nutrients. There are board certified veterinary nutritionists who can assist you in developing a complete and balanced home cooked diet for your dog, and homecooking should be done only under their supervision.
Prevent Rock Access
If your dog enjoys eating rocks, you should consider removing rocks from your landscaping. Basket muzzle training can also help you walk your dog in areas where there may be rocks or other foreign objects for them to eat. A properly fitted basket muzzle will allow for panting, drinking water, and even taking treats, albeit in smaller, bite-sized pieces.
Address the underlying behavioral issues If no physical causes for your dog’s behavior are found and eating rocks appears to be a manifestation of a behavior problem such as anxiety or compulsive disorder, controlling these behaviors will be critical in stopping the rock eating and making your dog feel better mentally. Working with a qualified trainer or veterinary behaviorist to determine the exact diagnosis and design an effective treatment plan may be very beneficial. This frequently consists of a combination of training, behavior modification techniques, additional mental enrichment through exercise and puzzle games, and, in some cases, medications.