Why Does my Dog Eat Everything in Sight?

Does your dog or puppy eat anything and everything including inedible things such as dirt, rocks, clothing, and pretty much everything in sight?  It is normal for puppies to chew up and even eat pretty much everything puppies learn what things are and what is and isn’t food by putting everything into their mouths.  However, if your dog is now an adult and you are still asking yourself, why does my dog eat everything in sight, you should get your dog to a vet right away as this can be a sign of a serious, potentially fatal physical condition.

Why is my puppy eating everything she sees?
Does this look familiar to you?

Is Your Adult Dog Still Eating Everything in Sight?

If your puppy is now fully grown and still exhibits this eating behavior then you should take get him to a vet right away.  This behavior could be a sign of a serious canine health problem known as ‘Pica’.  If you work and your dog is alone all day then it might be difficult to determine exactly what your dog is eating unless the things he or she is eating are clearly visible such as your furniture. 

Why is my dog eating the furniture?

In many cases, Pica is a compulsive behavior problem. However, it can also be the result of one or more medical conditions.  regardless of the cause, Pica can cause serious problems to your pet’s health, therefore, If your pet is eating non-food items, you should take him to a veterinarian. 

Since your dog has Pica symptoms, the vet will perform a variety of tests to determine whether your dog has any of the underlying conditions that could cause your dog to crave inedible items.

According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), compulsive behavior will not just go away on its own. Even if your vet discovers an underlying condition, your dog will still need specific training to change his/her eating behavior.

What Are the Symptoms of Pica?

Symptoms of Pica can be one or more of the following:

  • Straining during a bowel movement (due to constipation)
  • Unable to move bowels
  • Dark, tarry stools
  • Burping
  • Excessive drooling
  • Abdominal contractions

Medical conditions that can result in Pica can be one or more of the following conditions that increase your dog’s appetite:

  • Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) 
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) 
  • Hookworms intestinal parasites
  • Stomach tumor
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Malnutrition 
  • Unbalanced diet

If your pet is taking a prescribed medication that has a side effect of an increased appetite, this could also lead to pica:

  • Corticosteroids (for example, prednisone)
  • Anti-seizure (such as phenobarbital)

Diagnosing Canine Pica

The veterinarian will take a thorough medical history of your pet.  He may ask you about your dog’s diet, appetite, thirst, bowel movements, behavior, and activity level. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination which may include: 

  • Palpation of the stomach and lymph nodes
  • Listening to his lungs and heart with a stethoscope
  • Dog’s general body condition (weight, skin, coat)
  • Taking a look inside his ears and mouth
  • Checking eyes for redness or discharge

After the physical exam, the veterinarian may want a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, and a serum biochemistry profile. These tests will help rule out any underlying diseases such as iron deficiency anemia, thyroid problems, or diabetes mellitus. The veterinarian may also recommend x-rays, to check for any blockage in the digestive tract.

Treatment of and Recovery from Canine Pica

If your veterinarian does not diagnose an underlying medical condition that could cause your dog’s Pica, then he/she may recommend a dog behaviorist and a specialized dog trainer.

If your vet determines that pica is due to behavior issues alone, he/she may recommend increasing your dog’s physical and mental activities.  There are natural herbal remedies that may help your dog with anxiety issues and have a calming effect on him. It will be necessary to keep your pet away from the non-food objects he has been ingesting. Leash walking your dog will help prevent him from eating rocks and feces. The objects your dog is attracted to can also be sprayed with a bitter-tasting spray. This will cause the items to taste horrible and prevent your dog from eating them. Provide your pet with plenty of chew toys and puzzle toys to occupy him.

Your vet will discuss an appropriate treatment plan with you if he/she diagnoses an underlying condition. He/she may also recommend a change in your dog’s diet.

Your dog will need surgery if the veterinarian discovers an intestinal blockage. X-rays or ultrasounds will help identify the location of the obstruction. Follow-up visits will be necessary for your pet to check the incision and remove the sutures.

Follow-up visits will also be needed to check on your dog’s progress and response to the treatment plan for any other underlying diseases diagnosed.

Treating Canine Pica With Behavior Modification

Regardless of what caused your dog’s Pica, you will need to modify your dog’s eating behavior.  The following list contains some suggested behavior modification training steps for dogs with Pica:

Train your puppy not to chew up and eat everything in sight
Train your puppy while he is still young

Suggested Solutions:

  • Consult with your veterinarian and ask for a referral for a veterinary behaviorist.
  • Keep all inedible objects your pet is eating out of his reach. Be sure your pet has no access to these items either by removing them or by managing your pet’s access. Sometimes using a crate, pet gate, exercise pen or pet gate can be a simple and effective remedy,
  • There are products you can purchase for the purpose of making these items taste horrible. This can be a deterrent and a learning aid to get your dog to eventually stop eating these items.
  • For food-oriented pets, consider changing her diet to allow her to eat more frequently, which could decrease her behavior. Check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet.
  • If you suspect that your pet is anxious or frustrated this can also be a cause for Pica. If you can identify the source of your pet’s anxiety or frustration, you can use behavior modification techniques to change the behavior.
  • Sometimes Pica is an attention-seeking behavior. Try spending more time playing with your dog, and walking him, so that he doesn’t need to resort to Pica to get your attention. Dogs love to spend time with their pack leader (you) so they will really appreciate anything you can do to accomplish this.
  • If pica is a play behavior, offer your pet a variety of appropriate, non-ingestible toys. Cats tend to play with string, rubber bands, and tinsel, and ultimately ingest them. Keep these items out of reach and provide a selection of appropriate toys instead.

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