Any dog owner can tell you that they have a tendency to eat the most bizarre things. It’s so common that it has its own name – ‘pica’. (And no, that’s not the name of a Pokémon…)
Over the years PDSA vets have removed all sorts of weird and wonderful things from pets, including rubber ducks, children’s toys, underwear, tent pegs and even a kitchen knife!
Why do dogs eat things they shouldn’t?
Dogs explore the world with their mouths. Sometimes they can accidentally swallow the things they pick up out of curiosity. They can also have a taste for things that we don’t think of as food, like poo. This can be a sign that they’re missing out on important nutrients and your vet can give your helpful advice.
There are other reasons your dog might keep eating things they shouldn’t:
- Dogs are very intelligent animals and they can get bored easily. They might fill their time by chewing on or tearing up things in your house, swallowing something they shouldn’t in the process.
- If your dog is stressed out – maybe by being left alone or by loud noises – they might comfort themselves by chewing on something they shouldn’t.
- For attention. Did they get a lot of fuss and attention last time they ate something they shouldn’t have? Your dog might have learnt that eating a toy or chowing down on your slippers makes them the centre of attention!
What can I do if my dog’s eaten something they shouldn’t?
Pica can be dangerous for your dog if they swallow something their body can’t break down and digest, causing internal injuries or blockages. The best thing to do is to call your vet straight away for advice.
Sometimes you might not have seen your dog eat anything but they might be showing other signs and symptoms, such as:
- Throwing up
- Having runny poo or not being able to poo (constipation)
- Not wanting to eat
- Standing with a hunched back or adopting a ‘bowing’ or ‘prayer’ position due to tummy pain
If your vet thinks something is stuck inside your dog that shouldn’t be there (sometimes called a ‘foreign body’) your dog may need an emergency operation. Your vet will open up the dog’s stomach or intestines and remove the blockage.
This operation carries a lot of risks, especially if parts of the gut have started to die due to the blockage, so it’s important to deal with your dog’s pica problem so they don’t need repeated operations.
How do I stop my dog eating things they shouldn’t?
Here are some things you can do to stop your dog eating things they shouldn’t:
- Make sure your dog understands a few simple commands like ‘leave’ and ‘drop’ so if you see them going for something that could be dangerous to them you can stop this, even if you are some distance away. Check out our guide to reward-based training.
- Remove temptation. Keep risky items safely out of reach. It seems obvious, but if your pet goes for certain items, keep these well out of reach. Get into the habit of keeping the floor clear of anything small enough for your dog to swallow.
- A muzzle. If your dog gobbles things up on walks and hasn’t learnt the ‘drop’ or ‘leave’ command yet, a muzzle can help to keep them safe. A simple basket muzzle should stop them from wolfing down anything hazardous and they’ll still be able to enjoy their walk.