Pica in dogs – Overlook the problem or treat the underlying cause?
Puppies are innocent and lost when it comes to things they put in their little mouths. This means they end up biting or chewing things they shouldn’t.
As you are slowly picking up things, your pet may munch on various disgusting stuff that nauseates or mystifies you.
On a positive note, you and your puppy may come out of this bad habit of eating repugnant and non-edible things.
Why Do Puppies Chew Everything?
Puppies explore the world only with their mouths. Swallowing, mouthing, and chewing stuff is their way of understanding what’s eatable and not.
This behavior grows from a natural behavior that puppies grow fast. This sort of behavior can get them right into trouble, even causing poisoning and blockages.
Why Do Puppies Love Dirt?
Some puppies seem to love different kinds of rocks. This is not a bad behavior because many wild animals mainly target soils, including clay, that absorb toxins.
Parrots in the forest, for example, eat mineral-rich items.
The smell is one of the key factors. That’s true if someone else has urine marked that particular place. Puppies taste to better interpret what the dirt says.
Some canines may want specific areas, including mulch piles. These piles may emit mushroom-like taste. Eating too much dirt can stop or affect your puppy’s innards. The occasional taste will not cause any problems.
What Is Pica In Dogs?
Consuming non-edible stuff is known as pica. Puppies do swallow small pieces of toys. But, in this condition, pica means an obsessive instinct to chomp sand or eat rocks.
Eating an inappropriate item can be a little tempting. Most puppies find scented or flavored items irresistible. Some of the common problem items puppies eat include soiled diapers, used tampons, bottle nipples, or any grease-coated utensils from the kitchen.
Other things that could induce your dog include your slippers or socks. So, it’s safe to secure these items from a dog’s reach.
In this condition, dogs eat non-food items. Certain dogs may prefer a particular brand of the object. Some dogs love any type of stuff.
Pica can cause serious health problems in dogs because items they swallow may get stuck in their intestinal passage. This will lead to disruption of normal digestive behavior.
Things Preferred By Dogs Having Pica
Dogs with Pica may prefer anything from drywall to cricket balls, but objects that have their master’s scent remains their number one choice.
Things like pantyhose, underwear, and socks seem to be prominent than others.
Washcloths and towels are quite common, including parts of the dog bed.
Other items include wet wipes, magazines, books, batteries, children’s toys, and rocks.
The dogs like to see them only as food items and will eat the same item time and again.
Pica in dogs is different from coprophagia. Fecal eating is common in puppies. With coprophagia, most dogs find the fecal matter intriguing and actually love the flavor. This is not a simple habit once it gets strong.
Pica is diagnosed based on the behavior. There may be problems that can be identified in the lab but not pica.
This is because these conditions are not associated with an underlying medical problem.
While identifying pica is not difficult, but pinpointing the real cause is tricky. According to experts, anything from nutritional imbalances to hormonal diseases such as thyroid and diabetes problems can aggravate the condition.
Breeds such as Labs are susceptible to pica.
If the vet feels that an underlying cause is to blame, he will do a series of tests including the presence of parasites, improper digestion, stool, urine, and blood tests.
Vets claim pica can be caused by emotional problems such as separation anxiety and stress.
An expert says, “Dogs with separation anxiety can behave destructively. Boredom will force dogs with a lot of energy to do something.”
A medical examination performed by your vet may include –
- Checking eyes for discharge or redness
- Checking his mouth and ears
- Dog’s general condition (coat, skin, weight)
- Listening to his heart and lungs with a stethoscope
- Palpation of lymph nodes and stomach
After completing the checkup, your vet may suggest x-rays or CT scan depending on your dog’s condition.
Symptoms Of Pica In Dogs
You may track your pet eating toxic items. Based on what items are ingested, these can cause various problems.
Ingesting foreign items can lead to blockage, gastrointestinal irritation, and internal ulcerations.
Your pet dog could have one or all these symptoms –
If there is a blockage in the track, signs may include –
- Abdominal contractions
- Excessive drooling
- Tarry, dark stools
- Unable to move bowels
- Forcing oneself during bowel movement
Causes Of Pica
Pica can be due to any one or all these behavior disorders including-
- Lack of social contact
- Frustration and Depression
- Boredom or lack of exercise
- Finding hard to get attention
- Stress or anxiety
There are reasons that contribute to pica. These signs cause increased appetite-
- Unbalanced diet
- Diabetes mellitus
- Stomach Tumor
- Hookworms intestinal parasites
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia
Also, pet subscribed medications that can cause pica include –
- Anti-seizure (such as phenobarbital)
- Corticosteroids (prednisone)
How To Prevent Your Puppy From Chewing Everything?
Much of your puppy’s training should deal about not eating anything that’s inappropriate. Most puppies outgrow solid munching, but if it eats something that hits the floor-
Always watch your pup closely. Maintain close supervision and use a top-quality crate when you are busy with other work.
Stop your puppy from eating something it should not. Train your puppy to drop the item when you say “No” or “Drop it”.
Follow the “No” command with a chew toy. Teach the dog other commands such as lie down and sit. Bear in mind, puppies normally have very short concentration levels.
Treatment Of Pica
Treating pica may need two types of treatment –
- Finding out the real underlying cause
- Preventing the pica
Health issues are not difficult to address. For instance, if the dog is found to have any nutritional deficiency, it’s not hard to supplement the deficient nutrient or change diets.
Vets recommend making simple dietary changes. “Four small meals a day are easier to assimilate, absorb, and digest as compared to one larger meal.”
Experts say, “Dogs suffering from pica will suffer from a sort of digestive problem as seen in the abnormal food preferences.”
Adding antioxidants, probiotics, and enzyme medication for canines might help. Nutrition is the best solution.
If pica is associated with boredom or anxiety, supplying more activity and stimulation will help. There are various medical treatments that can positively treat anxiety.
Tips To Handle Pica In Dogs
If you cannot find the underlying cause, try these simple things.
- Remove all the type of items preferred by your dog.
- Get a hamper if your dog loves chewing underwear or sock. This is important because some dogs may eat items that cause gastrointestinal problems due to their size.
- Before your training fully sinks in, never get angry of your puppy still eat something undesirable. If this happens, take these simple steps to keep your pet safe and secure –
- In general cases, small items pass cleanly through the pup’s body. Making pet vomit is another option.
- Learn to handle specific undesirable items or substances that your small dog swallows.
- Calling a vet is the best option in these situations. The vet will decide whether you should bring in the puppy or wait for the item to pass. If your vet suggests you let the item pass, wear gloves and get a long stick so you can check your puppy’s feces to ensure that the item is out.
- Feeding your dog food can produce digestive juices, comfort the item, and push it along.