As much as we love our dogs, you are at some point going to ask yourself, “Why do dogs eat rocks?“.
They love to pick up things and play with them, they also are well known for their exceptional chewing abilities, but things can get quite serious if you find your dogs chewing or eating rocks.
I have personally had a problem with this and ever since then, I am very careful when it comes to my dogs chewing and eating things.
The first thought is likely to be teething. Chewing and grinding their teeth on something hard is the logical thought process, but things can be more serious than that if you don’t find out the root cause.
One of the following reasons may give you an idea as to what the problem is:-
- Calcium, iron, or phosphorus deficiency
- Illness or suffering from pain
- A mental condition called pica
- Intestinal tract infection
- Diabetes mellitus
If you suspect any of the first seven points above are the issue, you need to visit the vet to investigate the problem further.
The Reason’s Dogs Eat Rocks – In Detail
Dogs need the proper amounts of calcium and phosphorus in order to grow well and remain healthy.
A bone formation that is abnormal is called osteodystrophy. The main cause of this is from either an imbalance or lack of phosphorus, vitamin D or calcium in a dogs diet. If the parathyroid hormone is deficient, this will also cause abnormal growth. Bone need these to be strong and healthy.
Diet is the main source of calcium and phosphorus, although many different attributes alter the way these are absorbed into the body. Including the levels of Vitamin D and source of minerals in the body. Sunlight can also provide vitamin D for dogs. Abnormalities of the bone can form from the lack of the vitamin or if the activity is decreased. It can also cause other nutritional and metabolic difficulties.
If you believe this to be an issue, you should seek advice from your vet as to whether the diet you are providing for your dog is adequate. You may need to make adjustments to his diet tailored to your dog’s requirements.
One of the most common health issues with dogs is the presence of worms. They are easily treatable, but dogs must be regularly checked for worms and they must be treated immediately by the vet.
Dogs must be given dewormers regularly to avoid health difficulties. They are easily accessible without the need for a prescription.
The symptoms of worms
No visible symptoms – On occasions, it won’t be possible to see the effect of worms, nor be able to see them in vomit or feces under normal circumstances. The only way of knowing is to have the vet carry out tests on the fecal matter itself.
Visible worms or eggs in feces – Although it is not a nice thing to be looking at, checking the feces for worms or eggs when cleaning the poo up can highlight the presence of worms.
Dragging rear ends on the floor or scratching against furniture – You will often see your dog dragging its rear end along the floor, or scratching against the furniture. This could be anal glands issues, such as them needing to be emptied. Otherwise, it may be signs of worms.
Visible worms or vomit – It’s not often that you should see your dog vomit, but worms may also be visible in vomit on some occasions.
Bloated or hard tummy – A bloated tummy should be very easy to spot. Providing the amount of food you are giving your dog is as per the guidelines, you should quickly notice if the tummy becomes bloated.
Always hungry but losing weight – This symptom is a very serious one and needs to be rectified quickly by your vet. The food is basically being stolen by the worms which will starve your dog of the nutrition the food provides. If your dog shows a sudden weakness, take them to the vet immediately.
Diarrhea – It’s likely you could see diarrhea relatively on the odd occasion if you change your dogs’ diet, as it will take time for them to adjust, but if you regularly see diarrhea, you should visit the vet, particularly if there is blood present.
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Illness or suffering from pain
One reason your dog could be eating rocks is from illness or pain, especially when it comes to oral health.
If you are not providing them with suitable chew toys, they may pick up rocks to alleviate teething pains or pains from their gums.
It could be as simple as checking their mouth for sores or splinters.
A mental condition called pica
Pica is an unusual disorder often found among pregnant women but also is present in dogs. Quite simply, it’s the need or urge to eat non-food items.
Coprophagia is a similar disorder but is related to eating feces.
Neither disorder is necessarily related to a particular disease but is something that may occur.
There isn’t one particular cause of pica, nutrient deficiencies can contribute towards pica. Typically, your body is trying to replenish your dogs nutrient levels. In other instances, parasites can cause pica. Another cause could be inflammatory bowel disease.
Intestinal tract infection
Gastroenteritis is where the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed, usually in the stomach and intestines. The main causes are bacteria, viruses, parasites, but also bad reactions to medications or new foods. It often involves discomfort or pain in the stomach and intestines and can cause diarrhea and/or vomiting.
The main method of treating Gastroenteritis is by restoring the balance of blood electrolytes. This fluid replacement will be given orally, subcutaneously (beneath the skin) or by intravenous (IV) treatment.
You need to take the vets advice when it comes to treatment. This may usually involve fasting by not allowing food or drink, to begin with, and then slowly reintroducing it with small, bland foods.
The following are indicators of a dog with diabetes:-
- Becoming thirsty and drinking lots of water
- Losing weight
- The need to wee often
- Becoming lethargic
- The presence of urinary tract infections
The ideal diet for diabetic dogs, is a high protein food with reasonable amounts of fat, with low carbohydrates. Although, your vet will give you a specific diet to suit your dog.
Bloating in dogs can be recognized by the following symptoms, although keep in mind that these are sometimes not so obvious:
- Hard or bloated midsection/stomach
- Retching but not vomiting
- Restlessness or not being able to settle
- Excessive dribbling
- Difficulty to breath, or fast and heavy breathing
- Rapid heart rate
It is not possible to treat your dog at home. Only the vet can ease bloating. You should not waste time trying to treat dogs at home as this is critical time lost in treating your dog.
If untreated, bloating can kill a dog within an hour. You must get your dogs to the vet quickly.
If none of the above symptoms are present, your dog may just be bored and need attention.
This is supported by the following signs;
- Being destructive
- Excessive barking or whimpering
- Following you around seeking attention
To ease your dog’s boredom, you could offer toys that grab their attention such as frozen kongs and chew toys.
Providing your dog with a firm routine will also help with the boredom as they will know they have something planned to keep them occupied.
Be sure to give your dog lots of exercise. All dogs require a different amount of exercise, and some are a lot fitter than others. You will likely find that your dog needs a lot more exercise than you first thought would be sufficient.
How To Teach Your Dog To Stop Eating Rocks
Understanding the reason as to why your dog eats rocks is the first step. If your dog is eating rock because of a medical condition, take your dog to the vets.
If it is simply because your dog is bored or frustrated, there are things you can do to help your dog curb the habit.
- Keep in mind that from the get-go, you need to be teaching your dog what it can, and also what it can’t play with, pick up, and chew. Making sure your dog doesn’t have access to things he might want to chew will remove most of the temptation.
- When you are out and about with your dog, have a ball to throw and distract them if they start taking an interest in rocks. Diverting their attention is better than picking the rock up and throwing it, else they might think it is a game and start chasing them.
- If the reason they eat rocks is due to loneliness or boredom, make sure you set time aside during the day to keep them exercised and feel loved. A good cuddle goes a long way with dogs.
Figuring out the reason needs to be the first step, prevented access needs to be the next step, and then encouraging them to not be tempted to play with stones is the final step.
If it is a medical condition, then you must seek advice from the vet as soon as possible, else your dog’s life could be at risk.