Pica is a disorder that causes dogs to eat nonfood items such as grass, mulch, dirt and rocks. Grass eating usually does not cause any health problems for dogs. However, if you have any concerns about your dog’s health, call your veterinarian. There are several different reasons a dog might eat grass or other nonfood items. You can stop your dog from eating nonfood items by figuring out why he is eating them, and by training him.
Underlying Medical Causes
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, your dog’s behavior could be due to a metabolic or digestive disorder, a dietary imbalance, a parasitic infection or poisoning. Consult your veterinarian to rule out these potential problems before you begin training your dog to change his behavior.
Your dog may eat grass when he has an upset stomach to induce vomiting and relieve his tummy ache. If this is the case, your dog will seem anxious and extend his neck while making swallowing motions, and will eat grass only occasionally. This form of grass eating, when it occurs infrequently, is normally not a concern. Do consult your veterinarian with any worries though.
Passing the Time
If your dog doesn’t have enough to keep him occupied during the day, there’s a good chance that he is eating grass, dirt or rocks to help pass time. Walking and playing with your dog on a daily basis can refocus his attention and stop him from eating nonfood items. It also is helpful to give your dog something to chew on other than rocks and grass. Dogs love to chew and providing chew toys can help end the behavior; just make sure the toys are tough and won't break into pieces.
It might just be that your dog needs more fiber in his diet and is eating grass to compensate. There have been reports from dog owners who see their dog’s grass-eating behavior end completely just a few days after switching their dog’s regular food to one with high fiber. Before changing your dog’s food, always consult your veterinarian.
If possible, don’t allow your dog access to areas with nonfood items. Teach your dog the “leave it” and “drop it” cues. When you see your dog approach a nonfood item, tell him to leave it and direct his attention to a toy or a treat. When he takes the toy or treat, give him a lot of praise. If he has picked up an item, tell him to drop it. You might have to teach him what drop it means by gently opening his mouth, removing the item and dropping it. When the item is dropped, offer your dog the toy or treat and plenty of praise.
When your dog has a frequent and intense desire to find and eat any nonfood item, this is a sign of a compulsive behavior that will require special training. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends consulting a board-certified veterinary behaviorist or a certified applied animal behaviorist if you suspect your dog has compulsive pica.
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