Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I don’t care how long I’ve owned dogs, there is always something new to learn. Doing some research this morning, I came across this word “Pica.” I never heard of it before but once I started reading about the description, I knew that I could identify with this word concerning some dogs that I’ve owned or own. If your dog likes to eat everything that he can get his little greedy mouth on that’s a non-food object, than your dog has a condition called pica! He may think that rocks, stones, sand, dirt, objects found on the floor, tissues, socks, clothing, etc. is a gourmet meal. Oh yeah, and lets not forget the “poop” eater. Well you just may be sharing your home with a “pica” loving dog. Pica is a compulsive disorder. It becomes a habit for the dog who engages in this behavior.

Pica is a potentially life-threatening condition that involves the craving, eating and digestion of non-food items because some things should just not be eaten. If they swallow a pin or sharp object, you can just imagine what trouble that could cause in the dogs stomach or digestive system. This condition can cause choking, digestive blockage, or breaking teeth. Various digestive disorders may be related to pica, such as difficulty swallowing, or problems related to intestinal absorption. Other problems such as diabetes or a nutrient deficiency may be related as well. Have your veterinarian check your dog. He may want to run blood tests and urinalysis to check for an underlying disease and organ function.

Many times you will have problems with puppies that like to investigate everything and put things in his mouth. Most of the time the puppy will have outgrown this by the time that they are two years old. Some of them however, never outgrow this bad habit. Watch out for the older dog that suddenly starts to engage in this behavior. This could be an indication of a serious health problem such as diabetes, or intestinal cancer.

From my research, it says that about 90% of dogs who exhibit this condition do not have a health problem. Many times it can be due to behavioral issues. Sometime pica may result from a pet's need for attention, frustration or anxiety. Some experts suspect it can also be a way animals attempt to make up for nutrients lacking in their diet.

Coprophagia is the ingestion of poop that is neither accidental nor incidental. It is deliberate and habitual. If you’ve been in dogs for any length of time, sooner or later you will probably deal with a poop loving dog. It’s yucky, ugly and disgusting especially when they want to come back in the house and plant a big wet one on your face! We’re not just talking about bad breathe here. We’re talking about one gross, foul smelling filthy mouth. I have had a few of my dogs in the past take an occasional “taste” here and there in their life times. Right now I own one who partakes of the “nasties” on a daily basis.

The reasons for a “poop loving” dog are many. It can range from anything from boredom, needing more nutrients in their food, digestive disorders (SIBO, deficiency anemia, chronic pancreatitis, esophageal dysphagia – swallowing problems, enterocolitis, esophageal dysplasia (pre-cancerous condition), lack of attention, habit, etc. Once they start doing this, it can be an ongoing struggle to get them out of this gross habit. Believe me, I’ve read everyone’s suggestions about how to stop a dog from doing this (Fig Newton’s, pineapple, Bitter Apple, meat tenderizer, poop stopping supplements, etc.). Nothing changes the mind of my dog from eating her favorite treat. This is my dog that has SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth) so I feel that this is part of her problem along with her hyper active personality. I’d love to hear what has worked for any of you that are reading this.

But what about the dog that loves to put everything in his mouth that he shouldn’t? I also have one of those types of dogs (aren’t I lucky though)? I own a bitch who is the biggest “chow hound” on the planet. No I really mean it. She was born this way. When I removed the sac from her huge head, she let out a big cry and twisted in my hands until I put her to her mother’s body so she could taste her first “drink” of milk. She didn’t need any encouragement. She was a hog then and she’s a hog now!

When I give my dog’s snacks at night, usually they are sharing something with me. The “chow hound would make a great football player. She totally throws her big body on top of the treat if it lands on the floor so no one else can get it. She gets most of the treats before the other two can get theirs unless I intervene. She is truly a glutton! I kid you not! If I put a large towel or blanket in her crate, she will shred it to pieces eating little chunks here and there. She’s constantly up on my counters looking for a crumb or two that I didn’t wipe up. She “vacuums” my floor with her mouth, by picking up anything that vaguely resembles a piece of food.

If your dog is fed a good quality food and is not lacking in nutrients and he does not have a medical condition and he starts to eat everything in sight it can be caused by a number of factors. He may be crated for too long of a time, bored, not exercised enough, or not given enough attention or activities to do. It is repetitive, non-functional and non-beneficial. This would indicate that it is psychological in nature (stressed, bored) and not medical. Then the owner needs to make sure that his dog is getting the proper amount of exercise and that the dog’s brain is stimulated and challenged (training through obedience, a job to do), etc.

So next time you wonder where you put that sponge that you use to clean the counters with, turn around and look at “Harvey.” He might have the answer for you!

My rating: over the counter remedies: (1), behavioral training: (4)

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