Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt? (Is It An Unhealthy Habit?)

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Puppy sniffing dirt (caption: Why do dogs eat dirt?)Dogs love digging holes in the ground, but what happens if they take it a step further and eat the dirt? In addition to making them a muddy mess, is ingesting soil harmful to your pup? There are many reasons this dirty habit starts and several things you can do to help them stop.

Article Overview

First, you need to determine the frequency of your dog’s dirt disposition. If your dog consumes soil infrequently, it’s probably fine (but it’s always good to discuss this with your vet). However, if your dog routinely devours dirt, there may be cause for concern.

Why Is My Dog Eating Dirt?

Most dogs eat dirt just because it’s fun (or out of boredom). However, if your dog appears obsessive about it, something more serious could be going on. Including:

Is My Dog Lacking Nutrients?

Your dog could be eating dirt to make up for nutritional deficiencies. This is common with dogs who eat homemade meals rather than commercial dog food or food specifically designed for a dog’s diet. If this is the case, you may want to check in with your vet.

Many pet parents are feeding their dogs homemade meals due to the increasing distrust of dog food companies. We want to note that there’s nothing wrong with feeding your dog homemade meals, and it can be quite beneficial for dogs. But it’s important to speak with your vet about what you’re feeding your dog to ensure they’re getting a balanced diet.

Why Do Anemic Dogs Like Dirt?

iPhone app and Petnostics cupIn very rare cases, dogs with anemia may like eating dirt because their bodies crave iron and they’re trying to get it from any available source. If you think this may be your dog’s situation, you should have your dog evaluated by a vet or try a Petnostics test.

Dogs Suffering From Pica May Eat Dirt

Another rare case could be pica. Pica is an eating disorder defined by the persistent ingestion of nonnutritive substances. Animals or people suffering from pica get strong urges to eat substances other than food. Pica can be a sign that something else is going on with your dog, including liver and gastrointestinal disease.

Digestive Problems

Dog laying on sofa sickYour dog may be trying to relieve their upset stomach by eating dirt. Some types of clay can help soothe a dog’s digestive system, and ingesting soil can help move items through the digestive system more quickly.

Is My Dog Bored?

Some dogs, just like humans, like eating dirt because of an oral fixation. Dirt is around to be chewed on, so dogs will chew it. The same thing goes for dogs who eat dirt out of boredom. Oftentimes, it is something that is simply there for them to do.

Is My Dog Anxious?

Finally, some dogs do it because they are anxious, do not receive enough attention, or are doing it intentionally to misbehave.

Video: Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?

Here’s a quick summary of why dogs eat dirt that we made to help spread the word and raise awareness about this problem.

Is Eating Dirt Dangerous?

It depends. Eating a little bit of dirt shouldn’t be a problem. But this is only true if the dirt they’re ingesting is free of pesticides, harmful organisms, fertilizers, and other chemicals that can be harmful to them. For example, if you’ve had your lawn, shrubs or trees in your yard treated with any type of chemical, you need to keep your dog away. Seeing your veterinarian is advised if your dog is eating dirt.

How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Dirt?

  1. If your dog repeatedly returns to the same spot to graze on dirt, check and make sure there isn’t something they’re trying to get. For example, your dog may like to nibble the dirt surrounding your grill if there are grease drippings below.
  2. Make sure your dog is getting enough daily exercise. A dog who is well-exercised is less likely to get bored and dig.
  3. Consider training your dog. Giving a dog something to focus on can help reduce behavioral issues.
  4. If you catch your dog eating dirt (or about to eat dirt) redirect your dog by giving them a toy or try playing with them.
  5. Keep plenty of toys and treats around to encourage safe, healthy playtime.

If you have tried all of the above and nothing seems to help, see your veterinarian immediately or seek the help of a professional dog trainer. Your dog may have a digestive disease or a medical disorder that requires professional treatment. Dogs might also like to eat poop in addition to dirt.

How often is your dog eating dirt?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs. Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child.

In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly’s research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today. One of Kimberly’s favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds, and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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January 20, 2020 11:53 pm

How to get my dog to stop eating her poop

Dani pierce
April 20, 2019 11:53 pm

My pup also will dig and eat dirt if I’m not watching her