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.
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.
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:
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.
In 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.
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.
Your 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Make sure your dog is getting enough daily exercise. A dog who is well-exercised is less likely to get bored and dig.
- Consider training your dog. Giving a dog something to focus on can help reduce behavioral issues.
- 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.
- 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?