Pica in dogs is a condition where your fur-baby ingests things that are not food items. These items can be anything, from cloth, plastic, rocks, metal, garbage, and even his own poop (except that eating poop is a whole lot different condition, read about it here)!
"You can manage Pica by giving your fur-baby more activities to do that will help stimulate both his mind and his body."
Here, we'll know what causes this psychological compulsive behavior in your fur-baby and how you can manage it.
WHAT CAUSES PICA IN DOGS?
For pet parents, a dog eating non-food items can cause panic. But the causes of it can be pretty hard to determine. It can be a behavioral problem caused by psychological reasons like:
- boredom or lack of physical and mental stimulation
- lack of socialization
Pica in dogs can also be caused by other factors like:
- poor nutrition
- poor diet
- gastrointestinal diseases
- parasitic infection
- pancreatic and liver diseases
- neurological diseases
- diseases resulting in loss of appetite
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Here are the things you should look for if you think your dog has pica and not just accidentally ingesting things.
Obviously, the main symptom to look for is when your dog regularly eats non-food items. The other symptoms then will greatly depend on what things or substance your fur-baby has ingested. Ingesting these items can possess great danger to your fur-baby and he might suffer from:
- inability to poop, straining
- bloated or swollen abdomen
- abdominal pain
- gastrointestinal blockage
- presence of blood in poop
- bad breath
- infection (if the non-food item a dog has ingested is dirty or contaminated)
- poisoning (if your dog has swallowed a harmful substance like a household cleaning product, medicine bottles, etc.)
- constant coughing
When trying to identify the real reason behind your dog's pica, it's best to evaluate your fur-baby about his lifestyle and environment circumstances.
Does your dog get enough exercise? Does he have easy access to his chews and toys or does he need to beg for it first? Does he get enough physical and mental stimulation? Does he have a healthy and proper diet on a consistent mealtime schedule? Is he stressed out?
MANAGEMENT AND TREATMENT
Management and treatment for pica in dogs depend on whether your fur-baby's case is a psychological one or is caused by a medical condition.
For psychological causes:
More activities. You can manage it by giving your fur-baby more activities to do that will help stimulate both his mind and his body. This will help reduce boredom, lessen his stress, and will help him remain calm and relaxed. Your dog might need a brain game.
Social activities. Going on walks and meeting people, other dogs & animals will help your dog get going, keep him company & remind him he's not alone, and can help prevent depression.
Provide chews. If you don't want your dog to be swallowing non-food items, keep those non-food items out of his reach and provide him with high-quality dog chews that can deter him from ingesting inappropriate objects. -
Seek help from a canine behaviorist. Professional dog behaviorists can help you deal with your dog's strange habit, especially when the cause is psychological.
Do not punish. Punishing your dog will only heighten his anxiety and his urge to desperately beg for your attention. So it's a major no-no!
For medical causes:
Pay your vet a visit. Your veterinarian will perform exams and tests on your dog to see what is exactly wrong with him. Your vet will also know what medicines best to prescribe your dog.
Seek dietary changes. If the cause of your dog's condition is due to an unbalanced diet, consider changing his diet into something that will suit his nutritional needs better. For pups, protein and calcium are important for their active and growing bodies. For adult dogs, fiber, iron, etc. play a great role and so on.
Supplement. Vitamin or nutrient deficiency can also be a cause for pica in dogs. If this is the case, you can have your dog tested to make sure what particular vitamin or nutrient he's lacking and then you can supplement from there.
Other pica in dogs management reminders:
- Whether your fur-baby's condition is a psychological or a medical one, always remember to keep all non-food items that can easily be swallowed by your dog always out of his reach. Keep objects safely locked in drawers, cabinets, and boxes.
- Make certain to supervise your dog (either indoor or outdoor) because dogs can be tricky sometimes!
- Keep your fur-baby confined in a crate whenever he's left alone in the house.
- Train him to "Leave it!" or "Come over here!" whenever you notice he's attempting to ingest something. This is a way of diverting his attention and telling him you don't like what he's about to do. If he does leave the object and come to you, praise him and give him a reward. If he listens but then easily goes back to the object or does not listen at all, repeat the command words until he's learned what you want him to do. Patience is key. No training happens overnight.
HOW CAN PET PARENTS® HELP?
Pet Parents® Gnawtlers® can help keep your fur-baby physically and mentally stimulated through gnawing. Gnawtlers® are premium antler chews from elks and deers that are specifically selected for their weight, color, size, and quality.
The marrow on the inside of Pet Parents® Gnawtlers® are so full of nutrients like phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. These nutrients will strengthen your fur-baby, discarding the calories, artificial dyes, fragrance, preservatives, and hazards that come with other chew options. This can assist with Pica in dogs as the marrow keeps them entertained all while providing them with extra nutrients compared to other chews.
Pet Parents® can also provide your fur-baby with Multivitamins for vitamin or nutrient deficiencies. Our probiotic supplements support proper digestion in your dog as well as proper distribution of vitamins and minerals throughout the body. These probiotic supplements contain Fructooligosaccharides, a natural substance that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, supports digestive & immune health, & helps with healthy detoxification & excretory processes as the ingested items of your fur -baby is soon excreted into his system.
Pica in dogs can be very confusing especially when you don't know what causes it. But the way to a healthier and happier life relies on your hand as a pet parent. But we know that you and your dog can get through anything! You got this :)
" Our Gnawtlers® can assist with Pica in dogs as the marrow keeps them entertained all while providing them with extra nutrients compared to other chews. "