Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt? Is It Safe For Dogs To Eat Dirt?


why do dogs eat dirt

You’ve probably seen some dogs sniff around, identify a particular spot on the ground and peacefully enjoy eating dirt. While dogs have many weird behaviors, dog parents tend to worry more when their furry friend eats dirt. One main question comes up: why do dogs eat dirt?

Dogs that indulge in dirt may have underlying medical conditions like anemia and Pica. However, the primary reason dogs ingest dirt is due to the lack of essential nutrients, and they tend to supplement the missing nutrients from dirt. Interestingly, some dogs will eat dirt just for fun.

In this article, we’ll have an in-depth discussion on why dogs eat dirt, the health concerns you need to know what to do when you notice the habits, and everything in between. With that, you can raise a healthy dog because you’re cautious enough. Let’s now get into it.

dog inside hole eating sand

Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?

Our canine friends are known to feast on all sorts of things. It is common for dogs to eat non-food items like soil, rocks, grass, and even garbage. When it comes to eating dirt, veterinarians point out a variety of reasons. The main reason why dogs eat dirt is to try and supplement the nutrients their bodies lack.

Nutritional problems arise when pet parents feed their dogs’ a poorly balanced diet. Whether your focus is on home-cooked meals for dogs or commercially made food, you have to ensure you’re feeding your dog a balanced diet with all essentials. Unfortunately, some pet parents will ignore that blindly, exposing their dogs to medical problems.

Like humans, dogs require a balanced diet for healthy growth and development. If you’re unsure of what to give your dog, consult a vet for nutritional concerns. But first, observe the dog’s behavior. Experienced vets will analyze the problems extensively and in a professional view to help you come up with a perfect diet.

5 Reasons Why Dogs Eat Dirt

By now, we all know there are some underlying reasons why dogs eat dirt. Some even more serious than a concerned pet parent would imagine. Having said that, let’s extensively look at some of the possibilities for this weird behavior.

Pica

Pica is a state where dogs eat non-food items. The behavior results from the consumption of poorly made home food. That makes your dog eat the next available thing with a desire to acquire relevant vitamins, minerals, and probiotic bacteria unavailable in their daily diet.

Experts argue that Pica is also an emotional response to stress and anxiety and must not be overlooked. For instance, a dog that suffers from separation anxiety may indulge in dirt compulsively. The same dog may also destroy its kernel or chew the toys to shreds.

Sounds frustrating, right? The reality is dogs that suffer from Pica can ingest anything of no nutritional value from couch to dirt in a move to promote their survival. If you realize that your dog is in such a situation, quickly improve its diet.

Anemia

You may notice that your dog has currently been eating dirt like its starving. That probably signals the onset of anemia. Anemia decreases the absorption of iron and vitamin B. As a result, the furry friend lacks adequate healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to their body tissues, and that’s dangerous.

Anemic dogs eat dirt to try and make up for the deficiencies of iron and vitamin B. Other than a poor diet, anemia in dogs is caused by many issues, including intestinal parasites like hookworms, flea infestations, and severe blood loss from injuries.

Eating dirt is one of the symptoms of anemia. Other symptoms include loss of appetite and lethargy. You need a vet to conduct all the appropriate tests to ascertain the condition and advise you on an effective treatment plan. Depending on the severity of the condition, vets normally recommend antibiotics or blood transfusion to treat anemia.

Hypothyroidism and Bowel Disease

Your dog might have chronic health concerns if you notice dirt-eating behavior. Inflammation of the bowel poses an extensive danger to your dog’s health. It’s because of the bleeding effects along the bowels’ walls, making it hard to absorb essential vitamins and minerals. Your dog will try to get these essentials from dirt. With decreased intake B vitamins, it means the dog’s body can’t make enough of the thyroid hormone, resulting in hypothyroidism.

dog with head in dirt

Behavioral Problems

Surprisingly, some dogs tend to eat dirt for fun. If you have ruled out medical reasons, your furry friend may probably be going through behavioral issues. These issues spring from boredom to fun moments. So, what do you do when that happens?

You can solve the boredom issue by introducing new and exciting toys for your dog. But that is not all. Constantly monitor your dog. If you realize they’re trying to eat dirt, go ahead and create a distraction.

Make a verbal command or a loud noise to get their attention. Never punish the dog or make it feel unwanted. It’s part of your family and deserves some love. Rectify the issue wisely without ruining your hearty relationship. Positive reinforcements are the best way to treat behavioral issues.

When the dog makes a considerate effort to stay away from dirt, applaud them—you can choose to offer the canine a special diet treat or a new toy to reward good behavior. Present the reward in an extremely exciting way. If your dog does not change its behavior, consider engaging a professional trainer for quality training that will see your dog get rid of that bad habit.

Tasty Dirt

Other than medical concerns, your dog may be enjoying dirt simply because it’s tasty. The behavior happens a lot, and, most often, there is no need for extensive worries. The good thing is that you can easily tell when your dog is on a tasting spree. It keeps going on to that particular spot. For instance, if you keep noticing it around your grill after a busy weekend of grilling portions of bacon and steaks, then it’s after the tasty flavors.

Is It Safe For Dogs To Eat Dirt?

Is dirt toxic to dogs? Well, the shortest answer will be: it depends. In case it’s a one-time thing, without making a habit, well and good. But still, we all know that things can get messy if a dog ingests something toxic, even if it’s once. Dirt is quite dangerous in huge amounts or when combined with toxic elements.

For example, mulch and dirt can coexist. Dog parents who love mulching should use pet-friendly alternatives like cedar mulch and rubber mulch. Mulch from cocoa shells is known to be toxic. Once a dog ingests this mulch, it may suffer from diarrhea, seizures, vomiting, hyperactivity, and an increased heart rate.

Some dogs tend to have a very sensitive stomach. Once they ingested a non-food item, it may disrupt the dog’s digestive processes resulting in stomach upset. While that is not a common occurrence, your dog might be in such a situation as it tries to satisfy its craving, and it’s not worth it. Most often, you can’t tell when toxic elements are present in dirt. That’s why you need to do everything possible to ensure your dog doesn’t make dirt-eating a habit.

So, At What Point Should You Be Worried?

If your dog indulges in dirt occasionally and doesn’t appear to be doing it compulsively, there is no need to panic. Again, that’s valid if we assume that the soil your dog ingests is free from harmful chemicals like slug bait and pesticides.

If you feed your dog with home-cooked meals and notice that it has been eating dirt, you should soon visit a vet. While home food is fantastic, it may lack some essential mineral nutrients. More so, there are other concerns such as anemia, Pica, and gastrointestinal diseases, which you’ll want to have the assurance of from an expert.

Pica, for example, maybe a sign of other medical issues such as liver disease and gastrointestinal disease. If your dog appears to feel unwell and eats dirt persistently, a visit to the vet is highly advisable. The move will enable you to learn what is ailing your dog.

What are the Dangers Associated with Eating Dirt in Dogs? Possible Side Effects

Are there any possible side effects that you can expect when your dog eats dirt? Well, if you notice your dog constantly eats dirt, you must immediately discourage the behavior. Ingesting soil can cause several health-related risks, as we have earlier on discussed.

In a nutshell, here are some health risks that are associated with dirt-eating.

  • Eating soil puts your dog at the risk of ingesting soil-dwelling parasites.
  • It may cause damage to your dog’s throat, teeth, stomach, and digestive tract.
  • Injuries may result due to ingesting sticks and stones in the soil.
  • Dirt can cause serious choking to the extent of risking the dog’s life.
  • The consumption of soil toxins may harm a dog’s intestines, which require surgery to correct.

How Can You Stop Your Dog From Eating Dirt?

So, how can you fix the dirt-eating habit? You’ll need a lot of patience to take your dog through the remedies to stop eating dirt. As with most dogs, yelling does not help. It escalates matters. To solve this matter effectively, you must get the following questions right:

  • How often has the dog been eating dirt?
  • Is the consumption steady, random, or it has happened once?
  • Is the habit related to certain motives?

If you notice that the behavior is compulsive and results from boredom or lack of nutrients in their body, you will need to engage a trainer and a vet. More so, you also need to play a significant role by doing several things, as explained below.

6 Remedies That Will Stop Your Dog from Eating Dust

The following are things that can be done to stop the dirt-eating habit in dogs:

dog with dirt on face

Training and Physical Exercise

Ensure that your pet gets sufficient physical exercise regularly. A well-exercised dog tends to be more relaxed and is unlikely to venture into trouble. Since the dog needs some time to rest, the dog will not go looking for entertainment in the dirt. Training your dog is an effective way of curbing behavioral issues. It keeps the dog engaged with things to do and think about.

Once you catch your dog eating or getting ready to eat dirt, you should immediately curtail the chain behavior. That’s when training and physical exercise, especially playing balls and running, comes in. After every training, set aside a treat to reward your dog.

Invest in Chew Toys

Invest in a variety of safe, quality, and acceptable chew toys. The dog must be able to access the toys with ease. Additionally, invest in interactive toy options. Doing that will help keep your dog focused more. It’s even better when your dog is at a young stage because chew toys help them teeth easily.

Deworming

Unfortunately, dog parents forget to deworm their dogs often. Dogs eat a lot of things, even without us knowing. Deworming is an effective way of remedying the problem at hand and keeping your pet healthy. Failure to do so increases the chances of gastrointestinal diseases in dogs.

Improve Your Environment

As a dog owner, be cautious about the environment in which your dog lives. The reasoning here is simple: if there is no dirt, your dog can’t eat dirt. For example, if the dirt comes from a particular area in the yard, consider covering it to prevent your dog from accessing the area.

Change the Dog’s Diet

It is important to consider a change of diet once in a while. If you suspect that the meal your dog eats lacks adequate nutrients, try a new diet. That’s when the advice of a nutritionist and vet comes in handy. Luckily, there is a variety of dog food in the market. If you have to go for wet, canned foods as healthier options, ensure they’re dog friendly and consist of natural ingredients.

When looking for your dog’s ideal food, make sure the food addresses your dog’s special needs like age, size, medical issues, and activity levels. Always consult a vet before making food purchases for your dog.

Supervise Your Dog Keenly

It is always a good idea to supervise your dog when outside. Discourage your dog from indulging in dirt or anything unacceptable. If you are walking the dog, don’t let it taste dirt. If you notice specific areas your dog loves eating dirt from, make them inaccessible. When indoors, keep your dog away from house plants dirt. Taste deterrents have worked in some cases to discourage the dog from eating indoor and outdoor dirt.

One more exciting remedy: You can train your dog not to eat dirt by the use of a spray bottle. Ensure you have a spray bottle full of clean water when supervising your dog. If you notice dirt-eating behaviors, caution the dog firmly and then spray its face with the spray bottle. Don’t add anything to the spray bottle that can harm the dog. Don’t try to use hot water. Lastly, avoid using a spray bottle on a biting dog.

Nutrition and Eating Dirt in Dogs

Why is nutrition important for dogs? Nutrition is a major topic of discussion among dog enthusiasts. It’s because everybody wants to know the right meal they need to give their pets. Considering that nutritional deficiency is the main reason why dogs eat dirt, you need the right diet. With a wide variety of foods out there, be cautious with your dog’s diet. We recommend consulting a dog’s nutritionist or veterinarian.

Food is medicine for your dog. Although modern-day medicine has strayed from this notion, it is good to prioritize your dog’s diet for good health and well-being. Your dog’s health is anchored on nutrition—no doubt about that. Food fuels the body and provides it with mechanisms for tissue repair, health maintenance, and energy.

Dog owners need to consider food as one of the most important parts of their pet’s life. With that in mind, it’s easy to prioritize wholesome, fresh, and natural dog-friendly food.

So, Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt? Is It Safe For Dogs To Eat Dirt?

Eating dirt in dogs is a result of nutritional deficiencies, behavior problems, or even for fun. While dirt consumption isn’t safe for dogs, especially when combined with poisonous components or a compulsive habit, the good news is that there are multiple remedies you can consider.

But most importantly, engage your vet and let them guide you. Your dog’s health is a priority.

Ever raised a dog with a dirt-eating habit? How did you manage to rectify the issue? Please do share it with us. We would love to hear from you in the comments.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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