All the delicious food and treats you buy for your dog and he goes outside and eats rocks! What is that all about? Why do some dogs like rocks so much? We explore some common reasons why dogs eat rocks, risks associated with eating rocks and finally how to stop your dog from eating rocks. This will help you get to the root of why your dog is engaging in this strange behavior and how to help them stop.
Why Do Dogs Eat Rocks?
The most common reason your dog might be eating rocks is a medical condition called Pica. The classic signs of pica are eating non-food items. In addition to rocks, dogs with Pica might also eat dirt, trash, plastic, metal or articles of clothing like socks. There is no known cause as to why dogs get Pica, but it is often linked to nutritional deficiencies.
Another reason your dog may start eating rocks is that he or she has a behavioral issue. Stress or anxiety in your dog may manifest into your dog eating rocks. Your dog might be seeking your attention when he puts rocks in his mouth or he could be anxious or bored.
Finally, if your pet doesn’t have Pica or a behavioral issue, they may be eating rocks due to a nutritional deficiency or a parasite.
To get to the root of why your pet is eating rocks, you’ll want to start with a visit to your vet. He or she can do an exam and run diagnostic tests to check for nutritional deficiencies or parasites. They may also ask some lifestyle questions about your pet to determine if the issue is behavioral.
Risks associated with dogs eating rocks
Eating rocks is not a safe behavior for your dog for many reasons. It can lead to illnesses or injuries that result in the need for costly surgery or medical care.
- Intestinal blockages
If your pet ingests a large enough rock, it can cause a blockage that will require surgery to remove. Intestinal blockages prevent dogs from getting adequate nutrition and can cause your pet to vomit or become lethargic. If you think your dog has swallowed something and it is causing a blockage, see your vet immediately to confirm with an X-ray and have it removed.
- Perforated stomach or colon
Sharp rocks can cause perforation as they pass through your pet’s digestive tract. If your dog is in pain or showing any signs of perforation you will want to take them to the vet for treatment.
- Chipped or broken teeth
If your pet is chewing on hard stones or rocks they can chip or damage their teeth, resulting in the need for dental work or even having an impacted tooth removed. Dog dental work is done under anesthesia and therefore poses some additional risks.
- Upset Stomach
Even small pebbles can irritate your dog’s stomach. They can experience vomiting or diarrhea even if they’ve only eaten a few pebbles.
How to stop your dog from eating rocks
- Avoid areas with gravel or significant amounts of rocks
If your dog isn’t around rocks, he can’t eat them. If you know your dog can’t resist you might want to avoid or eliminate the temptation. Try changing where you walk your dog. If you are in a city, seek out dog parks that don’t have gravel so your dog can’t eat it. You can also look for dog training facilities that allow you to rent space to exercise your dog indoors in extreme instances.
- Use behavior modification
Offer your dog an alternative like a favorite treat or a tug toy for dropping the rock. By positively reinforcing the behavior of not eating rocks you may be able to eliminate your dog’s desire to do so.
- Ensure nutritional deficiencies are addressed and treat any parasitic infections
Should your vet determine that a nutritional deficiency or parasite is the reason that your pet may be eating rocks, you’ll want to work with him or her on a treatment plan. This could include adding nutritional supplements to your pup’s food and/or medication to treat any parasitic infection.
- Offer opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation
Once you have ruled out nutritional deficiencies or infection and have determined that your dog is eating rocks due to a behavioral issue, you’ll want to make sure that your dog is getting ample exercise and mental stimulation. For some breeds of working dogs, leash walks are not enough mental stimulation. You can add training exercises or even give them puzzle toys to help stimulate their minds. Some dogs even enjoy learning tricks or tasks around your house. You may wish to consult a trainer, especially if your dog is a working or herding breed like a Border Collie or Husky.
- Give your dog ample amounts of attention
Similar to ensuring your dog has enough physical and mental exercise, if eating rocks is a behavioral issue, you will also want to ensure that your dog is getting enough attention. If they are eating rocks to get attention from you, being proactive with your attention may lessen their desire to eat rocks in the first place.
Once you have determined why your pet is eating rocks in the first place you’ll be able to put a plan in place to help them stop. It might take some time and patience on your end, as change does not happen overnight, especially with dogs. By ensuring your dog is getting adequate nutrition, providing physical and mental exercise, attention and opportunities for behavior modification you will be helping them live their happiest and healthiest lives.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.