Pica In Dogs

One never knows what the mail will bring. I got a note from an old friend today, inquiring about some behavior her dogs are doing that she’s not sure about.

“My dogs are eating dirt. The three middle-aged ones are on Iams, the two older ones eat Science Diet for Mature Dogs. They eat twice daily. What should I do?”

Pica” is defined in Dorland’s Medical Dictionary as “a craving for unnatural articles of food; a depraved appetite as seen in hysteria, pregnancy and malnourished children.”

Pica can be “just one of those things some dogs do” or it can be an indication that a pet is not well.

The best way to know if a pet is not well is to perform a physical examination, which should be done by your pet’s doctor every six months (or at least once yearly), accompanied by routine laboratory testing. The labwork should include a Complete Blood Count (CBC), Chemistry Profile and Urinalysis.

Often pets who eat things they shouldn’t have a metabolic abnormality, such as diabetes mellitus.

The odd thing about your situation is that all five dogs are doing the same thing! The chance of all of them becoming diabetic or having some other metabolic malfunction simultaneously is extremely small, however.

One wonders how long this problem has persisted. Have amendments may have been added to the soil that taste good to the animals? Manure used for fertilizer, for example, can contain seeds and other ingredients that may attract their attention. Chemical fertilizers may have caused some plants to grow that taste good to the pets.

Because this is May, we also have to consider another possibility. In the Spring, grass grows rapidly, and in this rapid-growth phase it tastes good to pets. Dogs, as well as outdoor cats, will eat grass as a treat.  Or, are we sure it is only dirt, not grass they are eating?

It’s a mystery, and it will take more information to solve this mystery.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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