Pica is an abnormal behaviour found in dogs that involves the ingestion of non-food items. It is commonly classified as a canine behavioural disorder, and can range from occasional bouts of curiosity-induced chewing on objects to chronic and dangerous ingestions of foreign materials. If left unchecked, this condition can lead to serious health problems, including blockages in the digestive tract and poisoning. Though Pica is a common disorder for all dogs, research shows that smaller breeds are more susceptible to develop the disorder so if you own an energetic Blue Staffy, an adorable American Eskimo Dog or any small type of dog, you might want to be more extra cautious. Fortunately, there are steps owners can take to help reduce the risk of their pet developing pica.
What Causes Pica in Dogs?
The exact cause of pica in dogs is still unknown, but it’s believed that certain physical and psychological factors may be involved. Physically, nutritional deficiencies such as iron or zinc deficiency may contribute to the development of pica. Additionally, medical conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders or diabetes may lead to changes in a dog’s taste preferences that could result in pica. On the psychological side, experts believe environmental factors such as boredom or anxiety may also play a role in triggering this condition.
Signs of Pica
If your dog has developed pica, there will likely be telltale signs that something isn’t quite right with their eating habits. The most common sign of pica is when a dog begins to eat objects that aren’t food like rocks, paper, plastic bags or even fabric items like socks or blankets. You may also notice them frequently licking non-food items like walls or furniture. They may even chew on electrical cords or other potentially hazardous objects around your home if left unsupervised. Additionally, they may vomit more often than usual due to their unusual eating habits or pass strange objects through their faeces.
Health Risks Associated with Pica
Unfortunately, not all ingested non-food items will pass harmlessly through your dog’s system – some can cause serious digestive issues and potentially life-threatening blockages within their intestines which require urgent veterinary attention. Ingestion of poisons like antifreeze or certain plants can also cause severe organ damage if not treated quickly enough by a professional veterinarian. Some sharp objects like nails or glass shards can also puncture vital organs along their digestive tract, leading to serious complications and even death.
Treating Pica in Dogs
Figure Out the Cause
The first step in treating pica is to determine the underlying cause. Pica may be caused by a nutritional deficiency or lack of certain minerals or vitamins in the diet. In some cases, pica may also be due to an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or thyroid disease. Once the underlying cause has been identified, it should be addressed as part of the treatment plan.
Make Sure They’re Getting a Complete Diet
If a nutritional deficiency is causing the pica in your dog, then you should begin by changing their diet to one that contains all of the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for their health. You should also ensure that they are getting adequate amounts of fresh water each day and avoid giving them any foods that might have unnatural additives or preservatives which could contribute to their cravings for non-food items. It may also help to give them natural treats like rawhide chews instead of processed ones which contain fillers and other unhealthy ingredients.
Give Them Chances to Chew Productively
In addition to dietary changes, you can also take steps to discourage your dog from eating non-food items by providing plenty of chew toys and treats. This will help keep their minds occupied while preventing them from seeking out alternative sources of nutrition like dirt or fabric pieces. It’s important to remember that even though these items may seem harmless at first glance, they can still pose a choking hazard if ingested, so it’s best to keep them away from your dog altogether.
Seek a Canine Behaviourist
You may want to consider consulting with a veterinarian and a canine behaviourist. They will be able to provide more specific advice on how best to manage your pet’s condition and tailor a treatment plan specifically for them based on their individual needs. This could include medications such as anti-anxiety drugs which can help reduce stress levels and curb cravings for non-food items. However, this should only ever be done under veterinary supervision since drug therapy carries its own risks and side effects which need to be monitored closely.
Pica Is not Your Pet Misbehaving
It’s important not to punish your pet for exhibiting signs of pica since this can actually make the problem worse by causing more anxiety and stress. Punishments could lead them down an even deeper spiral into compulsive behaviours like obsessive licking or chewing on things around the house instead of just eating dirt or fabric pieces. Instead, try praising them when they display good behaviours so that they know that those are what you want them doing instead.