Causes of Pica in Dogs

Most owners are not familiar with this term but they are familiar with dogs eating anything

Pica in dogs can be a very disturbing condition in your pet and it can also be extremely dangerous.

There are several theories about why your dog develops this condition as well several potential medical problems that could be the cause.

If it is not a medical condition and is a behavioral condition, than your dog will have to be treated with new behavioral tactics.

However, whatever the cause, it can be extremely dangerous for your dog.

Pica in dogs is the term that is used when your dog has cravings as well as ingestion of nonfood items including what is referred to as coprophagia, which is eating feces.

There is a saying in the dog community that dogs will eat anything, and with this condition, it is more than just a saying, it is reality.

Non-Medical Causes:

Dog’s mouths are an organ in which they explore their world with as well as taking possession of items that they want or that they feel threatened by.

One theory about Pica in dogs is that if you trained your dog early to pick up objects and play with them, this behavior carries over into their adulthood.

Most dogs seem to understand what they can and cannot eat, but dogs by nature are very investigative and curious.

In a lot of cases this ingesting of nonfood item can be purely by accident as they were simply exploring.

However, if it continues, it is no longer an accident.

Your dog may also develop Pica as a means of gaining your attention.

Most any dog will pick up objects, especially when you come home from being away all day, but it is often short lived.

Dogs sense that this catches your attention and scolding them for it reinforces the fact that they got your attention.

But again, most dogs will not eat what they are carrying. Very hyper pets may develop Pica in dogs out of boredom or a lack of exercise.

If a dog has nothing to do all day long they may start to chew and then eventually ingest an item that they have found.

Most all of these causes of Pica in dogs can easily be corrected with exercise or behavioral tactics.

The real danger of this condition is when it is an underlying medical cause that is signaling to your dog’s brain that they are starving and need to eat whatever they can.

Coprophagia is a condition where dogs will eat the stools of other dogs or even other animals.

It can be absolutely repulsive to owners, but it is an implanted survival instinct especially in nursing dogs to ingest their own puppy’s feces.

It is survival instinct by the mother that she is protecting unhygienic conditions from developing in their nesting but it can very easily lead to disease.

Puppies will see this from their mother and duplicate it, but it is not long before most puppies understand that food is much better and drop the habit very quickly.

However, if puppies are fed high protein and low residue food, have an irregular feeding schedule, or are simply not getting enough food, this habit will continue.

Medical Causes:

Immune mediated hemolytic anemia, also known as IMHA, may also be the cause of this condition.

This is a disease where your dog’s immune system, which is designed to attack and kill germs, attacks and kills it own red blood cells.

This often leads to iron deficiency anemia where your dog cannot absorb iron into their system and are starving for this nutrient.

But the real underlying problem of both of these conditions is most likely hookworm infection. Hookworms suck the blood of your dog and steal this nutrient which causes the loss of iron.

It may also be from poor gastrointestinal absorption of nutrients.

This can cause your dog to act like they are literally starving to death; and they are as the nutrients are not absorbing into their system.

Treatments:

The first form of treating Pica in dogs is by having your veterinarian run several tests to determine if it is actually caused by an underlying disease.

If it is an underlying disease such as hookworms or poor gastrointestinal absorption of nutrients, these can be successfully treated.

However, in the vast majority of cases, this is a behavioral condition. The best way to treat it is make sure that your dog is getting the proper amount of food as well as the proper amount of exercise.

Exercise will do wonders for this condition, but it will not cure it entirely.

You will need to keep anything that your dog is trying to eat that is not food out of their site and their reach.

And as most dog owners know, this can be a real challenge as dogs are very creative in their sneak attacks on food.

Making it a major deal with your pet may only exasperate the situation as they may deliberately be trying to get your attention.

If you believe this is the case, leave some items down but spray them with pepper or a hot sauce.

This will not harm them; but make it stiff enough so it will definitely stop them from eating it.

Eucalyptus is also a very good deterrent as most dogs hate the taste of Eucalyptus.

Summary:

Pica in dogs may be caused by a medical condition and it should be treated very seriously until you are certain that it is not; but in most cases it will not be.

Once that is determined, ignoring it but setting your dog up with deterrents such as hot sauce should very easily break them of the habit.

One of the worst things you can do is to muzzle your dog. This will only aggravates them and they will most likely return to eating anything once the muzzle is off.

Remember that there mouth is an organ that they are exploring life with and usually a couple of red hot episodes will stop this type of exploration.


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