Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Canine Pica; My Dog Eats Socks, Rocks and Blocks!


What is Pica?

Your dog stops eating, they vomit or look cramped and uncomfortable.  They may pooping too much, they may not be pooping at all.

Your dog could have something stuck in their intestines.  Dogs, particularly puppies, are notorious for eating just about anything they find.  If a dog eats non-food items habitually the dog has pica.

The cause of pica is somewhat mysterious.  In some cases, it is caused by mineral or vitamin deficiencies; other dogs develop pica because they are bored or anxious, some just seem to eat what they find.  Pica may become habitual, just like finger nail biting in in humans.  This behavior is an abnormal manifestation of normal dog behavior.  For most of history dogs lived mainly outdoor lives and they foraged and hunted for a substantial portion of their food.  If a dog found a dead squirrel, it ate that squirrel.  Our modern homes have a dearth of dead squirrels, but a sock left on the family room floor sure looks a lot like squirrel to a bored dog.

It is very important when you have a new dog, particularly a puppy, that you supervise them closely, make sure they have a variety of appropriate chew toys, and redirect them in a firm but cheerful manner when they put inappropriate things in their mouths.  (Sounds a lot like having a toddler, doesn’t it?)

Yes, this is work.  But a sock lodged in the intestines can cost thousands.  A friend of mine lost her small dog to zinc poisoning when that dog ate a penny. Supervise, use gates, especially for kids’ rooms and pick up your shoes and socks. If your dog's experiments with eating the wrong things become a habit you will need to make the following changes.

What can you do if your dog has a pica problem?  Do all of these!

  1.     Veterinarian support.  Check for physical causes of pica, particularly nutritional issues,    parasites, poisoning and digestive abnormalities.
  2.    Management!  Close doors, put up gates, use toy boxes, sweep the yard for rocks and other    items your dog may eat.  If they can’t get to it, they can’t eat it.
  3.     Supervise!  Also have a dog safe area where your dog can relax when you can’t supervise.
  4.    Exercise!  Exercise will make your dog tired and calmer.  A tired dog is not restlessly  wandering your home looking for things to do.  Lots of tug, fetch and play!
  5.     Dog Daycare.  Can’t exercise your dog enough, dog daycare can be a lifesaver, literally.
  6.    Use a head harness (gentle leader brand, snoot loop or halti) if your dog grabs things off the    ground on their walks.  Be sure to teach your dog to wear a head harness slowly, don’t just jam  the harness on their head and think it will go well.  This link may help.
  7.   Toy variety.  You might think rubber bones are amazing, but your dog might want a tuff root or  ruff root, a  deer antler, a cow hoof a nylabone for tough chewers, or a bumper made out of  firehose.   
    1.  If they eat fabric then plush toys may not be a good idea. Some dogs also swallow rawhide whole.  If you do get rawhide, be sure it is reconstituted or compressed rawhide
    2.  Supervise when introducing new toys to be sure your dog does not demolish and ingest them.
    3. Go crazy, get them EVERY kind of toy you can think of.  Rotate your toys.
  8.   Stuff hollow bones, kongs, and other toys.  FREEZE these to make them last longer and make  your dog chew more.  Chewing is a naturally calming activity for dogs, probably one of the  reason anxious dogs are often chewers.
  9.    Use NO CHEW Sprays.  Some I have had luck with are Bitter Apple, Phooey and Yuck.      Bring your dog to a pet superstore with a paper towel torn in several pieces.  Conduct an  experiment.  Douse pieces of the paper towel in various sprays and see which one your dog  really really hates.  Some people have had luck using essential oil sprays in lemon or  eucalyptus.
  10.   Over the counter tryptophan supplements can help your dog.  There should be a variety  available at pet shops and on the internet.  Your veterinarian can also provide prescription  tryptophan supplements.
  11.   Teach your dog LEAVE IT and a DROP IT.  Not a "He does it sometimes if he feels like it,"  behavior, but good, solid cues your dog listens to.  You may need a dog trainer for this work.
  12.   Try something new and fun for you and your dog.  Hike, swim, jog, fly-ball, agility, herding,    tracking, scent work, barn hunt, lure coursing.  These will get you two out having fun and you  and your dog will both be happier, healthier and more likely to make great choices.
  13.    As a last-ditch effort, if none of the above allow your dog to live safely, then Prozac or an      antidepressant may be appropriate.  That is a matter to discuss with your veterinarian.

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka