Why Does My Dog Eat Dirt?
Have you ever looked out into your yard, only to discover your pup with a mouth full of dirt?
Many of us know that dogs will eat strange things from time to time, but the consumption of dirt can point to underlying illness in some furry friends.
So why is your dog eating dirt, and what does this behavior mean?
In this article we will discuss the details of dirt consumption in our canine friends, and help you better understand the risks involved with this strange behavior.
Is It Normal For Dogs To Eat Dirt?
Eating dirt is not necessarily a normal behavior for our furry friends, but it does happen with some furry friends.
It is most common in puppies due to their innate curiosity, but it can occur in dogs of all ages as well.
Dogs explore the world around them with their nose and their mouth, so it is normal for them to have a quick taste from time to time.
Though the occasional lick of dirt may be harmless, frequent dirt consumption is a concerning behavior.
Why Is My Dog Eating Dirt?
Our canine friends may choose to snack on dirt for a variety of reasons.
The underlying factors can range from behavioral to medical, so it’s important to be aware of the potential causes of this strange canine behavior.
To help you better understand your pup, let’s discuss some of the most common causes of dirt consumption in dogs.
Your Dog Is Curious
As we mentioned above, some dogs will eat dirt due to simple curiosity.
The soil in your yard can be filled with an array of enticing scents, many of which a dog will want to explore further.
Whether you barbecue in your backyard or the property is filled with healthy grass, a mouthful of dirt may help your pup understand their environment.
Some dogs may even hone in on a certain area, especially if there has been something smelly present in the past.
If it seems like your pup only participates in this behavior from time to time, it could just be because they are curious.
Your Dog Is Bored
Our dogs can turn to strange behaviors if they are looking to pass the time.
Digging is a common hobby in a bored canine friend, and some may even snack on some of the loose dirt they produce in the process.
This can be an enticing activity if there are no other enrichment options available, which is why it is so important to offer your pup ample entertainment outdoors.
If it seems like your dog only turns to dirt eating when they have no other distractions, this may just be a fun outlet.
Your Dog Has GI Upset
When a dog is suffering from nausea due to GI upset, some may experience a behavior that is known as ‘pica’.
Pica is a term that refers to compulsive eating of nonfood items, causing dogs to eat anything from dirt to dry wall.
These pups will eat strange items with compulsion, having no idea how harmful this behavior can be for them.
Though there are a few different health conditions that can cause pica in dogs, gastrointestinal upset is one of the most common.
Your Dog Has Anemia
Have you ever heard of someone that has an urge to chew ice due to underlying iron deficiency?
Well, this can be the case for dogs with anemia as well.
Similar to the uncontrollable urge to consume nonfood items that pica brings, anemia can cause dogs to seek out dirt in effort to gain the nutrition they lack.
Because anemia refers to a decrease in circulating red blood cells, the iron in soil may be incredibly tempting for your furry friend.
If it seems like your dog is eating dirt compulsively, we suggest having them seen by your veterinarian to be safe.
Your Dog Is Stressed
Stress and anxiety can cause a dog to behave in abnormal ways.
Any sudden changes in a dog’s environment or routine can cause significant distress, causing them to seek comfort in a variety of ways.
For some furry friends, an outlet for their stress can include eating and chewing on strange objects.
Some dogs will also turn to digging when they are anxious about their surroundings, and this offers ample opportunity to consume the dirt they dig up.
Your Dog Has An Inadequate Nutrition
Nutritional imbalances are quite rare in our canine companions, but they can occur in dogs that are receiving inadequate nutrition.
A combination of hunger and nutritional deficiencies can cause a dog to eat anything in sight, and this can include dirt.
This can typically be prevented when offering your dog a veterinary approved diet, but if you are ever concerned about their nutrition, be sure to contact your veterinarian.
Hidden Dangers In Dirt
As you can imagine, dirt is not the safest material for our dogs to consume.
A variety of hidden dangers lurk within the soil in our yards, ranging from infectious microorganisms to sharp objects.
Let’s break down a few of the most common dangers our dogs could be encountering when they eat dirt.
There are thousands of species of bacteria that can be present within soil.
While each type of bacteria serves a purpose in nourishing plants, they can cause serious illness if they are consumed by either humans or dogs.
Bacteria cannot be seen with the naked eye, so it’s impossible to know how many microscopic invaders your pup could be consuming when they eat dirt.
Parasites are another microscopic danger that can live within the soil.
Some of the most common types of intestinal parasites can be found in the soil around your home, infecting any furry friend that happens to consume them.
Some of the many dangerous parasites that can be found within dirt include roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.
Rocks & Sticks
One of the many reasons that our dogs can be so interested in dirt is due to the materials that are found within it.
Soil is typically filled with rocks and sticks, offering an abundance of fun chew toys for the pup exploring the area.
While this may be exciting for our pups, this can pose a major risk as these items work their way through the GI tract.
These items can be a choking hazard, can lead to an obstruction, or even cause perforation of the intestines.
Will Eating Dirt Hurt My Dog?
As you can see, there are a list of potential dangers that hide within the soil in your yard.
Not only can the microscopic organisms within the dirt be dangerous for our pups, but so can the consumption of the material itself.
To help you better understand why you should always put an end to dirt consumption in your pup, let’s list a few of the most common complications of this behavior below.
Eating a large amount of soil can be extremely irritating to a dog’s GI tract.
Not only can it cause a shift in natural gut flora, but soil can also be filled with harmful bacteria.
Once these microorganisms are able to invade the dog’s GI tract, an array of GI symptoms could follow.
It may be shocking for some pet owners to believe, but dirt can be a major choking hazard for dogs.
Not only can the dirt itself become lodged in the throat when consumed in large amounts, but it can turn into a thick mud when exposed to moisture.
No matter which form it is consumed in, it poses a major risk to our canine friends.
As we mentioned above, there are plenty of dangerous objects and materials that can hide within the soil in our yard.
Ranging from small rocks to sharp sticks, dogs can easily consume material that can lead to an obstruction.
Not only can these items cause blockages in the GI tract, but they can even perforate the intestines in some cases.
Intestinal parasites thrive in the soil beneath our feet.
Parasite eggs can make their way into the ground any time an infected dog leaves stool behind, allowing these parasites to make their way into your pup’s stomach with each snack of dirt.
If your dog is not on a monthly heartworm prevention that also prevents intestinal parasites, your pup could soon have a case of worms.
Why Is My Dog Eating Dirt All Of A Sudden?
If you find yourself questioning your dog’s sudden interest in dirt, it may be time to reach out to your vet for guidance.
Any abrupt change in behavior should warrant concern, especially when it involves something as strange as dirt consumption.
While an occasional nibble at soil may not be a major issue, a dog that is suddenly devouring the soil around them should be taken seriously.
Whether it is behavioral or medical in nature, your veterinarian should be able to offer guidance.
When Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?
If your dog enjoys munching on dirt at any given chance, you may wonder when it is time to reach out to your vet for help.
If it seems like this is a behavioral issue that can be managed with proper enrichment and attention, then there is not likely a need to seek veterinary support.
However, if your pup seems to be obsessed with the soil in your yard, or they have suddenly developed this habit after never being interested in dirt, then we suggest giving your veterinarian a call.
There are a few underlying medical complications that can lead to this behavior, so it’s always best to be safe.
Our pups may enjoy eating strange things from time to time, but the action of eating dirt should be stopped from the moment the behavior develops.
If you are unable to keep your pup away from dirt despite your efforts, we suggest having them seen by a veterinarian.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 12 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! More About Us