Why Does My Dog Eat Dirt ? 5 Major Reasons And How To Stop It

Solution for your question ” why does my dog eat dirt ?”

Depending on the reason or frequency, dogs eating dirt may not be a cause for immediate concern. You’d be surprised at the strange things your pet may choose to feed on – from rummaging through your garbage to consuming the poop of other dogs and yes, eating dirt.

why does my dog eat dirt

If this happens on occasion, you don’t need to worry so much; however, if your dog feeds on dirt a bit too often, it is definitely a habit you do not want to ignore nor encourage as there are dangers to doing so. A few of these risks are as follows:

  • The major threat that can arise from eating dirt, especially if the amount is substantial at once, is intestinal obstruction.
  • Your dog could consume a poisonous substance. Some dirt has pesticides and fertilizers which could be fatal once ingested.
  • There is the risk of swallowing sharp objects which would hurt not only your dog’s mouth but also his or her stomach. In addition, some of these inedible things can be choking hazards when they lodge and cause a blockage in the throat.
  • If your dog bites on something hard and rough, there is the danger of damaged teeth and injured gums.

Why Does My Dog Eat Dirt ?

There are a number of reasons your dog would choose to eat dirt, some more serious than others. Whatever the case may be, it is important to observe your canine’s dirt-eating behavior to confirm if it happens once in a while or it is habitual.

An occasional case of consuming dirt should be immediately curbed but shouldn’t necessarily make you panic; however, a more frequent indulgence in this habit might be a sign of something potentially serious. Knowing why your canine friend is munching on dirt would definitely be the first step to nipping the habit in the bud. There are five major causes of your dog eating dirt.

  1. They may not be getting sufficient nutrients

When a person’s body is lacking in vital nutrients, a craving for unusual things to eat may be triggered. These cravings are usually for substances with no nutritional value and can range from sand to ice blocks to chalk and even talcum powder, just to name a few. The desire to consume these nonfood items is caused by a disorder known as pica and it doesn’t affect humans alone; dogs develop it as well.

Dogs’ bodies are nourished when important minerals are consumed. Typically, the most top-quality commercial dog foods are loaded with all the necessary nutrients required to nourish your pet. The ingredients in these dog foods include important vitamins and minerals needed to support general canine health.

If you find your dog always indulging in eating dirt, even after being sufficiently fed, it could be a sign that there may be a nutritional deficiency. Low-quality commercial dog food or even the ones you may be making at home is very likely the cause.

  1. There may be underlying health issues

Your pet’s interest in eating dirt may be related to serious health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, hypothyroidism, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth as well as a potentially fatal disease known as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). Some of these illnesses could cause a reduction in the absorption of B vitamins or in the production of the thyroid hormone, which subsequently leads to the development of anemia. The need your dog feels to eat dirt could likely be a way to ingest more vitamins and minerals in order to manage the anemia.

A few other cases which may result in anemia are gastrointestinal ulcers, external parasites like ticks as well as fleas which suck blood, bleeding tumors and chronic kidney disease. Intestinal parasites such as whipworms, roundworms and hookworms absorb the nutrients required by your dog. This would subsequently also lead to anemia or even an intestinal distress which ends up setting off the desire to eat dirt.

  1. It could be a behavioral problem

Some dogs would eat dirt not for any profound reason in particular. They simply enjoy the taste. Boredom from being left home alone all day could also trigger the craving to eat dirt. In the absence of adequate mental and physical stimulation, your dog may look for ways to entertain himself or herself.

Unfortunately, some of these activities may turn out to be destructive, unhealthy and just downright weird, like munching on dirt. It could also be that your dog may be eating dirt due to obsessive compulsive disorder.

  1. Dirt can be used to alleviate an upset stomach

As strange it sounds, a dog may munch on dirt to help ease digestive issues such as stomach upsets and indigestion. This is because most dirt usually contains clay which is known for drawing out impurities and toxins in addition to eliminating any parasites. Eating dirt could help get things moving in the dog’s digestive system to bring tummy relief, either by pooping or throwing up.

  1. The dog may be searching for something buried underneath the dirt

A dog might be eating dirt for a less serious reason such as needing to move the dirt away to get to something more interesting beneath. If you notice your pet keeps going back to a particular spot to eat, it could help to inspect the area yourself. It may be that your dog has just found a long lost toy or an item he or she thinks might be worth getting a hold of.


What To Do If Your Dog Eats Dirt

how to stop dogs from eating dirt

  1. What to do if it is caused by a lack of nutrients or a balanced diet

There are a number of solutions if your dog’s soil eating habit is brought on by dietary needs.

  • Change your dog’s meal plan

The quickest solution to this would be to switch to a more nutrient-filled diet and watch to see if the habit stops. The jury is still out on whether to feed your pet commercially packaged foods, a raw food diet or home-cooked meals.

Typically, a food regime filled especially with iron, Vitamin B12 and B complex have been known to correct vitamin deficiencies. Some vets and animal specialists suggest opting for a high-quality commercial pet food brand. However, experienced animal homeopathy practitioners advise reducing kibble or avoiding it altogether and sticking to raw food or meals made at home by you. They believe most commercially produced pet foods are loaded with synthetic ingredients.

Whichever option you go for, ensure your dog is getting all the necessary minerals and vitamins.

  • Perform a hair analysis

If you would like to go a step further to find out the particular nutrient/s your pet’s body is lacking, you could test their hair to provide a nutritional report. No matter the changes a dog’s body goes through, certain minerals remain stored in his or her hair.

A hair test is a comprehensive examination to ensure your pet is being given the right diet based on their type of metabolism. It would help you plan the most appropriate diet that would enable him or her live a healthy, vital life.

From a hair test you can deduce the following:

  • The rate of your pet’s metabolism: A hair test would show how fast or slow your dog’s metabolism is.
  • Toxic metals: Conducting this test would also help you detect the presence of any toxic metals in your pet’s system such as aluminum, lead and mercury.
  • Nutrient minerals: You would also get to know if certain electrolyte minerals and trace elements are present in your pet’s body. Some of these minerals include salt, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc and iron.
  • Nutrient Mineral Ratios: The test would let you see the ratio of one nutrient mineral to a different one. For instance, you could know the ratio of Salt to another mineral.
  • The ratio of nutrient mineral to toxic metal: This portion of the test gives information on how much nutrient mineral your dog has in order to combat the presence of heavy metals.
  • A Thyroid and Adrenal Sufficiency Rating: This would let you know your pet’s general quality of life.

Having all this information at hand would help you plan the perfect diet for your canine friend.

  • Opt to detox your dog and give supplements

Carrying out a hair test is highly advised; however, whether or not you choose to go for a hair analysis, you could start your dog on a detox and place him or her on mineral supplements.

  • Deworm your dog

In addition to diarrhea, fatigue and a loss of appetite, if there are obvious worms in your pet’s poop something to consider would be to deworm him or her. Deworming tablets are readily available in pet stores or from your vet. However, first find out if doing this would be ideal for your breed as some are sensitive to certain ingredients in deworming tablets.

  • Switch to a meal plan with lower calories

On the other hand, your dog may be getting enough nutrients but could be eating dirt as a result of not feeling full. If you are worried about obesity, instead of cutting down on the amount fed, consider switching to a lower-calorie regimen.

  1. What to do if you suspect it might be a health concern

If, after there has been a change in diet and a deliberate improvement to your pet’s meal plan, he or she keeps eating dirt, it may be a slightly more serious problem. You could run a few initial tests on your pet at home. For instance, you could check your dog’s gums – are they pale or yellow? It may likely be anemia. However, you would need to find out what has led to its development.

Schedule a visit to your pet’s vet as soon as possible for a routine health check and comprehensive blood work including a full blood count, a urinalysis, thyroid, adrenal and pancreas tests. These would confirm or rule out the presence of any serious medical concerns.

  1. What to do if it is caused by boredom, frustration or simply attention-seeking behavior

Finding ways to keep your canine friend sufficiently stimulated would stop this habit if it has been brought on by boredom. Ensure you get in enough exercise and the required amount of physical activity your pet needs. If you need to go on longer walks or increase playtime, do so. An engaged or worn-out dog would always find it difficult to seek entertainment by eating dirt.

You would also need to come up with exercises and games to promote mental stimulation. In addition to games and other mind exercises, chew toys do a great job of keeping your pet momentarily occupied.

If you would be unavoidably absent from home, you could speak with a friend or trusted neighbor to watch your pet since eating dirt can be brought on by a need for attention. When this isn’t a possibility, consider dropping off your pet in a doggy daycare.

Another great way to end this habit if it is a behavioral problem is to train your dog by using the positive reinforcement technique. Verbally deter your pet when they attempt to feed on dirt. Do something to remove attention from the dirt patch and praise him or her while giving treats when they stop. By doing this regularly, they can be taught to understand that eating dirt is never allowed.

For dogs that eat soil obsessively, one of the best ways to solve this issue would be to check in with an animal behaviorist.

  1. What to do if your dog eats dirt in a specific area

If your pet isn’t normally a dirt eater and keeps going back to a certain spot, it could simply be that they are interested in something in that particular place. It probably isn’t the dirt itself that is attracting them. To stop this behavior, it would be best for you to keep your dog away from there. You could choose to follow an alternate route while taking walks.

If the area in question is at home, try applying things such as hot sauce or a bitter apple spray which would make your dog lose interest almost immediately.

  1. A few other things you could try to stop your dog from eating dirt

  • Train your dog not to eat dirt by using a spray bottle

Fill a spray bottle with pure, cool water and have it close to you whenever you are with your pet. As soon as your see him or her indulging in this unwanted habit, walk over, say a firm, “No” and after a second, spray your dog’s face with the spray bottle. Don’t try this on a dog that is likely to bite you, though.

  • Leave your dog indoors

If your dog has no access to the dirt, they definitely won’t try eating it. So if you can’t watch over your pet while outdoors, leave him or her inside.

  • Keep indoor plants away

There would be no point in leaving your dog indoors if they are only going to still have access to dirt from the plants inside. Ensure your indoor plants are completely out of the reach of your pet. If you feel the need to, you can opt to spray a substance that would discourage him or her from enjoying the taste. You could also use positive reinforcement to deter them from turning your home plants into lunch.

  • You could consider putting your pet on an anxiety medication

If you’ve tried providing more entertainment for your pet and getting rid of any obvious stressors, you could consider starting him or her on an anxiety medication if the habit still doesn’t go away. Your vet would let you know the most suitable option.

  • You could train your dog using a remote punishment device

As a number of dog owners have considered this option inhumane, this should only be considered as a last resort. If you have tried and all else has proven unsuccessful, this may be a way to go. When it comes to going this route, it is best to use your discretion. Citronella collars which release a burst of a displeasing aroma have been known to work nicely.


General tips for curbing dirt-eating habits

As a whole, except for detoxing purposes, your dog eating dirt is something you should definitely not overlook. No matter how helpful it may be, it’s still dirt. There is the likelihood of your pet ingesting dangerous substances including broken glass, unsafe bacteria and many more.

Ensure you always keep an eye on your dog when you are both outdoors. Never leave your pet unsupervised especially if he or she is still a puppy. In cases where this might be unattainable, your dog being in his or her crate or playpen could help greatly. Training your dog to understand that eating dirt is a bad habit by using positive reinforcements could stop the pattern.

Having done all these, if the habit persists, book the earliest appointment with your dog’s vet to rule out any life-threatening medical condition.

About David Huner

David Huner is a dog lover. Dog training has become a passion for him. With many years of experience he is here to share his tips and ideas. His goal is to provide exact dog training solutions. His favorite quote is "Train your dogs, enjoy your life and be happy"

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  1. Hello, nice article! My dog also eat dirty from everywhere. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge, to help us in this busy and wild world of marketing.
    Thank You

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