Critter Culture
Here’s Why Your Dog Is Eating Chunks of Dirt

Here’s Why Your Dog Is Eating Chunks of Dirt

Critter Culture Staff



Notice your dog stroll in from outside with its snout and forehead caked in mud? You're not alone in facilitating clean-ups or wondering why on earth its face is covered in, well, earth. Dogs really dig dirt, but it doesn't always dig them back, so you'll need to watch your pooch's soil-munching ways.


Lacking nutrients

Irish Setter sniffing ground on summer field Aleksandr Zotov / Getty Images

Dog diets often have gaps that leave your pup short on, for example, calcium, iron, and sodium—the very minerals your garden harbors. Opt for dog food brands that check all the World Small Animal Veterinary Association's boxes, and if you still notice dirt-eating proclivities, your dog's system might not be absorbing the nutrients adequately. Book a consult with your vet to probe further.


Health problems

dog eating grass THANATASDcom / Getty Images

Fleas, ticks, and hookworms are parasites that suck your dog's blood and cause anemia. When dogs are anemic, they're more likely to raid your backyard. Liver shunts can also lead a dog to eat dirt, as can gut issues, including an upset tummy. In the latter's case, your dog may use grass and soil to induce vomiting or provide some relief.


Behavioral issues

dog eating outdoors Kosamtu / Getty Images

When your dog's diet is up to scratch, and your vet gives Fido a clean bill of health, dirt-eating could be due to boredom. Perhaps you've gone back to the office, and your pandemic pup has separation anxiety or isn't getting as much playtime or as many walks as it's used to. The reduced enrichment could manifest in odd behaviors such as ground-gulping. And then there's pica. When dogs have pica, they compulsively chew and swallow non-food items such as plastic and wood. Pica is caused by teething, stress, or medical conditions.


Eau de loam

puppy sniffing grass in the backyard Timbicus / Getty Images

Dogs are scavengers which is why they like the stench of death and decay. The scent of your compost-laden garden wafts towards your canine bestie's nose like a siren call. And the stinky tastes and textures in green spaces are akin to the sweet smell of a dozen freshly baked muffins. You can't argue with that, now, can you?


Subtle snacking

dog chewing rock Kyryl Gorlov / Getty Images

If you look at its stool, you may find evidence that your dog's been eating dirt or indigestible items such as fabric, rubber bands, and rocks. It's not pleasant work, but monitoring your dog's excrement after noticing irregularities can offer your vet significant clues about what's going on with Spot.


The risks of eating soil

dog digging in a field James Young / Getty Images

Not only can dogs choke if they eat dirt, but they can also crack their teeth which can be painful and lead to appetite loss and infection. Sticks and stones can cause intestinal damage or blockages requiring surgery, or your dog might consume toxic pesticides or other hazardous substances. Finally, consuming soil can start a vicious cycle where your dog acquires parasites that create the conditions for more soil chowing.


Curbing the risky behavior

beagle dog on a leash peterkirillov / Getty Images

Pay attention to how often your dog eats dirt and how much it seems to be consuming. There's a big difference between tasting dirt and your pooch filling its tummy. Keep your dog leashed during walks so you can control what it puts in its mouth, and carry your buddy's favorite treats. Feed your dog at least twice a day to keep hunger at bay.


Taking precautions

Young woman giving her dog vitamins Alexandr Vorontsov / Getty Images

Stay on guard with preventative measures against heartworm disease and parasites such as ticks, fleas, and mites. Delicious meat-flavored chewable tablets act fast and work for as long as a few weeks or months, and your vet will assist you with prescription-only treatments suited to your dog's age and weight.


When to be concerned

dog resting on a sofa Oscar Wong / Getty Images

The following symptoms necessitate a trip to the vet:

  • fatigue
  • gagging
  • pale gums
  • throwing up shortly after meals
  • difficulty pooping

If you suspect your dog has been poisoned, you'll need to work fast to manage a medical emergency. Call your vet or local emergency hospital immediately. If they're unavailable, the  ASPCA Poison Control can be reached at 888-426-4435.


Digestive enzymes and dental care

dog eating yogurt

Eating dirt is known as geophagia, and eating poop is referred to as coprophagia. These behaviors are not uncommon among dogs, and some will select soil to aid digestion or help plug a nutritional deficiency. Food is medicine, and digestive enzymes from a teaspoon of shredded pineapple or a tablespoon of organic yogurt can nourish your dog and decrease the need for licks of soil. Your vet may also recommend probiotic capsules and a multivitamin, and a multimineral tablet.


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