Pica is the name given to dogs eating non-edible foreign objects such as socks,paper underwear, tissues, rocks. pebbles, stones
(dare I even mention Coprophagia…eating faeces!)
I didn’t just randomly know this, I had to research it because we had a little scare a few days ago when Luca the five-month-old Goldendoodle became unwell.
It had been a normal day. Luca had been for a lovely off lead walk, visited family, had a bath and it was now time to chill out and watch Crufts dog show. My daughter noticed that Luca’s breathing was really fast whilst he slept. He wasn’t panting but his diaphragm was moving much quicker than normal. We weren’t too worried at first, he could have been dreaming, but it didn’t slow down. After a while, it was time to call the vet.
He asked loads of questions
Was he showing signs of being in pain/discomfort/ distress?
Did he appear to have a temperature?
Was he eating and drinking normally?
Was he urinating and emptying his bowels normally?
Everything was normal, so the vet told us not to worry but to take Luca to the vets at 8.30am the following day.
At 5am he started to vomit and regurgitated something we couldn’t recognise, but it definitely wasn’t food!
The item was the size of a small pear, rubbery and beige in colour. We still have no idea what the foreign body was, but luckily it had no sharp edges, and Luca was instantly back to normal. He must have swallowed it on his walk.
The vet was pleased that the mystery had been solved, gave Luca a thorough check-up and prescribed a bland diet for the next few days. Apart from that, it was back to normal and a huge warning to us....this dog eats strange things!
Why is Pica dangerous?
Some things will pass naturally but others get stuck in the intestinal tract and can cause the dog massive discomfort.
A normal dog takes 10-24 hours to digest food, but it can be weeks or months!
If the foreign body gets as far as the colon it is likely to pass naturally, but it will be very painful for the dog. especially if it’s sharp (eg a stick)
Here are the signs to look out for:-
- Abdominal pain
- No appetite
Or in Luca’s case fast breathing.
What will the Vet do if you suspect that your dog has eaten something non-edible?
He will give the dog pain relief and attach the dog to an intravenous drip if necessary. An x-ray is useful to see how far the object has travelled and hospitalisation for observation may be advised. Blood and urine tests may be done to see how the overall health is impacted.
If the foreign object has made it into the intestine, surgery will be performed urgently. The danger is that the object will cut off the blood supply to the intestine.
Why do dogs eat random things?
It can be because the dog is bored and making mischief to amuse himself. He may be attention seeking and swallow the object accidentally, or it may be a habit that has formed and can progress into a compulsion.
There is a blog post here which has handy tips to keep your dog’s brain active.
How to stop your dog eating random things
The most obvious suggestion is to keep floors, bins, gardens clear of anything your dog may be interested in chewing and could be dangerous.
Buy good quality dog toys designed for the dogs chewing instinct, and fill with low-calorie snacks to keep the dog occupied.
Teach the ‘Leave’ command and make the dog aware which objects he is not allowed to chew. If he picks up a foreign object, offer a chewable toy in exchange. Try not to remove it from the dog’s mouth if possible, he may think its a game and swallow to hide further! It is better to get the dog to release if at all possible.
Give the dog mental stimulation, plenty of exercise and lots of cuddles.
Make sure the dog has a healthy, balanced diet with all the vitamins and minerals he needs.
Don’t throw sticks for the dog to retrieve. these can splinter and cause damage if swallowed. Take a ball or frisbee with you for training purposes and extra fun.
Keep the dog away from dead birds or animals which may be decomposing.The bacteria could cause a nasty infection especially if licked or swallowed.
Danger! Danger! Button or Disc Batteries.
These are the small round batteries found in cameras, digital watches, novelty greetings cards, childrens toy etc
It’s a worry if your dog swallows the more familiar alkaline batteries but the disc or button batteries are far more dangerous because they can.stick and burn a hole in a dog’s esophagus.
Treat these batteries with great care and if your dog swallows one seek urgent veterinary assistance.
Coprophagia (Eating faeces)
I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning this condition which is a huge problem but often swept under the carpet because it’s so disgusting.
Female dogs naturally clean up any area around her puppies, it’s instinctual for hygiene reasons, so it easy to understand how it can arise.
There is evidence to show that neutered dogs are more likely to do this.
Labradors, retrievers, and sporting dogs are well known for eating faeces.
Puppies naturally smell and taste everything they find, if something tastes good they will go back for a snack.
Dogs fed on kibble produce poo which retains flavouring enhancers used to make the food appealing but which passes through because the dog’s body doesn’t need it.
Tips to stop Coprophagia
Try to clean up instantly, this might help to break the cycle.
Coat the poo with mustard or tabasco to make it repellent to the dog.
Add some pineapple to the dog’s food.
If you managed to get to the end of this post, well done and thank you, I will choose a nicer topic next time, I promise!