Pica in Dogs

Pica designates a canine behavior described as the ingestion of different items that are not food, including garbage eating. Coprophagia or the eating of feces is also a form of pica in dogs.

Causes of Pica

The eating of non food items may have different causes in dogs:

  • Behavioral problems, when the dog hasn’t been properly trained and he cannot distinguish between good food and bad food and he eats different items out of curiosity
  • Different gastrointestinal issues such as pancreatic insufficiency or the irritable bowel disease
  • Stomach pain
  • Stomach tumors
  • Endocrine conditions such as hyperthyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism which cause increased appetite and the dog is looking for food everywhere
  • Anemia that causes a lack of iron in the dog’s system
  • Diabetes mellitus and high blood sugar that cause increased appetite
  • Malabsorptive disorders

Symptoms of Pica in Your Dog

You may notice that your dog is eating outside the meal hours and looking for things in the garbage or in the yard. You should pay attention as the ingestion of rocks or other sharp objects can be dangerous and cause stomach injuries.

Following the ingestion of non food items, your dog may display symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • Sudden collapse
  • Lethargy or hyperactivity, depending on what causes the behavior
  • Additional signs associated with the ingestion of different items (i.e. sneezing if the object block the respiratory ways)

Diagnosing Pica in Dogs

In order to find the causes of pica, the vet will require a history of the dog and will also perform a consult along with some tests.

A complete blood count, a biochemical profile and urinalysis will be required to find if there are thyroid problems or a low red blood cells count that may point to iron deficiency anemia.

Abdominal x-rays may be performed to determine if there are any gastrointestinal abnormalities or foreign bodies that were ingested and stuck in the stomach or intestines.

An endoscopic examination may also be required to visualize the items the dog has ingested and see if surgery is required to remove these. This exam may also reveal if the dog has a tumor or is affected by the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Treatment for Canine Pica

The treatment of pica will depend on the factor causing this behavior. If the dog has a behavior problem, he should get proper training.

If the dog is affected by an underlying health condition, drug therapy or surgery will be recommended. The treatment may vary from anti inflammatory medication to steroids. Dietary changes may also be required to treat IBD.

Prevention of Pica

Pica may be prevented by not allowing your dog ingest non food items and removing the potential items of interest from your dog’s environment. You may also apply bitter tasting sprays on objects that your dog is more likely to eat in your home.

Keep your dog indoors and walk him on a leash.