It doesn’t matter if your dog eats rocks occasionally or every time you take him out… it is not something he should be doing.
There could be serious consequences, from broken teeth to digestive problems. You don’t want a scenario where your dog has to go through surgery to get rid of the rocks he ate.
But, why do they do it?
Dogs are not picky eaters – they’ll try almost anything, especially if they are puppies. And, that’s normal. It is normal for them to try things out, but to continue eating odd things… that is an issue.
There are 9 reasons behind your dog’s rock-eating habit. These reasons could be divided into two categories: physiological health issues, and behavioral issues.
I’ll take you through them all, and hopefully, help you get to the bottom of your dog’s problem.
Why Does My Dog Eat Rocks?
As I mentioned before, dogs eat a lot of weird things. They can even eat cat poop. If they constantly eat non-edible things, they have a problem called pica. The reasons behind pica are, like I said, either physiological or behavioral.
Having a dog, especially a very young one, is like having a baby. You have to “baby-proof” the entire house, and make sure potentially hazardous objects are out of your dog’s reach.
However, when you go outside with your dog, it is very difficult to constantly keep an eye on him.
This is even truer if you have a hunting dog that was bred to explore, sniff, and dig.
You can’t stop him from exploring, and you don’t want to. So, to stop it, you need to know why he does it.
Talking to a lot of dog owners who had this issue with their dogs led me to a health problem
These are intestinal parasites that latch onto the inner side of your dog’s intestinal tract and eat the food your dog eats. Because of this, your dog won’t receive nutrients from his food, even though you feed him according to his age and breed.
A dog starts to eat non-edible objects, such as rocks, in order to try and get more nutrients it lacks. Rocks won’t help him. They can only cause more problems, but dogs don’t know that.
Your dog needs to go to the vet.
The dog owners I talked to confirmed their dogs stopped eating rocks after the treatment against these parasites was completely done.
Another common health issue that drives dogs to eat rocks is anemia. This is a health condition in which a dog’s body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells (or hemoglobin).
The rock-eating disorder usually happens at the start of the anemia, when the situation with the red blood cells (or hemoglobin) is not yet that serious.
The important thing is to check for other signs as well:
- Pale gums
- Fast breathing
- Black stool
- Weight loss
But, we don’t want to get to this stage. So, if your dog eats rocks, take him to the vet to do bloodwork. Even if the red blood cell level is normal, just a bit lower, take him for another bloodwork soon after.
Most dog owners say that their dog had positive results after they did the second bloodwork.
This is a medical issue that cannot be cured, but can be managed successfully. However, the dog will need lifelong treatment, just like humans.
The reason behind the rock-eating habit when a dog has diabetes is the same as the previous two reasons. They don’t get enough nutrients, and they seek other solutions.
If your dog has diabetes, you can notice other signs as well:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
Of course, you should take your dog to the veterinarian where you can get a proper diagnosis and start the treatment as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, tumors can also be a reason why your dog eats rocks. The reason is the same: not enough nutrients. This applies to tumors of any part of the digestive tract, but other tumors can also lead to rock-eating habits.
Other symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Bad breath and body odor
- Wounds that won’t heal
- Increased thirst
There are many more symptoms depending on which area is affected. Noticing these signs together with the fact your dog eats rocks is a red flag, and you should immediately take your dog to the vet.
If you have a puppy, the reason why he eats rocks could be because he has teething problems. The process itself is not painful, but it can cause discomfort.
Puppies start teething when they are approximately 3 weeks old. That’s when the first set of teeth starts to erupt. You will notice some teething symptoms, but soon enough, you’ll see tiny, needle-sharp teeth in your puppy’s mouth.
Your puppy will search for ways to ease the discomfort he might be feeling. This means he will chew on everything, especially cool and hard objects – like rocks.
You can help your puppy by giving him toys to chew on. You can even leave the toys in a freezer for a minute or two, and then give them to the puppy.
Besides health issues and the teething process, your dog might be very curious. That’s what dogs do when they are puppies. They are getting to know their surroundings, and they want to try everything – literally.
So, you will find your dog eating rocks, leaves, eating poop, and anything else that seems interesting to your dog. Of course, the best option is to take your dog to the vet to rule out any underlying medical issues before starting with the “don’t eat the rocks” training.
If you don’t give your dog enough mental and physical stimulation, its behavior can change in the way that the dog becomes destructive, depressed, or starts eating things he shouldn’t eat. So, to keep your dog away from eating rocks or chewing your favorite pair of shoes, keep your dog entertained.
If you have to leave him alone at home because of work, there are interactive dog toys you can leave for him to play with. But, when you come back, give your dog proper attention and playtime.
8. Attention Seeking
Maybe your dog wants your attention. He doesn’t know how to do it differently but to eat rocks. Why? Because presumably, when you see him eat a rock, you come to him and give him attention.
Dogs are smart creatures. I’d say all dogs are smart, but some are a bit smarter than the rest of them. As you can see, they can come up with brilliant ways to get our attention.
Before you assume it is this reason, you have to rule out possible underlying medical issues first. So, a trip to the vet first, and then adjusting your dog’s behavior.
Another behavioral issue that can lead to your dog eating rocks is stress and anxiety. A dog that feels fearful and stressed can develop behavior issues and start acting weird all of a sudden, starting to eat rocks or other non-edible objects.
Check if your dog got scared recently, or if there is a particular noise or person that scares him. Maybe you’ve changed locations, schedules, walking routes, etc.
Once again… it is better to be safe than sorry so take your dog to the vet first.
There are 9 reasons behind this odd behavior. If your dog eats rocks, you have to take him to the veterinarian first. Only if your vet rules out any medical issues, like diabetes, anemia, or hookworms, you can start thinking about behavior adjustments.
If it is a behavioral issue, then you’ll need patience and time to fix the unwanted behavior. You will need to keep an eye on your dog at all times when you go out.
You will have to use lots of positive reinforcement and redirected focus to teach your dog not to eat rocks.
Or, you’ll have to hire a professional dog trainer who can help you with very reactive, anxious, or scared dogs.
Whatever you do, if it is behavior – don’t give up. It takes time, but it is worth it.
The same goes for medical issues.
Talk to your vet about all possible options for treating your dog and getting him all the help he needs