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Why Do Dogs Eat Mud and Dirt? (And 3 Ways You Can Prevent it)



why do dogs eat mud

This week we want to talk about why do dogs eat mud and dirt. This is unusual but not uncommon behaviour, and is puzzling for the owner. As humans, we can’t imagine anything more gross than eating mud. However, dogs do it for several reasons. In this article, we’ll look at why dogs eat mud and dirt and how you can stop it.  


Why do dogs eat mud and dirt?  


Dogs eat mud and dirt for three reasons:  


  • There’s an underlying medical issue  

  • They are lacking in nutrients  

  • It’s a behavioural problem  


UNDERLYING MEDICAL PROBLEM  


Upset tummy  

Dogs eat grass to calm an upset tummy, but did you know that dogs will eat dirt for the same reason? Check to see if your dog has been sick or had diarrhea recently. If your dog eats dirt or mud once in a while, they could have a tummy upset.  


Painful teeth or gums  

Has your dog ditched its chew or bone in preference for dirt? This could be a sign of painful teeth or gums. Eating soil provides relief from toothache and sore gums. Chewing stones or rocks is another indicator.   





Bowel disease  

A more serious reason for dogs eating mud is bowel disease. This is a serious cause of dogs eating dirt, and, as with an upset tummy, dogs do this to relieve pain in their bowels.


Signs of bowel disease include:

  

  • Vomiting  

  • Diarrhea  

  • No appetite  

  • Weight loss  

  • Pain in abdomen  

  • Excessive flatulence  

  • Dehydration  


If you suspect your dog has bowel disease, take it to the vet for a checkup.  


Parasites  

Dogs also eat mud when they have picked up parasites. Eating mud is instinctual, but you should check with your vet to make sure they haven’t picked up something nasty.    


Anaemia   

Eating mud is common amongst dogs with anaemia. Anaemia refers to a low blood count. Like humans, dogs can get anaemia for several reasons.  


Reasons for anaemia:

  

  • Iron/vitamin deficiency   

  • Kidney disease  

  • Blood loss  

  • Trauma  

  • Bacterial infections  

  • Toxins  

  • Cancer  

  • Medications   

Symptoms of anaemia:  


  • Pale tongue and gums  

  • No appetite  

  • Weight loss  

  • Dry mouth and nose  

  • Rapid heartbeat  

  • Difficulty breathing  


If you suspect your dog has anaemia, take it to the vet for a checkup.  


LACKING IN NUTRIENTS  


Nutrient deficiency   

Dogs that lack vital nutrients such as minerals and vitamins may eat dirt to replenish them. This is an evolutionary behaviour that derives from wolves. Dogs need a variety of minerals, just like us, including calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Eating mud could be a sign they’re deficient.   


Poor diet  



Dogs will eat anything when they’re hungry, but eating mud is not normal. Dogs require a well-balanced, complete and nutritious diet that is of high quality. Feeding your dog the cheapest value kibble is like giving kids junk food. It might fill them up, but there’s little to no nutritional value.   


BEHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS  


It’s common for puppies to explore their environment, and this includes eating whatever they get their paws on. However, if your dog is older and eating mud and you’ve ruled out medical and nutritional reasons, it could be a behavioural problem.   


Attention-seeking  

Dogs wanting attention can resort to unhealthy behaviours, such as jumping up, barking, stealing food and eating mud, even if the attention is negative. Perhaps your initial reaction was to laugh and now they associate the activity with positive reactions.   


Boredom or anxiety  

Does your dog spend much of its time alone in the house? Is it exercised regularly? Do you provide boredom busters like our Lickimats or long-lasting bones to occupy them and provide mental stimulation? There are lots of ways you can keep your dog engaged and happy. Regular walks are a must, and even playing with your dog for 10 minutes releases energy.   


Pica syndrome  

Pica syndrome is the craving and eating of things not classed as food, for example, soil, hair, soap, paper or paint. It is compulsive behaviour. Anxiety, stress, boredom and more cause pica syndrome.  


Is it dangerous for my dog to eat mud?  


Dogs eating mud is a symptom of an underlying issue, so you should not ignore it. When dogs eat mud they can ingest all kinds of nasties, such as parasites, faeces, poisons and pesticides, for example. They might swallow stones or plants that block their intestines.  


3 Ways to stop your dog from eating mud  


If your dog regularly eats mud, we strongly advise a trip to the vet. In the meantime, there are three ways to tackle the problem.  


1. Check your dog’s diet  

The most common reason for mud eating is a craving to replenish depleted nutrients. Feed your dog a high-quality diet and add:  


 

2. Is your dog getting enough exercise and stimulation?



  

Does your dog go for a long walk every day? Do you play with your dog? Has it got lots of toys and

puzzles to keep it entertained while you are out? Does it meet with other dogs to socialise? If you are at work all day and come home and walk your dog for 5 minutes, it is going to get bored and resort to inappropriate behaviour.

  

3. Go back to basic training  

If you regularly walk your dog and you don’t think it’s a boredom or medical issue, it could be attention-seeking or unwanted behaviour. If this is the case, reinforce basic training commands such as sit, leave, down and fetch. Reward the good behaviour and ignore the mud eating. Distraction techniques also work, so call your dog away from the soil and give them a treat.   


Ultimately, whatever the underlying cause, it’s dangerous if your dog is eating mud. If you’re in any doubt, check with your local vet.

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