“Why is my dog eating rocks?” It sounds crazy, but I actually get this question a lot!
You wouldn’t believe how many people have rock-eating dogs!
In fact, the other day I was talking to a friend who had to take her dog for surgery because of this very problem.
She noticed that her dog was actually swallowing stones, so she took him to the vet. An X-RAY showed one rather large rock sitting in his colon that needed to come out right away.
Thankfully, the surgery went well and he’s fine now, but if she hadn’t called her vet at the right time, this story could have had a much sadder ending.
So if you have a problem with a dog eating rocks, it’s important to address it as quickly as possible and do what you can to prevent it. First, let’s figure out why Fido has such a weird habit.
Why is Your Dog Eating Rocks?
Dogs eat rocks for a variety of reasons ranging from sheer boredom to actual medical conditions. Let’s start with one of the most common reasons and go from there.
Pica, a condition that causes your dog to actually crave non-food items like dirt, clay, and, of course, rocks, is one of the most common reasons behind this behavior.
While Pica can be a “stand-alone” condition, in dogs it’s often a sign of another underlying medical issue.
For example, if your dog has an insatiable appetite due to a thyroid condition, he may look at anything and everything as food.
It’s not so much about craving stones but rather about an intense and overwhelming need to eat, even if that means snacking on completely inedible and odd things like rocks.
2. Nutritional deficiency
Poor nutrition is another common culprit behind rock eating. Anemia, for example, causes low iron, so your dog might seek out sources that are high in the nutrient…like stones and dirt.
The good news about this cause is that it’s easy enough to fix. Just talk to your vet to determine what vitamins and/or minerals Fido lacks in his diet and switch him to a food that covers all of his needs.
3. Anxiety & Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Both anxiety and OCD can cause dogs to do- and eat- very unusual things. My friend’s dog (a different dog than the example in the intro) obsessively eats her poop, for example. My friend has to race to pick it up before her pooch can snatch it off the ground.
If you suspect that your pup’s rock eating stems from behavioral issues, talk to your vet and a certified professional dog trainer to help you figure out the best way to deal with it.
Some dogs – especially puppies- eat rocks simply because they haven’t been trained to understand the difference between “good” and “bad” food.
Yeah, I know, no one told you that basic training included teaching your dog the difference between tasty treats and inedible stones. You’d think that would be kind of intuitive, right?
In a way, it sort of is. While your pup will most likely try to eat a stone at some point, he’ll quickly realize that it is one of the very (very, very) few things that will fall into his “not food” category.
Also, it’s important to note that just because you see your dog chomping on a rock doesn’t mean he’s actually a rock eater. Some dogs chew rocks for fun but never actually ingest them.
While this is still potentially dangerous behavior, it’s not quite as terrifying as witnessing Fido gulp down a small boulder!
So, what do you do when that happens? Read on to find out the dangers of rock-eating and how to stop it.
Think eating rocks is the weirdest dog health issues? Check out these Top 5 Freakiest Dog Ailments!
A Dog Eating Rocks is In Danger
When a dog eats rocks, he is ingesting something that may or may not pass. Aside from the uncomfortable symptoms of foreign bodies like vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach, there is a very real danger of death.
This is because a foreign body can become trapped in a dog’s colon. If a foreign body like a rock becomes trapped in the colon, it can lead to obstruction (aka blockage), a condition in which the stool cannot pass through the colon and be expelled.
Over time, this leads to vomiting, lethargy, and other symptoms including death secondary to perforation or a dead piece of the dog’s colon.
Even if your pup expels the rock (vomits, spits it out, etc) before he swallows it, it’s still a serious problem. Even the tiniest pebbles can damage your dog’s teeth or cut open his gums.
A dog eating rocks is a dog putting himself in very real danger, so what can we do to stop the behavior?
What to do if your dog eats rocks
If you think your dog might have eaten a rock, don’t panic. Take him to the vet immediately to be checked out. Your vet can do x-rays to determine if there is a foreign body in your dog’s GI tract. It’s especially important to do this if your dog shows any signs of obstruction. Obstruction symptoms include:
- Loss of Appetite
- Lethargy (Tiredness)
- Tender Abdomen
- Inability to Defecate
- Straining to Defecate
- Tarry Stool
How to Stop The Problem
So. You have a dog that continually eats rocks. What can you do about it?
1. Address health issues
Calling your vet should be the first thing you do when you notice your dog eating rocks. You’ll need to find the root of the problem and address it.
If it’s caused by a nutrient deficiency or thyroid problem, taking care of the medical issue could stop the unwanted rock eating in its tracks. If it turns out to be behavior-related, though, you’ll need to move on to other methods of stopping the problem.
Need help paying for Fido’s trip to the vet? Check out our Tips To Save Money On Dog Vet Bills
The next thing you can do is avoid any areas with a lot of rocks. If you routinely walk your dog in an area where he has easy access to rocks that he can just scoop up without you noticing, stay away. Instead, opt for walks along neighborhood sidewalks.
Play fetch in a park well away from rocky areas. Just stay away from rocky areas at all costs. If you have rocky areas all around (as some neighborhoods do) keep your dog on a leash at all times so you can control his access to rocks.
If you let your dog out unsupervised in your fenced-in yard, you’ll also want to get rid of all rocks in his running area. If your yard is huge, you might want to consider fencing in a smaller portion for Fido so you’re not spending every weekend sweeping your yard for potential dangers.
In addition to avoiding the issue of a dog eating rocks, you also need to deter him. As hard as you try, you won’t be able to stay away from all rocky areas. After all, what is the earth except one giant, orbiting boulder? It’s important to stay vigilant on walks as well.
Watch your dog like a hawk. Be fully aware of your surroundings and what he’s doing with his mouth. Dogs are quick, so it’s in your best interest to constantly monitor him while you’re out and about.
4. Boredom busters
If Fido is snacking on stones out of boredom, invest in some good mental stimulation toys, like puzzles or chew toys. Make sure he’s also getting plenty of playtime with you! Physical stimulation helps tire him out, leaving him less time to munch on gravel!
Dog Eating Rocks? Address the Problem Now
Like any foreign body, rocks are certainly dangerous and possibly deadly. Even small rocks can cause issues in a dog’s GI tract, especially if they have any sharp edges. If you have a problem with your dog eating rocks, avoid rocky areas and always be cognizant of your surroundings and of your dog’s mouth.
That’s the best way to ensure that rocks don’t end up in your dog’s body and that you don’t end up at the vet!
And above all, if your dog shows any signs of obstruction, get to the veterinarian immediately. It could save his life.
Have you ever dealt with a dog eating rocks? Share your experiences and tips below!