Pica in Dogs: Causes and Treatment


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Pica disorder is the ingestion of non-food items such as dirt, rocks, or fabric. It’s quite common in pets. Pica does not include trashing or feigning, as these items are often consumed by other motivations.

What causes dog pica

Pica can be caused by a variety of conditions, including anemia, liver disease and pancreatic disease. Pica may also be a sign of normal exploratory behaviour.

Analyzing an animal’s lifestyle and environment

Consider the environment and lifestyle of your pet to determine why it is engaging in this behavior. Is the animal getting enough exercise? Is the animal given enough attention? Are chew toys or play toys available? Are there resources in competition? Is it possible that the cat or dog is eating unsuitable foods to stop another pet getting them first? Is the animal consistent in their routine? Is there any other factors that could cause stress?

Consult a veterinarian to diagnose pica

A thorough medical exam is required if your pet exhibits pica symptoms. A thorough physical exam should be performed, including a fecal inspection to determine if there are any gastrointestinal (GI), parasites, and blood work to rule out other conditions like anemia, diabetes, or liver disease. Depending on what signs your animal shows, additional blood work may be necessary to determine if it is not absorbing nutrients. This involves testing for folate and cobalamin and performing a TLI (trypsin like immunoreactivity) test to determine if your pancreatic function is being compromised.

If there are concerns about a GI obstruction or to rule out other possible causes of pica, X-rays may be necessary. If abnormalities are found, additional testing may be necessary. A textbook could be cluttered with all of the diagnostic options. The best way to diagnose an abnormality is to treat it and then wait for the pica to improve.

Pica can sometimes be hard to determine. Although it can be frustrating to not have a clear answer, if there is a medical reason, it is usually expensive or carries a poor prognosis.

If the problem is not medical, it could be behavioral.

If medical reasons are ruled out, it is worth speaking with a veterinary behaviorist. Consultation with your veterinarian, or a trainer, may prove helpful if one isn’t available in your region or within your budget. Your veterinarian will be able direct you to other experts in cat and dog behavior.

You can do some things without consulting a behavior specialist. However, working with one will give you the best chance of stopping the behavior. Make sure your animal has a high-quality diet. Sometimes, a simple change can be all that is needed. Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. You can give your pet toys, interact with people, and take him on walks.

Limit the amount of food your dog can eat. If your dog loves to eat rocks, restrict his access to areas in the yard and parks. If this seems too restrictive or difficult, you can offer your dog treats or a Kong if he is in rocky areas. A basket muzzle can be used in extreme cases. However, the muzzle should not restrict the dog’s breathing. The muzzle should not be worn for prolonged periods.

Pet anxiety can be reduced

You should also get rid of any stressors. If your dog gets anxious when you play loud music or if it is agitated by the noise, reduce the volume or use headphones. Keep your dog indoors if your neighbor is mowing your lawn. Or take your dog on an adventure. You should also set a schedule for your pet. Regular walks, feedings and play times can reduce anxiety by letting your pet know these things are coming. Don’t punish your pet for eating unwholesome food. This is not a good training method.

Pica can be associated with anxiety. There are medications that can help. It is important that you only give medication to a vet and that you work with your dog to correct the behavior. A dog that is anxious due to insufficient exercise won’t be helped by taking a psychotropic medication. The dog should be getting regular exercise that is appropriate for his breed and age.

Managing pica disorder

Pica can often be managed. Pica can cause damage to belongings and dental problems. Worst of all, your pet may be hospitalized if it becomes toxic or causes obstruction.

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