Eating Dirt, Rocks, Non-Food Materials
The medical term for eating dirt, rocks, or any other non-food materials is pica. Eating non-food materials may be associated with behavioral issues or health disorders. Some veterinarian experts believe that chewing on non-food materials starts when puppies are weaned too early or too abruptly. Many veterinarian specialists associate pica with the following health disorders:
- Iron deficiency anemia - a condition characterized by decrease in the number of red blood cells caused by too little iron; the causes of iron deficiency are too little iron in the diet, poor absorption of iron by the body, or loss of blood.
- Chronic pancreatitis - a progressive disorder of the pancreas characterized by low levels of pancreatic enzymes, which results in the body's inability to properly digest fat, carbohydrates and proteins.
- Esophageal dysphagia
- Lead toxicity
- Enterocolitis (inflammatory bowel disease)
Consult with your veterinarian about your pet's possible health problems. He or she may suggest changing your pet's diet or supplementing it with approved minerals, vitamins or enzymes. If all health disorders have been ruled out, then behavioral reasons for pica should be considered. Your dog or puppy may eat dirt, or pick up a rock just to gain your attention, or because he is bored or was encouraged and trained to pick up objects. Some cases need medical treatment with behavior modifying drugs.