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Dogs can do funny things sometimes. We see dogs munching on grass, tearing apart sticks, and playing with rocks. Most of us don’t realize that some habits can signify a condition. This is especially true when our pups struggle to eat their normal kibble. Suddenly it seems something may be wrong.
Dogs become family members, and when something is off, it can be unsettling since there is no direct line of communication. Naturally, as owners, we want to make it better when we see them feeling ill. One of these phenomena that can be puzzling is caused by PICA. It’s important to identify this and find a way to treat it.
We are here to help with that.
What Is PICA?
PICA refers to when an animal starts consuming non-edible foods that bring no nutritional substance to them. This can be on a very large scale, from harmful consumption to less dangerous consumption. PICA has many forms, and one of the most common in dogs is called Coprophagy. This is when dogs engage in eating feces.
What Does PICA Look Like?
Besides dogs eating feces, you may find your puppy eating other things. Sometimes while we try to stop them, we just let them continue munching on plastic toys because it’s a dog thing.
But it’s not just a dog thing.
The veterinary specialist at Bond Vet says, “Intestinal blockages are very serious, even life-threatening. A dog with a full intestinal blockage can’t keep down food or water (they usually have severe vomiting and become dehydrated), and damage to the intestines may result in shock or intestinal rupture.”
Here are common forms of PICA eating.
While these are the most common, the list can go on to nearly anything. The cause for them doing this can be an underlying issue or, if not, at the minimum, cause one. Let’s talk about some of the side effects of these habits.
Effects of PICA
One of the most common effects of PICA is that it is harsh on the dog's digestive tract. It can cause several things like vomiting and diarrhea. It can also cause changes to their diet preferences, such as loss of appetite. You may notice that they are lethargic or even constipated.
When these effects continue, the dog can find themselves in an emergency situation with the possibility of surgery or an endoscopy to fix the situation. These negative consequences make us wonder why our pups would do this in the first place.
Why Does PICA Occur?
The answer is broad, with many possibilities. Sometimes it’s as simple as a behavior issue. If an owner repeatedly takes away a toy from a puppy, they may not want to lose it. The learned behavior then simply becomes to eat it. This is one avenue.
Other possible attributes are:
- Dogs become bored, especially if they are neglected, and may have a curiosity to eat other things, such as grass (that can be treated chemically)
- They may have learned the behavior from other dogs, such as chewing on sticks and wood.
- Dogs have been known to eat stool in cases of an accident out of fear of being punished for the behavior. It’s called eliminated evidence in this situation.
- Diseases related to pancreatitis, liver, anemia, and so on can cause irregular or excessive appetite leading to PICA.
- Medication for neurological or physical diseases also can cause PICA.
What Can You Do To Treat PICA?
Because the symptoms can range from mild to severe, you may not think much of your dog eating some grass. But PICA can cause developing issues later if not treated, especially if your dog believes the behavior is acceptable. If your dog starts experiencing symptoms, the best thing you can do is take them to the vet to help settle their stomach.
If the vet determines that the cause of PICA is not medical but behavioral, you can work with a specialist to help address this. It may be surrounding anxiety or another issue that someone trained can help assist in helping improve your dog's lifestyle.
This can be like addressing a dog's anxiety if this is the root cause. This may be even more prevalent in rescue dogs that have a past of abuse. If they have a history of scarce food supply, this is likely to cause overeating. And in turn, this can result in eating objects that are not edible.
PICA is one of those things that can be treated too casually. Most people aren’t even aware that there is a name for it. But once the irregular patterns emerge it is good to get ahead of the issue. The quicker you can diagnose a medical issue or correct a behavioral issue the better your pup's health will be.
When PICA gets to a point where it is serious, your dog may experience surgery in order to heal the GI tract. Foreign objects that aren’t food can cause blockages where your dog will no longer be able to keep food or water down. This is