Help! Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?

why do dogs eat dirt
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom on Unsplash

It can be hard enough to restrict your dog from consuming things inside your home, but what about outside? You might be taking your dog out for walk, or maybe you’re just playing with your pup in the backyard when they get a sudden urge to lick the dirt. Dogs eating dirt is a common problem amongst pups. This issue can become frustrating, and a danger to your dog’s health. However, there things you can do to stop this pesky habit.

Why Dirt?

Dirt-eating is classified as a type of pica. Pica is the ingestion of materials that are not food. There are many reasons as to why your dog chooses to snack on dirt. While dirt-eating is sometimes disregarded, it may be a sign of a more serious issue. Multiple factors can stimulate your dog’s impulse to consume dirt. It’s crucial to take all of these elements into consideration as you break down the causes of your dog’s problem.

why do dogs eat dirt
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1. Poor Quality Food

Often times, dogs will eat dirt in search of nutrients. This is because they aren’t getting the correct minerals or vitamins in their food. Dogs are able to tell when they aren’t being fed properly. These instincts come rather quickly to them. When this happens, they’ll immediately scour around for any nutrient-based materials they can find. In other words, your dog is eating dirt for their health, not for taste.

Mineral and nutrient deficiencies happen more in cooked diets rather than raw. Keeping your dog’s food raw will ensure the preservation on nutrients, minerals, and other vitamins. When you cook your dog’s food, you lose a lot more of these nutrients which may result in nutritional deficiencies. Keeping your dog’s food raw will allow for more nutrients to enter your dog’s body, leading to a much stronger immune system.

2. Anxiety or Excitement

Just like how humans react oddly when they’re stressed (I.e. biting nails, pulling hair, etc), dogs also have weird responses to fear and anxiety. You might notice your dog eating dirt anytime they get nervous. For instance, there may be a loud noise or an approaching stranger that frightens them. In an attempt to relieve themselves or escape the trouble, dogs will eat dirt.

Maybe your dog isn’t necessarily anxious, but just really excited. Dogs are extremely active beings. When a dog doesn’t get the proper physical stimulation it needs, they’ll find a way to do it themselves. Their immense amount of energy is one of the many reasons they love to play. Unlike people, dogs need to get rid of all of their energy before resting. So, when they see an opportunity to relieve themselves of this excess energy, they’ll snatch it. It’s very possible that a dog may eat dirt out of excitement. They do this in order to entertain themselves and also remove any leftover energy.

Some dogs also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). They might eat dirt as apart of their disorder. If this is the case, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about the most effective ways to prevent this.

3. Anemia

A more serious cause of your dog’s obsession with dirt may be anemia. Anemia is a reduced number of red blood cells in your dog’s bloodstream. It’s suggested that dogs will consume dirt in an attempt to place more iron in their system. They also might be eating the dirt to try and strengthen their immune system. A stronger immune system would reduce the amount of red blood cells lost. Although you should consult a vet if you believe your dog is anemic, there are a few warning signs. Anemia alters the color of your dog’s gum, making them a pale pink or even whitish shade.

4. Upset Stomach

Dogs are curious animals. They consume a lot of things they shouldn’t. It is possible that their consumption of dirt might be an attempt to sooth the ache in their stomachs. It’s very likely that the minerals and nutrients in the dirt appeal to them. It’s also possible that they’re eating the dirt in order to get their digestive tract moving. By ingesting dirt, they’ll be able to poop or vomit a lot easier. Thus, the dirt works as a sort of cleanse.

How Dangerous is Dirt?

Dogs tend to take in large amounts of food at once. If they consume too much dirt in one sitting, it’s likely that the dirt will clog up their intestines. This could lead to intestinal blockage which may require surgery. Another pretty obvious problem with dirt is the fact that it can be contaminated with anything. It’s hard to tell what’s exactly in dirt. From a distance, it just looks like a bunch of brown waste. However, there could be a numerous amount pesticides, poisons, or other chemicals that could severely impact your dog. The ingestion of these chemicals could lead to many internal problems that could be fatal. Dirt also contains a ton of tiny rocks and stones. These rocks could damage your dog’s teeth, vocal chords, or lead to intestinal blockage.

why do dogs eat dirt
Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash


So, how exactly do you stop your dog from munching on dirt? There are simple few ways to resolve the issue. However, if you your dog’s obsession with dirt is more serious, it’s important to consult your veterinarian immediately.

  • Play with your dog. I know you’re thinking, “Well, duh?” However, you’d be surprised at the amount of people who don’t spend that much time with their dog. It may be difficult to make even more time for your dog, but it’ll make a huge difference. Tiring out your dog will divert his/her attention away from dirt. It’ll give them a distraction while also giving them less of a reason to pick at the dirt.
  • Change your dog’s food. You might consider switching to a raw-meat diet if you haven’t already. Raw food will provide for more nutrients and energy. Maybe you’ll focus on a dog food brand that contains a numerous amount of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. Feeding your dog the properly will make them less inclined to search for minerals in the dirt.
  • Visit a Vet. Dogs will eat dirt for a ton of reasons. However, you might notice your dog’s consumption of dirt has started to impact them negatively (I.e. vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, etc…) If this is the case, contact your vet as soon as possible to get rid of any possible issues.
why do dogs eat dirt

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