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Veterinarians don't completely understand why some dogs eat dirt, but they do agree that dogs who habitually eat soil may suffer from boredom, mineral deficiencies or behavioral issues.
While most pet foods provide all the daily allowances of minerals that a dog needs, some dogs still develop mineral deficiencies. In some instances, dogs that eat dirt do so because they have an underlying behavioral problem. Some dogs develop a taste for dirt because the dirt in their environment is especially tasty. While an occasional munch on dirt is normally not harmful to dogs, a tendency to dine on soil for extended periods of time can cause a variety of health problems.
One of the biggest dangers for dogs that eat dirt is the stones and other small particles in dirt which cannot be digested. Learn about Canine Periodontal Disease, including how it affects the health of your dog's overall health, and what options are available to manage this type of dental condition.
If your dog eats an unusual quantity of dirt, keep a close eye on him in case he did eat something he should not have and is experiencing signs of poisoning. If multiple dogs in a household are all eating dirt, it could be a sign of a deficiency in their diet.
If multiple dogs are all eating dirt from the same location, however, it could be that there is something delicious in that dirt. If your dog only eats dirt from a specific are of your yard, you can try treating the area with a taste deterrent like cayenne pepper, hot sauce, or a bitter apple spray (available at pet stores). If you see your dog approach the plants, tell him firmly to "sit." When he does, reward him with a small treat to reinforce the positive behavior. Never use hot water, or add anything to the water that could hurt the dog or sting his eyes.
Many dog owners are against using punishments of this nature, whereas others think it is justified if the behavior they are trying to stop could be harmful to the dog.
This version of How to Get a Dog to Stop Eating Dirt was reviewed by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS on July 1, 2015. In many of these cases the dogs are extremely active or they are working dogs, and they need more minerals than the average dogs.
Bored dogs may begin to develop a number of strange habits such as licking their paws constantly, chewing on furniture or walls, or eating dirt.

If there are snails or other small critters in the dirt that the dog likes to munch on, the dirt that comes along with these little snacks may just be part of the meal. Dirt can also contain harmful chemicals or particles that can be dangerous to your dog’s health. These components can build up in the stomach and intestines, and over time can cause big problems. Sadly many of the soils and dirt in the environment today contain traces of pesticides and chemical residues. Most commercial dog foods contain enough vitamins and minerals to keep a dog healthy, but some brands contain less minerals than others. If you have cut back on your dog's food because he is overweight, consider a lower-calorie food that keeps him feeling full instead of less of his normal food. If you can't figure out the cause of your dog's dirt-eating, or suspect it may be a sign of a more serious problem, bring the dog in for a check-up. Increase the amount of attention you give your dog, and give him a selection of new and interesting toys to play with.
Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms can absorb nutrients your dog needs and cause anemia and intestinal distress, both of which can lead to dirt-eating. This is most likely a sign that your dog is interested in eating something in the dirt, and not the dirt itself.
Carry a spray bottle filled with cool, clean water when you go on walks, and keep it nearby when your dog is in the yard. These devices are triggered remotely so the dog does not associate the punishment with you personally.
If you are unable to supervise your dog when he is outside and can't get him to stop eating dirt, you may need to keep him indoors while you are away. If your dog won't stop eating dirt and exhibits other signs of anxiety, first try adding more entertainment and removing any stressors from his life that you can. If your vet finds nothing physically wrong with your dog, and none of these at-home remedies are successful, an experienced trainer or animal behavior specialist may be able to help. In rare cases a dog may not be able to process minerals from the diet as well, and extra minerals are needed in the diet. Dirt that contains compost or fish residue fertilizers can also be particularly appealing to dogs.

If you notice that your dog is eating a lot of dirt, it is important to work with your dog to try to break the dirt eating habit. While the occasional meal of dirt will not harm a dog, if eating dirt becomes a habit hazardous ingredients in the dirt will slowly build up in the dog’s blood and body.
In some cases, pica is caused by a mineral deficiency in your dog's diet or a parasite infestation. Check the label of your dog food and compare it to other brands to make sure it has similar amounts of minerals like iron and calcium. During an exam, the vet can check the dog's overall health, order lab work to rule out deficiencies and diseases, and look for signs of parasites. This can lead to an nutritional imbalance and the dog eats dirt in an attempt to remedy this.
Visible worms in your dog's feces are a definite sign he is infected, but other symptoms include diarrhea, low appetite, loss of energy, etc. Make sure to keep all houseplants out of reach, or he may still find a way to get his dirt fix indoors. In cases of mineral deficiencies, some pet owners have been able to stop their dogs’ dirt eating habit by switching to a higher quality brand dog food.
Non digested particles can also become lodged in the digestive track causing life threatening blockages that require immediate medical attention.
You will need to watch your dog closely to determine when he is eating dirt and try to figure out why. This is especially true in puppies and young dogs.[2] A dog may also eat dirt to alleviate intestinal distress caused by eating something he shouldn't have. Be sure to look for a food that addresses any special needs your dog might have (age, size, activity level, medical issues).

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