Why Does My Dog Chew on Rocks

My dog eats rocks and other strange things

Chewing for dogs is a natural instinctive behavior. It has many benefits including dental health, provides mental stimulation and cures boredom, and for puppies it provides relief when they are teething.

It is also a means of providing stress relief. When a dog chews they release endorphins to their brain giving them a calming and good feeling.

However, often a dog will chew on non-eatable items such as rocks, plastics, etc. This is not so healthy. Many dogs chew on rocks and other items despite it being dangerous. It can cause harm to their teeth and digestive system.

Why does my dog chew on rocks and other strange things? This is usually the result of two main causes – a medical condition or an emotional or physical reason.

Young black Labrador retriever playing with a rock

Why is my dog obsessed with chewing rocks

As stated above it is either due to a medical condition or an emotional/physical reason.

Medical reasons dogs chew on rocks

Mental condition called Pica – this is a type of psychological or neurological obbessive illness

Dietary deficiency – a lack of sufficient vitamins and minerals from their food, malnutrition, or non absorption of the nutrients.

Intestinal or digestive issue – this can include internal parasites (worms), diabetes, or stomach or bowel diease.

Emotional/Physical reasons dogs chew on rocks

Anxiety or depression – your dog may be lonely or anxious and is looking for relief. As stated above, chewing releasing endorphins to a dog’s brain giving them a feel good and calming sensation. Rocks are just not the right way to do this.

Boredom – your dog is lacking mental stimulation or doesn;t have access to more appropriate items to chew such as their own toys.

Lack of social conduct – dogs are social animals and need contact with other dogs, animals, and people.

Dental and teething issues – in the case of a puppy they may be teething. Puppies lose their puppy teeth and develop adult teeth around 5 to 6 months old. They also have their baby teeth developing up to around 8 weeks old. A adult dog may be having tooth issues they are trying to relieve.

What is pica disorder in dogs

Pica is a psychological and medical disorder. It is like an obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is when a dog is obsessed with chewing and eating non-food items. Some dogs will only eat one type of item such as rocks, Other dogs may eat a variety of non-food items.

One fairly common example of dogs eating strange things is when a dog eats feces. This is also known as Coprophagy and should not be confused with Pica. Pica includes all non-food related items including rocks and stones, plastic, metal, etc.

Pica is obviously unhealthy and dangerous for a dog. It can cause damage to their teeth, get trapped in the intestinal tract, affect the digestive system, or some items may be toxic.

What causes Pica in dogs

Pica is a psychological or obsessive compulsive behavior. It can also be caused by malnutrition or a lack of essential nutrients in your dog’s diet. The dog thinks for what ever reason that eating rocks and other non-food items will help.

Alternatively, it can be the result of a emotional issue or physical medical issue.

Symptoms and treatment of Pica in dogs

Pica is usually diagnosed as the result of the behavior of chewing and eating rocks and other non-food items. It is crucial to consult your vet to work out the actual cause. This is not always simple for the vet to ascertain.

Pica can be the result of numerous medical issues such as hormonal imbalances, diabetes, thyroid problems, etc. Your vet may need to do stool, blood, and urine testing to know if it is a medical issue.

If the cause is emotional such as anxiety, stress, or depression your vet may refer you to a dog behaviorist.

The required treatment for Pica will obviously depend upon the actual cause. If it is simply a nutritional deficiency the vet may recommend a change of diet or giving supplements. If it is the result of anxiety or boredom, treating the anxiety or providing more mental enrichment may help.

Dog eating rocks symptoms

You may not always be aware that your dog is chewing or eating rocks or other non-food items. Other symptoms to watch out for include:-

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bad breath
  • Choking
  • Coughing
  • Dental problems or broken teeth
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty poohing
  • Drooling 
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • Gastrointestinal blockage
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Infection 
  • Lethargy
  • Ulcers
  • Vomiting.

If your dog displays any of these symptoms, consult your vet immediately.

Is it ok for a dog to chew on rocks

It is never ok for your dog to chew or eat rocks. This can be very dangerous. Firstly, it can do serious damage to your dog’s mouth and teeth. It is not uncommon to see dogs that chew roocks to have broken teeth, particularly the canines and the front teeth.

The shape edges on rocks can also cut the inside of the mouth, the gums or the tongue.

Swallowing rocks and stones can also cause serious internal damage to the intestinal tract or stomach lining. Your dog can also choke on a rock if it is too big to swallow.

If you do see your dog chewing and eating rocks and other non-food items you should stop them. You should also consult your vet to determine the cause of the behavior.

How do I stop my dog eating rocks

Training your dog to stop eating or chewing rocks will only work if the cause is not medical. That is it is a behavior or emotional issue. It is important to consult your vet first to determine if this is the case.

If your vet determines that it is a behavior issue rather than a medical reason they may recommend consulting a dog behaviorist. If the problem is not too severe you may be able to do some training yourself to correct the behavior.

Firstly you need to figure out when your dog is participating in the rock chewing or eating behavior. Is it when your are out on walks? Or is it when they are left home alone?

The simplest solution is to remove access to rocks in their environment. Of course, this will not always be possible. Alternatively, you can spray the rocks with a pet repellent which will make them unappealing for them.

If it is while they are out on a walk with you, keeping them on a leash will help you control the behavior.

If the behavior occurs while your dog is home alone, provide ways to entertain and occupy them. For recommendations on entertaining a dog home alone see here.

It is also important that your dog receives sufficient exercise. A tired dog is less likely to become bored and it will aid with anxiety issues. For a guide to how much exercise your particular dog needs see here.

Ensure your dog has a good selection of appropriate things to chew on such as chew toys and edible dog chews. See here for recommended chew toys.

When you catch your dog showing interest in a rock, redirect them and reward them for leaving the rock. Substitute the rock with an appropriate chew toy.

This video demonstrates how to go about fixing this behavior.

Why is my puppy eating rocks and dirt

If your puppy or even your older dog is eating dirt, it is likely they have a mineral deficiency. They are trying to get nutrients from the soil.

If they are doing this a lot, there are many illnesses this could relate to. This could include liver and gastrointestinal issues or anemia. It is also important to beware that garden mulches can be toxic.

Puppies may chew or eat stones for a number of reasons. This may be when they are teething or can be boredom or curiosity. It is important to stop this behavior as it can be dangerous. They can choke on a stone, damage their teeth, or do internal harm.

Senior dog eating rocks

If you have an older senior dog and they start eating rocks when they have never before, consult your vet. It is almost certain that this is a medical issue rather than just a new habit.

In summary – Why dogs chew rocks

Although chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, chewing on rocks and non-food related items can be very dangerous. This can damage their teeth or cut their gums or tongue. There is also the risk that they may choke on a rock or item.

If they swallow on a piece of rock or stone, it can cause serious internal injuries to the intestinal tract or digestive system.

The reason a dog chews rocks is generally either a medical reason or an emotional/physical reason. Medical reasons may include a mental disorder known as Pica, a dietary deficiency, or a more serious internal issue.

Emotional or physical reasons may include boredom, anxiety or depression. Puppies who are teething will often chew on strange objects too.

It is crucial to determine the cause of the behavior, whether that is medical or behavioral, to be able to find a solution. The best course of action is to consult your vet.

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