Issue Description Pica is a medical disorder characterized by an
appetite for substances largely non-nutritive (e.g., clay, coal, soil,
feces, chalk, paper, soap, mucus, ash, gum etc.) or an abnormal
appetite for some things that may be considered foods, such as food
ingredients (e.g., flour, raw potato,raw rice, starch, ice cubes,
salt, blood). In order for these actions to be considered pica, they
must persist for more than one month at an age where eating such
objects is considered developmentally inappropriate. Because this
condition may cause serious harm to your dog, it's important to seek
treatment right away.
Causes Pica can be caused by either a medical or
behavioral problem. Various digestive disorders may be related to
pica, such as difficulty swallowing, or problems related to intestinal
absorption. Other problems such as diabetes or a nutrient deficiency
may be related as well. If your dog starts eating things he shouldn't,
first you should talk to your veterinarian to rule out these medical
problems. The veterinarian may want to run blood tests and urinalysis
to check for underlying disease and organ function.
medical causes have been eliminated, it's time to consider the
behavioral reasons for pica. Some dogs are so bored or anxious that
they need something to do. Some dogs also will chew on things to get
your attention. In fact, scolding your dog may actually reinforce the
behavior. If the dog is looking for attention, you give it to him by
scolding him. To an attention-starved canine, bad attention is better
than no attention.
Diagnosis And Treatment Diseases involving the nervous system such as
rabies or neurotoxin exposure may cause pica. Anemia, hypothyroidism,
certain diseases of the liver, pancreas and gastrointestinal systems,
nutritional problems, and foreign bodies may cause it as well.
Your veterinarian may perform a physical examination, bloodwork (CBC,
blood chemistry), and urinalysis to determine if a disease or other
physical process is causing the pica. When an underlying disease or
disorder is present that causes pica in the affected dog, treatment is
directed at the disease process. Ensuring that the diet is appropriate
and of good quality will eliminate nutritional deficits as a cause of
When no disease can be found, which is most often the
case, pica is considered a behavioral problem. It is often associated
with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Pica may also be caused by
boredom. The veterinarian may prescribe antidepressive drugs. The
veterinarian may refer some affected dogs to a veterinary behaviorist
Other treatment revolves around
controlling the dog's environment. The owner should prevent the dog's
access to the desired substances or objects. Keeping the dog indoors
and walking the dog on a leash will help bar access.
addition, where practical, covering the substance with an ingredient
that the dog dislikes may be helpful. Compounds such as red pepper
sauce or bitter-tasting substances, which are available in pet stores,
may discourage dogs from eating inappropriate things.