For many dog owners, there are a thousand and one reasons for keeping their pets. Friend, companion, and protector! They bring joy to the family. Studies show that dogs generally improve their owner’s overall well-being.

But as much as we adore them, our dogs still have behaviors that can confuse us. One habit that we find strange is when they start digging and eating dirt. It’s odd especially when you see their food bowls full.

Well, seeing your dog eats dirt once or twice may not be a cause for alarm. Experts say that eating dirt can be a common habit as part of a dog’s cuisine. However, if your pet does this more frequently or excessively, then it becomes a serious concern.


What Is Dirt Eating in Dogs?

When animals eat dirt or other substances in compulsion (such as garbage, gravel, kitty litter), this condition is known as Pica. Simply put, it can be the habit of consuming non-food objects.

However, what if a dog is considering to eat only dirt such as soil, earth, or clay? Then, that can be a state of “geophagia.” It is the practice of eating soil-like substances which occurs in animals either as normal or abnormal behavior.

Indoor potted plants, as well as sand, are also a part of dirt. It can also include soil when your dog stays outside for long periods of time. You can classify it as a mild to moderate disorder. It can become worse leading to a severe disease concerning lack of nutritional requirements and dietary insufficiency.


What Causes Dogs to Eat Dirt?

Many possible reasons may cause your dog’s peculiar behavior. Fortunately, most of it can be treated and prevented. Here go a few of the possibilities:


1. Your dog may be making up for a nutritional deficiency

Your dog’s eating condition may be a sign that he is looking for vitamins and nutrients which are not available in his diet. It usually occurs when a dog is mineral deficient or suffering from a nutritional imbalance.

Dogs have an inherent natural tendency for survival. If this behavior continues then perhaps, you should consider a diet change and a visit to the vet. You should not ignore or overlook such signs.


2. The dirt-eating behavior can be a sign of an underlying condition

What one of the primary conditions dog owners should watch out for is dog Anemia. It is often a chronic, extended standing condition. Factors such as bleeding tumors, ulcers, parasites, or chronic kidney disease can cause it. The search for nutrients in dirt may also result from conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Hypothyroidism.


3. Boredom or Stress

When you leave dogs alone in the house for a long time, they naturally find ways to entertain themselves. It applies mainly to dogs who spend more time outdoors. Some puppies usually eat dirt simply out of pure boredom.

Much like humans, dogs need activities. They need to play and socialization. Someone to interact with them. Eating dirt is sometimes a sign that your dog lacked social interaction. Leaving your dog alone can be stressful for them. So, eating dirt is merely a way to pass the time, to relieve stress, or lessen the separation anxiety until you return.


4. Tasty Dirt

A less alarming reason that may be causing your dog is trying to reach for something delicious like hamburger grease under the grill. Or small pieces of bones buried in the sand. It is best to check what the dog is trying to get.


5. A Stomach Upset

It occurs not only with dogs but with cats as well. Studies show that clay dirt may help in detoxification, help with parasites and relieve stomach upset. It is possible that by eating dirt, the dog is instinctively trying to reduce whatever is causing the stomach upset and sooth its digestive tract.


6. Eating dirt can be a learned behavior

From the time they are small puppies, dogs are continually checking on the world by using their senses. It can include their mouth. If they eat dirt while they are young and not discouraged, chances are it’s going to be a lifetime habit.


What Are the Solutions for Canine Geophagia?

So, if your dog is eating dirt too often or too much, here are a few things you can do.


  • Check your pet’s gums take note of the color. If it’s either too pale or jaundiced, then you should immediately schedule a trip to the veterinarian.
  • Check on his diet. If you suspect lack of nutrient, you may want to consult a veterinary nutritionist.
  • If you notice signs of lethargy, decreased intake or weight loss, it’s best to take your dog to the vet and then let them do some lab works.
  • Keep trash bins closed and out of your dog’s reach.
  • Make sure that your dog gets enough exercise and playtime daily. Lack of this can cause boredom and may result in your dog eating dirt as a form of amusement.
  • Keep a variety of toys your dog can safely chew on when you’re not around.
  • Control his environment. He can’t eat what is not there. If the dirt eating habit occurs in one specific area, cover it to discourage the dog from repeating the behavior.



That’s it! These are the possible reasons that might be provoking your dog to eat dirt. You need to find the exact cause of this habit and then find the solution.

Dirt eating is a behavior that all dogs will manifest, at least once in their lifetime. It’s the pet owner’s responsibility to observe whether a response is beyond ordinary. If so, then there are appropriate steps to correct it.

It may take some time and energy but will be well worth it if you want the behavior to stop. Although we cannot entirely prevent a dog from experimenting on food, you can work on your own or with a professional trainer, or seek the advice of a veterinarian to develop strategies that can stop and prevent geophagia in dogs.


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