Dogs do all sorts of odd and confusing behaviours that we may not quite understand. While some are pretty harmless and amusing to watch, others can be serious cause for concern.
One of these potentially dangerous actions is the act of eating rocks or pebbles, leading you to ask the question, “Why does my dog eat stones?”
The good news is that, like all behavioural problems, this can be curbed and stopped before it has overly harmful negative effects.
6 Reasons Your Dog Eats Stones
Often, the underlying root behind this behaviour is easy enough to discover. Here’s what’s really going on when your dog eats stones.
There are quite a number of reasons for this odd habit, and some are more serious roots than others. Here are some of the most common and likely causes for it.
Younger puppies may be curious about everything they see, leading them to feel the urge to put new objects into their mouths.
If your pup is at around the age of 6 months old, they may be doing it out of pure curiosity and will eventually grow out of it.
A dog needs sufficient mental and physical stimulation in order to work away excess energy.
Too much pent-up energy gone unreleased can result in a number of behavioural problems, from acting out to finding odd ways to release the stress the dog is experiencing.
3. Lacking Affection Or Attention
If a pup picks up a stone once out of curiosity and puts it in their mouth, then sees you running over in a hurry to reprimand them and remove the stone, they learn that this is a surefire way to get attention.
A dog who wants their human to pay attention to them may then eat rocks to earn that attention.
4. Nutrition Deficiency
There is a chance that your pup’s daily diet doesn’t provide them with sufficient nutrients, leading their instincts to urge them to seek that nutrition elsewhere in non-food items.
The most common nutrient deficiencies that lead to eating stones are iron, phosphorus, calcium, and enzyme deficiencies.
5. Mental Health Issues
The act of consuming non-food items in humans is actually a disorder known as pica.
While much less common in dogs, our canine companions are not exempt from developing mental health disorders. If you suspect this may be the case for your dog, take them to the vet immediately.
6. Physical Health Issues
There are a number of physical health issues that could be causing your dog to chew on stones, such as:
- Worms – You should be regularly deworming your dog as part of their healthcare routine. If you do not do this already, talk to a vet about options.
- Intestinal Tract Disorders – See a vet if you think this may be the problem.
- Diabetes – See a vet if you think this may be the problem.
- Bloat – Do note that bloat is an extremely serious and highly fatal condition. If your dog’s stomach feels tight and hard, rush them to the vet as soon as possible.
- General Illness Or Sickness – Remember that self-diagnosing leaves plenty of margin for error, so if your dog continues to exhibit this behavior or starts to get into a habit of performing it, or if the behavior is accompanied by other signs of illness or unusual actions, you should see a vet or animal specialist as soon as possible.
What Are The Side Effects and Risks Of My Dog Eating Stones?
Many dogs may be able to eat small pebbles or gravel and have it harmlessly pass through the system, but it comes with a lot of risks, and it only takes one to cause life-threatening problems.
The consumption of larger rocks or stones can cause blockages all throughout the digestive system, from the oesophagus to the intestines, and in severe cases, this can require surgery to solve.
The blockage can become incredibly painful and will become fatal if left untreated.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Stones?
The method you use to prevent your dog from eating stones depends on its underlying cause. I would recommend seeing a veterinarian for habitual behavioural problems and having a professional advise you on the next best step to take.
Meanwhile, if this problem does not seem to be serious, you can attempt the following changes.
Providing Toys, Affection, And Exercise
This can prevent a bored dog or one longing for affection and attention from you from turning to eating stones as a new hobby or means for gaining attention.
Present alternatives such as chew toys or rawhide chews, educational puzzles, or a game of fetch. Don’t forget to make sure your dog gets daily exercise, too.
Improving Your Dog’s Diet
If there are some nutritional deficiencies causing your dog to eat stones, you may want to make alterations to their diet so that they get all the nutrients they need.
Dogs eat everything they are not only carnivores even if they eat meat most of the time.
You may also want to consider supplementation. Remember to always speak to a vet before drastically changing a dog’s diet or giving them dietary supplements.
Limit Access To Stones
Clear the area that your dog spends time in most and make sure there are not a lot of stones in the area. If your dog tends to eat stones when you go on a walk, monitor them and opt for paths that are less rocky.
Train Your Dog
When your dog starts to exhibit this behavior, redirect their attention to another toy or a treat to distract them.
Alternatively, teach your dog the command for “leave it” – this has many more applications and is quite a useful command for them to learn. You can also opt to hire professional trainers.
Consider A Muzzle In Extreme Cases
If you have already seen a vet and are taking the right steps but your dog continues to attempt to eat rocks, consider purchasing and using a muzzle on them when you cannot be around to supervise them.
Once again, we would like to stress that a dog that repeatedly eats stones should be taken to the vet for a proper check-up and diagnosis so you can receive effective professional advice.