Dogs do all manner of things that seem nonsensical and strange to us. And quite frankly, we’ve covered quite a few of these over the years. Today, the mannerism in question is not so strange as human babies do it too.
Nonetheless, it is important. We’re looking at why dogs eat soil and how to stop it.
Soil, otherwise known as mud and earth, is the brown stuff underneath the grass, and pretty much everywhere, there isn’t concrete or rock. As humans, we all see soil as an organic matter that is great for gardening but is dirty and full of nasty stuff. We’d never put soil in our mouth, let alone eat it, so why would dogs want to eat soil?
More importantly, how can you stop this nasty habit?
How do I stop my dog from eating soil?
Eating soil may seem funny at times, but it is a behaviour that needs to be stopped. The soil itself is a host to millions of pathogens. Secondly, the underlying issue causing such mannerisms is the real problem here.
You should do the following steps simultaneously, not in order.
1. Fix their diet.
First, you should check if your doggo is getting plenty of nutrients and an adequate date. Because the simplest answer for “why is my dog eating soil” is that your dog likely doesn’t have a balanced and fulfilling diet.
Check your dog food (see also ‘Just How Good Is Wainwright’s Dog Food?‘) labels and reviews online to see what others have said. You can look up the best dry dog foods in your article to find suitable replacements. Make sure your dog has access to fresh water 24 hours a day.
2. Your dog should exercise regularly.
Make sure your dog is being exercised enough. The actual frequency will obviously depend on the age and breed of your dog. It’ll rule out any boredom problems and socialising issues while helping you create a long-lasting bond with your good boy.
A dog should be getting at least 20-30 minutes of exercise a day. Being let out in the garden does not count as exercise – they need to move around PROPERLY.
3. Relieve boredom when you’re not around.
When your dog is alone, make sure they have plenty of things to be comfortable with and toys to occupy them. A bored dog is a naughty dog prone to do crazy things like eating soil.
4. Check the soil contents.
Check where your dog seems to graze and remove any food from the area. If you have vegetables and fruit in the area, consider fencing it off so they can’t get to them anymore.
5. Get a professional opinion.
If you feel you’ve done all of the above and the soil eating persists, then it’s time to take them for a proper check-up with a qualified veterinarian. Don’t delay. The longer it is untreated, the harder the recovery period may be.
Why is your dog eating soil?
Of course, these are just precautionary steps to halt the problem temporarily. You should figure out “why” and resolve the inherent issue for a permanent solution.
Dogs don’t tend to do things for no reason whatsoever, and they certainly won’t do something unenjoyable for no reason. When we’ve researched and helped dog owners up and down the country with strange issues, nine times out of ten, there are underlying physical or psychological issues causing it.
Eating soil will be the same, and although there is more than one potential cause of this, none of the reasons will be ‘no reason at all. With that out of the way, let’s explain why your dog has developed a taste for soil.
1. Is it chronic or a one-off?
Has your dog been eating soil on several occasions over a few days? Or have they done it once, and you’re wondering why it could be.
There is a big difference between the soil eating frequency, especially when it comes to ‘treating it’. A dog eating soil chronically is likely to have an underlying issue that needs to be addressed for the behaviour to stop.
A dog who has only done it once could have a simple explanation for it, and it may naturally never happen again. It’s also worth considering if this happens in the garden or if it’s happened in a local park or on a walk.
2. They’re on a bad diet.
We think that the number one cause of dogs seeking soil to eat and chew is a bad diet that is missing key nutrients, minerals, and prebiotics. As the PDSA states,
“Your dog’s diet impacts their health and happiness.”
If a dog isn’t getting the right nutrients from their dog food, they will attempt to seek it elsewhere – some of the things they will try to eat will astound you and can often be dangerous.
A poor diet can lead to a condition called Pica, a mental disorder that causes animals to attempt to eat inedible and matter without nutritional value, in this case, soil. Soil can be moist and feel like something that could have some nutritional value, so they will attempt to ingest it.
Humans with poor diets feel awful and crave even more rubbish, but we’re intelligent enough to understand the problem and rectify it. Your dog is not so lucky – they aren’t the ones in charge of their diet and are completely powerless to make changes to it.
Dogs on a poor diet have more than likely given you signals that they want to change already, such as diarrhoea, lethargy and naughty behaviour; if your dog has got to the point of eating soil, then it has already gone on too long.
3. Your dog might have Anaemia.
The causes of anaemia are too many to mention here and deserve their page; for reference on the specifics of Anemia, visit AKC’s excellent resource. A dog with anaemia could eat soil to search for more resources to deal with the anaemia and get better.
They will be feeling awful, and if they haven’t been to a veterinarian for some time could be getting desperate. Anaemia is similar to bad dog food because it causes your dog to go down a path fuelled by a desire to look for something they aren’t getting elsewhere.
To check if your dog is eating soil because of anaemia, check if their gums have become less pink and more whitish.
4. They’re bored out of their mind.
As I said, bored dogs can be destructive and exhibit strange behaviour. Eating soil can be one. Ensure your dog is well exercised and often socialises to prevent such behaviour. Eating things isn’t usually the most common result of boredom, but it is not beyond possibility, and we have seen far stranger things.
Ensure your dog has enough toys at home and in the garden to keep them busy even when nothing else is going on at the time. If you leave your dog outside for long periods, conduct a review, so they aren’t just out with nothing to do.
5. Your dog has stomach problems.
Dogs with stomach problems, possibly bugs and the like, have been observed eating soil to alleviate stomach issues to get the digestive tract moving and to use the mud and clay to scrub clean the insides.
“My instinct is that the dog is looking to get whatever is in the digestive tract moving out, either by throwing up or pushing it through”.Canine specialist Dr Coger adds,