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Why Senior Dogs Develop a Taste for Non-food Items

When your senior dog suddenly develops new behaviors, you need to discover why. If your adult dog eats inedible items like dirt, rocks, paper, clothing, or more, they may have pica. The compulsive behavior is more common among female dogs. The habit can cause serious health issues. It can lead to gastrointestinal irritation or blockage that may require surgery to prevent severe damage.



What Causes Pica in Senior Dogs


Pica is a condition in which dogs crave and eat non-food items. There are several issues that can cause your senior dog to eat non-edible items. They include:

  • Frustration, stress, or anxiety: Senior dogs become anxious and frustrated due to their inability to move around like they did in the past.

  • Boredom: If your dog is home alone for extended periods, they may begin to look for new items to chew on. It could be a sign of depression.

  • Seeking attention: Your senior dog may be experiencing a lack of attention or socialization. It usually happens when there are no animals or children to play with.

  • Certain medications: Prescription medications, such as phenobarbital and prednisone, can increase your pet's appetite, causing them to develop pica.

  • Medical conditions. If your senior dog has a medical condition, such as IBS, diabetes, or an iron deficiency, they may develop pica.


Symptoms of Pica in Senior Dogs


If your senior dog eats non-food items, you may notice symptoms like vomiting, abdominal contractions, drooling, and frequent burping. Others are chronic bad breath, straining or inability to move the bowel, diarrhea or loose stool, and dark tarry stools. If you notice the symptoms, take your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup and a diagnosis. It is necessary to know that PICA does not usually go away without treatment.


Treatment for Your Senior Dog


Things you can do to help your pet include:

  • Increasing physical activity to prevent boredom and depression

  • Calming the dog using herbal remedies, such as lemon, lavender, and chamomile tea

  • Providing more chew toys so your dog has plenty of items to play with

  • Using a bitter spray on non-food items your dog tries to eat

Use a leash during your walks to keep your dog from straying and eating rocks, dirt, and other items. To diagnose the condition, the veterinarian will ask about symptoms and conduct a physical exam.


Treating Behavioral Pica


If your dog is eating non-food items due to stress, anxiety, or boredom, hiring a dog trainer or behavior consultant can help. Your senior dog may enjoy playing with the items and end up eating them. Eating inedible items may be the dog’s way of dealing with stress and separation anxiety. Training can teach your dog how to cope with their emotions.


Visiting the Veterinarian


If your dog’s condition is due to a medical condition, treatment is vital. The veterinarian will check for nutritional deficiencies, parasites, and inflammatory bowel disease. Ingesting non-food items can cause serious health problems for your pet.

The non-food items can cause gastrointestinal irritation, internal ulcerations, and intestine blockage. Your veterinarian will help you determine the best way to manage your dog's behavior. Providing stimulation and game-based training can help.

For more on senior dogs developing a taste for non-food items, visit the East Texas Pet Emergency Clinic at our office in Longview, Texas. Call 903-759-8545 to book an appointment today.

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