What is Pica?
Have you ever noticed your dog chewing a rock or a random sock all the time? You might have tried to make them spit it, but then given up at their stubbornness. You would have also observed their weird obsession with that object and wondered why they keep chewing it.
The reason here is a condition called pica which is even found in humans as well. You might have come across that one friend who had a habit of eating mud or paper and wondered why.
Pica is the habit of continuously chewing and consuming items that are not food. In some cases, a dog might have an obsession with a single item like a rock or can try to consume different items as well.
Pica can be very dangerous if left untreated because not only do the dogs risk poisoning or stomach problems due to the consumption of such items, it may also cause choking, suffocation, and prove to be deadly.
So the next time you catch your dog trying to eat something he is not supposed to, then observe for a while, and if it occurs frequently, pay a visit to your vet.
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Now, how are you going to observe and detect if your dog has Pica?
As the definition states, the main symptom that you can notice is your dog chewing any item that is not edible. However, continuous consumption of such items may give rise to other symptoms which usually occur after too much intake of that item.
In case your dog has this habit, then keep a lookout for these changes in behavior and symptoms,
- Dark-colored stools
- Bad breath
You must keep in mind that the symptoms vary based on the type of item that they consume. In the case of chemical products like detergents, there are chances of poisoning as well. So be extra careful to not leave bottles lying around, especially if your dog is attracted to them.
Pica can be caused due to two different sets of issues – either medical or psychological. Most often, dog owners believe that Pica is caused by medical issues and tend to overlook the psychological possibilities. When such issues are left unresolved, it might lead to severe behavioural problems with the dog.
If your puppy has the habit of chewing random objects, it can mostly be associated with the teething process and you don’t have to worry unless the habit keeps continuing.
If your mature dog has this habit, then it can be due to gastrointestinal diseases related to the Liver or Pancreas, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Anemia, Diabetes, or Parasitic Infections. In most cases, an unbalanced diet with a lack of vitamins and required nutrients can also cause Pica.
Once you rule out the possibilities of any medical issue, you will need to observe your dog closely to detect any signs of psychological problems. Your dog might be very attention-seeking or seem withdrawn and distanced. They might show a lack of interest in any activity that they enjoyed previously. Pica might also be the result of your dog under stress, depression, or anxiety.
Sometimes, your dog might have this habit because of boredom. So make sure he is engaged for a good amount of time and that you spend time together as well.
Most pet owners are ignorant of the fact that they are also susceptible to emotional disturbances and need to act accordingly. You might not realize it, but you might actually be the reason why your dog keeps chewing inedible objects if you don’t give the required attention, affection, and time.
As there are two different causes, the treatment also varies accordingly.
In the case of medical issues, you can combat Pica by making suitable changes to your dog’s diet, vitamin supplements, or other prescribed items by the vet.
In the case of psychological issues, the best thing you can do is acknowledge your dog often and make him feel loved and wanted. Sometimes, the dog might need behavioural therapy and this might be very challenging in the case of older dogs. Even psychological issues like anxiety can be resolved with prescribed drugs.
You need to make sure that the area accessible to your dog is rid of all the items that can be chewed or ingested. Make sure you buy safe and suitable toys to play with and change them if they are worn out.
What can you do?
As a good pet parent, you need to make sure that your dog is being given all the required nutrients, healthy, and is well nourished. Your dog loves you and will want to spend time with you. Make sure you do that. In case you have busy schedules and might not be able to keep the dog engaged, hire someone to sit or walk him. If your dog is active throughout the day, it is very less likely that he might feel psychologically ill. You can also opt for dog daycares.
Never overlook Pica
If you take Pica lightly, thinking it is just a couple of stones or rubber, you are wrong. There are several cases in which dogs had to be operated to remove the ingested items as it might block crucial tracts causing choking.
As mentioned, Pica can prove very dangerous so it is best to seek help at the earliest.