Why Do Dogs Eat Rocks, Sticks, and Dirt? Is It Dangerous for Your Pet?

Why Do Dogs Eat Rocks, Sticks, and Dirt? Is It Dangerous for Your Pet?

Are you concerned about your dog eating dirt, rocks, or sticks? Here is everything to know about it. Read on to get informed.

Have you ever thought about why dogs eat dirt? Or why do some have the revolting habit of eating poop? Pica is the abnormal behavior of consuming non-nutritive objects such as dirt, sand, clay, paper, chalk, cloth, plastic or even rocks. Pica and coprophagia can be caused by nutritional deficits, electrolyte imbalances, and hunger. However, not all animals with pica or coprophagia have a medical problem. Coprophagia is, in fact, considered typical behavior in canine moms. Pica dogs may get obsessed with one sort of non-food object or they may consume whatever they can get their paws on.

Eating Non-edible Items Like Dirt, Rocks, Sticks

Some dogs like eating things they shouldn’t, such as pebbles, twigs, the corridor’s wall, or the owner’s undergarments. Every veterinarian has a tale of a patient who ate something remarkable. In fact, dogs never fail to amaze them with what they eat. Unfortunately, this habit can endanger the dog’s health and, in the worst-case situation, cause him to die.

Sharp items, such as nails, forks, or knives, can readily puncture the stomach walls or intestinal mucosa, resulting in internal bleeding, peritoneal infections, or septic shock. Pica, or eating non-edible items, is an aberrant habit. Some experts feel it is a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The causes might range from worry to annoyance or boredom, a lack of mental and physical stimulation, and chronic/acute stress. Some medical diseases, including as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, intestinal parasites, and anaemia, may also contribute to its development; these should be cleared out before adopting any behavioral strategy.

Dog paper

Pica is comparable to coprophagy, which is the behavior of eating one’s own faeces. There is one significant distinction, however: Pica solely entails the consumption of inanimate items with little nutritional value, such as pebbles, sticks, plastic, or vehicle keys. Poop (and you’ll want to put down your meal at this time) contains undigested stuff that does give nutritional benefit on occasion. So…yay?

Let’s go over the various reasons why your dog could chew on a stick or eat a rock or soil.


“Because a dog’s mouth is the only part of their body that can grasp things, picking things up with their mouth is one of the ways they explore the world and satisfy their curiosity about the objects that attract them by sight, scent, or sound, much like a human toddler,” Alexandra Bassett, CPDT-KA, the lead trainer and behavior specialist at Dog Savvy Los Angeles, told BeChewy.

Puppies and young dogs are more inclined to “mouth-test” various types of items. Usually, it's because they need to learn whether these object is food or a toy. Over time puppies learn what should be played with, what they can ingest, and what they need to leave alone.

Behavioral Reasons 

According to Eileen Koval, CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT, a certified behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and owner of Confident Canines, behavioral pica can be caused by a variety of factors, including anxiety, boredom, stress, and learned habits. "Playing with non-food objects may provide enjoyment for a bored dog," she explains. "A worried dog may try to relax by smelling the ground and chewing objects, even if they are inedible. A dog suffering from separation anxiety may rip apart bedding and eat it, or remove pens and papers from the counter top and consume them in order to cope with the terror and stress caused by the separation."

Dogs may discover that chewing pebbles or dirt is a decent (although disgusting) way to obtain their human's attention, and our actions may unintentionally support theirs. "Because dogs have limited methods of expressing to us what and when they need things, they are good at determining which actions bring them what they want," explains Koval.

Dog eating rope

Medical Reasons

Nutritional deficiencies

Your dog is suffering from a dietary shortage. In these circumstances, your dog is attempting to get calcium, magnesium, or another vitamin or mineral that she is deficient in. This is comparable to the unusual desires that many pregnant people have (though hopefully you don't acquire a taste for rocks - you should consult your doctor about that one).

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammation of your dog's gut or digestive tract. The ongoing inflammation destroys the lining of their digestive track, preventing food from being absorbed correctly. It might also cause other health issues if nutrients are not absorbed properly.

While the symptoms of IBD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) appear similar, the two illnesses are substantially distinct. Inflammatory bowel disease is a physical disorder characterized by an overabundance of aberrant inflammatory cells. Irritable bowel syndrome, which predominantly affects the large intestine, is typically triggered by stress, dietary changes, or infection.


A parasite is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as "an organism that lives on or in a host organism and obtains its sustenance from or at the expense of its host."

Pet owners should be aware of two types of parasites in dogs: internal parasites and exterior parasites.

Internal parasites, such as hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms, reside inside an animal's body, can be transmitted in a variety of ways, and can harm a variety of organs. External parasites, such as fleas and ticks, infest the host's body and cause an infestation.

Neurological disease

Your poor puppy is suffering from a neurological condition. Diseases of the nerves and brain (which is really just a mess of nerves) may lead dogs to perform unusual things, such as chowing down on pebbles. As a result, it is critical to have your veterinarian do a thorough neurological check on your puppy to rule out these sorts of issues.

dog eating dirt

The Dangers of Eating Dirt

If you observe your dog eating dirt, immediately discourage the activity since it can be harmful to their health. According to the AKC, there are various dangers related with geophagia in dogs:

  • Impacted intestines, which could require surgery
  • Consumption of pesticides and other toxins
  • Choking
  • Damage to the teeth, throat, digestive tract or stomach from ingesting rocks or sticks
  • Ingestion of soil-dwelling parasites

How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Dirt

When your dog begins to eat dirt, provide a diversion. You can divert their attention with a vocal instruction, a loud noise, or by providing them a toy to gnaw on instead.

When you go outside, keep your dog on a leash so you may guide them away from places with exposed dirt.

Indoor potted plants should be removed or placed well out of reach of your dog.

Make sure your dog has enough physical and mental stimulation to ease tension and keep them from eating dirt out of boredom.

Address any possible stressors in your dog's life, such as a significant change in routine or family structure, or separation anxiety. It's possible that your dog just needs some time to acclimate.

If none of these recommendations work, you may need to seek the assistance of a professional trainer or dog behavior specialist to help you stop this habit.

Stick and Stones

Puppy stone eating is a pretty frequent hobby. Don't feel guilty if you're a dog parent with a dog who eats stones. In many circumstances, it is likely that the puppy begins by just investigating a rock or two with his tongue. In this regard, puppies are similar to toddlers in that they use their tongues to investigate new sensations.

When left alone with the little stone/coin/plastic toy or whatever he has in his mouth, most pups will just spit it out when bored. But, of course, we're concerned that the puppy may choke or swallow it, so we try to get it off him. The puppy then swallows it since no one else can take it if it's in his stomach. As a result, it's always a good idea to "exchange" objects you don't want your puppy to have for a nice morsel of food. It aids in preventing the swallowing habit from developing.

Many dogs who appear to be chewing on sticks are actually merely gnawing on them. It's a fun exercise for a lot of dogs. Chewing is generally a result of a retriever instincts. Stress, boredom, and worry, on the other hand, may intensify these chewing inclinations.

However, for some dogs, eating anything and everything can be a serious psychological problem as well as a health concern. These dogs frequently devour clothes articles such as socks, dishcloths and cleaning rags, toys, sticks, and pretty much anything else that is laying around.

dog face

Sticks and Stones Can Hurt Your Dog

They might be more dangerous to your dog than you realize. The playground rhyme reads, "Sticks and stones may break my bones." However, if you're a dog, they can cause far more harm.

Dogs are incredible creatures, not least for their capacity to endanger themselves with seemingly simple items. While it is unlikely that you may injure yourself with anything as innocuous as a maple branch or a riverbed rock, it is conceivable.

When to See a Vet

Keep an eye out to determine if your dog is eating dirt on a regular basis or if it was a one-time occurrence. If they just eat dirt once or twice a week to alleviate tension or boredom, you should discourage them from doing so, but it may not be reason for concern.

Contact your veterinarian if it becomes a compulsive habit or if you observe your dog acting strangely after eating the soil. They will need to evaluate your dog to rule out any underlying health conditions that might be causing this behavior. The vet may also examine your dog for any inside damage that may have occurred as a result of chewing dirt.

How to Manage PICA

Pica dogs may consume something harmful or get gastrointestinal obstructions or perforations as a result of ingested things. If things become lodged in the stomach or digestive track and are unable to pass through, a veterinarian may be required to undertake surgery to locate and remove the objects. Perforation (when a sharp item pierces the stomach or intestines) is very serious and need prompt surgery. to help your dog , keep these tips in mind

  • Determine the cause (stress, boredom, malnutrition)
  • Try using more treat-dispensing toys
  • Work on obedience tricks
  • Decrease stress on the dog
  • Consult a trainer on specific behavior modification techniques


The easiest approach to keep your dog from eating non-food objects is to always put them away or limit access to them so they are out of reach. If your dog is chewing on grass, pebbles, or wood, keep him on a leash outside to avoid complications.