When an animal eats or chews something that is not food, we call it ‘pica’. It is often a deficiency of a specific nutrient, but it can also be an obsessive compulsive disorder or due to curiosity or boredom. The consumption of sand or rocks is called geophagia and is often because of a deficiency in iron. If your dog is on a good diet, it is more likely that the reason for chewing rocks is boredom, curiosity or an obsessive compulsive disorder.
The signs to look out for to know whether your dog is chewing rocks are broken teeth, constipation and/or vomiting. Rocks can cause an obstruction in the intestinal tract, which can lead to damage to the intestine and bleeding, or tearing of the intestinal wall, which can lead to infection of the abdomen (peritonitis) and subsequently the death of the animal.
Rocks also cause broken teeth and damage to the gingiva (gums), which can cause severe pain and lead to tooth root infection.
If you suspect that a rock is causing an obstruction in your dog, you need to take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will then do x-rays or an ultrasound on the abdomen to determine whether there is an obstruction. If there is an obstruction, the veterinarian will need to operate and remove the rock surgically.
This is a very dangerous habit that can lead to the death of your dog. To stop your dog from doing this, you need to make sure you feed him a balanced diet. If it is a behavioural problem, a veterinarian or an animal behaviourist can help you to alter your dog’s behaviour.
Text: Dr Marli Grewar, veterinarian
This article, as well as other veterinary tips, features in the May issue of AnimalTalk.