If you have caught your puppy or dog chewing on a rock, it is imperative that you curb this habit before consequences land you and your furry friend in the veterinary emergency hospital. Understand the reasons why some dogs have a penchant for rock-chewing, determine why your budding quarry worker is engaging in the behavior and then learn what steps you can take to eliminate his opportunities to do so.
Pica is the term used to describe the habitual act of chewing and consuming foreign objects, or things that are not classified as food. Pica is not uncommon in dogs, and the objects of their obsessions include the following:
- Clothing, such as socks, pantyhose and underwear
- Sticks and twigs
- Linens, such as washcloths and napkins
- Children's toys
- Metal objects
While eliminating your dog's access to the rocks in your garden may seem like a simple fix, it is important to identify the reason why he loves his rocks. The causes of his rock-chewing habit may be medical or behavioral.
If your dog persistently zeroes in on rocks to chew, he may be doing so as a result of a medical condition that is increasing his appetite or causing nutritional deficiencies. Some such conditions include the following:
Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, can increase a dog's appetite as well.
Laboratory screenings can determine if your dog has any of these conditions. If your dog is diagnosed with any of them, your veterinarian will initiate a treatment plan to manage the condition.
If your rock chewer is a puppy, he may be chewing rocks out of curiosity, play or a need to alleviate teething discomfort. Puppies explore their surroundings with their mouths. Conversely, if you adopted your dog as an adult, he may have developed the habit of chewing on rocks to satiate boredom if he had no toys or other means of stimulation at his former residence. Dogs that do not receive much attention when they are quiet and behaving may engage in this behavior to get their owners attention.
Consequences of Chewing Rocks
Chewing rocks can be damaging to your dog's health and puts his life at risk. Some of the consequences of chewing rocks include the following:
- Worn and broken teeth
- Perforation of the stomach or colon
- Gastrointestinal obstruction
If your dog ingests a rock that is large enough to become lodged in the esophagus or cause a bowel obstruction, your veterinarian will need to perform surgery to remove the rock. Some signs of obstruction include the following:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Painful abdomen
- Lack of appetite
Gastrointestinal obstruction is an emergency. If you observe any of these symptoms, bring your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
Reduce the Risks
If the reason for your dog's rock craving is medical, the need may subside entirely once his condition is managed. Whether the reason is medical or behavioral, take the following steps to initially curb your dog's habit:
- If possible, remove all rocks from the yard. If this is not feasible, take your dog outside on a leash so that you maintain control of his activities.
- Provide your dog with a variety of toys, including chew toys, and provide him with plenty of mental and physical stimulation through interactive play and exercise.
- Never play fetch with your dog by throwing a rock for him to retrieve.
In addition to the aforementioned steps, you need to train your puppy or dog not to chew rocks. Whenever you catch him with a rock, you can use negative reinforcement by admonishing him with a loud and stern verbal reprimand before cutting his outdoor playtime short and bringing him inside. Alternately, you can try positive reinforcement by redirecting his attention to a toy that is safe and acceptable for him to chew on. Choose one method or the other, and stick to it consistently until he learns that chewing on rocks is not acceptable behavior.
If you happen to own the rare dog that remains persistent about making a beeline for the rocks, you may need to resort to outfitting him with a basket muzzle before he ventures outdoors.
For an animal hospital, contact a business such as Stroudsburg Animal Hospital.