Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt: Potential Behavioral and Medical Causes

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adorable muddy bulldog puppy wondering why do dogs eat dirt

Have you ever found your dog digging wildly and covered in mud and dirt, especially around their mouth? If so, you’re not alone. Many pet parents ask themselves “Why do dogs eat dirt?” It’s a perfectly good question! After all, is a dog eating dirt a sign of some disease or illness? And isn’t that behavior bad for their health and well-being? In this article, we will help you figure out why your puppy is munching down dirt.

Behavior, Physical and Health: The Most Common Reasons Why Dogs Eat Dirt

Eating dirt isn’t necessarily unhealthy. Most of the times, your pup will just be ingesting uncontaminated soil and, sometimes, earthworms.

But there are obviously times when the soil isn’t good for consumption. Pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals and bacteria may have made their way to the soil. In this case, you don’t want Fido swallowing dirt!

In order to prevent them from ingesting soil, let’s get down to it, why do dogs eat dirt? The short answer is that there are three main causing factors: behavioral problems, dietary problems, and health problems.

Behavioral Problems

Behavioral problems are by far the most common. Dogs need to exercise and be mentally challenged. When they stay home or in the yard all day, they need to find ways of keeping themselves entertained. Cue the dirt!

Eating dirt is a common sign of boredom. The good news is that it’s super easy to break this cycle. Next time you see your pup wander around aimlessly, go outside with them. Take them on a walk, play catch with them, or take them to a dog park they’ve never been to. That should keep the dirt and worms away from Fido’s mouth.

An Unbalanced Diet

If your dog is eating dirt, it may also be a sign of an unbalanced diet. Dirt is rich in minerals, and dogs know this. If they’re not getting enough vitamins and minerals, it’s likely that they’ll turn to the dirt to get them.

A simple solution to this problem is changing your dog’s diet. Get them a new brand of dog food or even supplements. Some commercial dog foods have a mineral deficiency, so keep an eye out for “nutrient-rich” dog foods.

beautiful collie dog eating dirt in a plant pot

Sign of Illness

Lastly, in some cases, if a dog is eating grass or dirt, it may be one of the signs of illness. Dirt and grass have bowel soothing properties. They help digest food and keep the gastrointestinal tract in check. Usually, a dog isn’t supposed to need this help. But if they have intestinal problems, dirt may be one of the things that brings them comfort.

This is a rare explanation, but it does sometimes apply. Especially if you see Fido heading for the dirt one to two hours after feeding your dog!

What Is Pica in Dogs?

Dogs love exploring the world around them. They love eating socks, chewing a house plant or two, even eating poop! However, when it reaches a certain level, this behavior is no longer normal.

This is when the label “pica” is used. Pica is a condition that leads to dogs eating or exploring non-food items with their mouth.

As you can probably guess, a dog with Pica is not a healthy dog. There’s a reason why they’re not supposed to eat non-food items. These non-food items can hurt a dog’s body.

There are two main causes of Pica in dogs: behavioral problems or health problems. When Pica is caused by boredom, exercising with your pet is a great idea. When it’s caused by health problems, it’s wise to take your puppy to the vet before they hurt themselves.

What do Dogs Eat When They Have Pica?

When dogs have Pica, they eat anything they can think of — except their food! You’ll find them eating garbage, rocks, grass, dirt, plastic, clothes, and much more.

Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt? 3 Potential Medical Causes

No one wants to hear that their dog eating dirt is one of the symptoms of an underlying medical condition. This is a rare answer to the question “Why do dogs eat dirt,” but it should be considered, too.

dog digging in garden


The first medical cause for dogs eating dirt is that they have anemia. This condition manifests itself by a loss of blood, sometimes internal. If your puppy is bleeding from their bowel, anemia is triggered, and eating dirt may ease the pain and discomfort. To know if this is the case, check their stool for any blood.

Digestive Troubles

Secondly, they may have digestive troubles. The clay in the soil aids digestion and soothes the intestinal tract. Dogs that eat grass also do so because of digestive problems.

Upset Stomach

Lastly, the reason why your dog is integrating dirt in their diet may be because of an upset stomach. This may be caused by parasites or by something bad they have eaten. In any case, the soil moving through their system gives them some relief.

Why Does My Dog Eat Dirt When He’s Perfectly Healthy?

If it’s not a health issue, it must be a behavioral thing. Sometimes, pups who eat dirt and are never taught otherwise will carry this bad habit into adulthood. Don’t underestimate how stubborn and stuck-in-their-ways dogs can be!

A much less serious, yet stranger, answer to the question “Why do dogs eat dirt” is because they like the taste of it. It sounds outlandish, doesn’t it? We can’t be inside a dog’s mind to know exactly why they love the taste of dirt. But the reality is that there’s something about it that makes dogs drool.

Animal Behavior 101: Why Do Dogs Dig and Eat Dirt?

Let’s put our animal behaviorist hats for a few minutes and answer the question “Why do dogs eat dirt,” once and for all.

Oftentimes, dogs eat and dig dirt to pass the time. If they don’t get enough mental stimulation, they go to the garden and explore the soil. Exercising with them should solve the issue right away.

A more serious explanation is that they have canine obsessive-compulsive disorder. This condition makes them obsessed with a certain behavior, such as eating dirt. Even if they don’t need it, they get it in their heads that they must eat dirt. Taking your puppy to an animal behaviorist is the best way to deal with this issue.

At the end of the day, if the cause of your dog’s dirt fascination is behavioral, exercise and positive reinforcement are key. Next time you see them eating soil, lead them to a different activity. Playing fetch is a great idea. Then, once they have forgotten about the dirt, give them a treat.

why does my dog eat dirt black labrador looking sad

Still Wondering “Why Is My Dog Eating Dirt?” Take them to a Vet!

Did none of these causes answer “Why is my dog eating dirt”? Then it is time to take them to a vet. It may be nothing serious, or it may mean health complications. Play it safe and let a specialist examine them. Find a veterinarian near you and take Fido. Hopefully, after a few days, they will be eating dirt no more!

Common Questions on Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt

Is eating dirt unsafe for dogs?

Does it mean my dog’s diet is lacking?

How can I train my dog not to eat dirt?

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