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Why pets eat strange items

Virginia Chavez is a Phoenix-based freelance writer covering pets and lifestyle in the Southwest. In addition to regular contributions both online and in-print, Virginia locally owns and operates two pet care and supply businesses. For t...

To eat or not to eat

The pet food world is full of delicious and nutritious meal options for pets. We love to spoil our four-legged friends with foods containing hearty ingredients like bison, beef and wild-caught salmon. With a mixture of delectable dishes to choose from, it’s hard to believe our pets would prefer to chow down on bowl of rocks or a cardboard box.

Puppy eating toliet paper

Many pets suffer from a disorder known as pica, where they eat non-food items. While most cases can be fixed with training and persistence, certain types of pica can become very dangerous to your pet's health. If your furry friend enjoys snacking on a roll of toilet paper -- or worse, a poop morsel -- here's the story behind these strange eating behaviors.

Boredom

If a roll of Charmin has replaced your pet’s favorite squeaky toy, there’s a chance your pet is just plain bored. Chewing non-food items out of boredom is common among pets and a problem that can be easily fixed. Try the following tips to spice up your pets’ life:

  • Add new toys and games to your pets’ toy box.
  • Set aside dedicated play time.
  • Exercise with your pet daily.

Attention deficit

Any changes in your daily activities can leave your furry friend starved for attention. Little things like spending a few extra hours at the office to big life changes like introducing a new family member to the household can cause your pet to react by doing anything to get attention. Often, when we react negatively to our pet's actions, he simply takes note of the action that caught your attention -- and continues to do it to continue to get attention, even if it's negative. Turn negatives into positives by trying the following tips:

  • Keep restricted items like boxes, socks, pens or any other non-edible items out of reach and replace them with pet-friendly toys and games. For an extra treat, try toys that can be filled with a tasty surprise to help pique your pet's interest.
  • Always reward good behavior with ridiculous amounts of praise.
  • Create one-on-one time for you and your pet that incorporates exercise.

Puppyhood

Irresistibly cute and highly destructive, puppies will get into all kinds of trouble in their first year of life. As part of their exploration phase, it is very normal for fur-babies to sniff, chew, scratch and eat just about everything. The key is early training and a watchful eye to prevent bad habits from forming. It is important to let your puppies explore and learn on their own. Follow these tips to ensure your home is a safe haven for learning activities:

  • Make sure small non-food objects are out of sight (and reach) to avoid any possibility of your pet choking.
  • Familiarize yourself with the list of pet-toxic food items you may have in your household and keep those items well out of reach.
  • Always unplug electrical items that are within your pet's chewing reach.

Self-soothing behavior

Some pups tend to eat grass to relieve upset stomachs or symptoms of nausea. Eating grass can sometimes help them improve digestion or help them vomit when nauseated. Light grazing can be acceptable but a trip to the veterinarian is encouraged if your pooch makes grass-eating a regular part of her daily diet.

tell us

What is the strangest thing your dog has eaten? Share in the comments below!

More tips for pet owners

What to look for in pet food ingredients
How to maximize quality time with your pet
Using GPS to track your pet

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