Your Pet Question:
My 8-year-old old husky setter-cross dog eats dirt. She gets dry and canned dog food, some eggs and table scraps, but do you think she might be lacking something in her diet that makes her do this?
The Expert Says:
If the foods you are giving are from recognized and certified nutritionally complete manufacturers, and if there are no other underlying hidden health issues such as hypothyroidism (common in both breeds in her makeup) or liver, kidney, central nervous system, or other diseases, the most common cause for dogs eating dirt is behavioural. It could be part of a range of obsessive-compulsive disorders like excessive licking or grooming, but it can also just be a sign of boredom! Eating a little dirt is probably not too serious, but eating large amounts can damage her teeth, erode her stomach and intestinal linings, and possibly lead to intestinal blockages. It can also expose her to various intestinal parasites or toxins. Have your vet examine her and conduct blood tests to rule out physical causes for her behaviour, at 8 years-old she is entering senior territory, so yearly blood tests are highly recommended anyway. If it is determined that the behaviour is an obsessive disorder, there are a number of behavioural therapies–some including medications or alternative therapies to help stop it. You vet might also recommend a behavioural therapist.
Dr. Tony Gerrow, B.Sc., D.V.M, South Trail Pet Hospital, Calgary, Alberta