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My dog eats stones and soil: Is this normal?

Many dogs love soil: they dig in it, chew on it and even eat it. But why is the mixture of decomposed plant parts and animal remains, clay and minerals so tempting for your four-legged friend? We list common reasons and explain what possible problems eating stones can cause.

Eating soil: 5 harmless reasons

If your dog eats potting soil in the garden or regularly eats soil and stones while walking, there can be many reasons for this. If your dog behaves normally in everyday life and is as agile as ever, there is no reason to worry. Possible causes are:

  1. Absorbing minerals: Your furry friend senses when its body is lacking minerals. It instinctively compensates for this deficiency by eating the soil. Maybe a change of food to a different dog food would help? Ask your vet about it.
  2. Stimulate digestion: Small microorganisms promote the intestinal flora and counteract constipation. Your four-legged friend thus treats himself in case of stomach aches and disorders in the digestive tract.
  3. Bind toxins: Especially clayey soil binds possible toxins such as metabolic waste or excess food additives in the body. Your dog can then easily excrete them.
  4. Pleasant taste: The faeces and urine of other dogs in the soil are particularly interesting for your four-legged friend. Let him enjoy it!
  5. Curiosity: Puppies in particular like to play with soil and thus satisfy their natural curiosity about their environment and all the exciting things that are waiting for them.

Is eating soil dangerous?

If your dog eats soil here and there, there are usually no health consequences for him. However, you should avoid eating soil if it has been

  • it has been mixed with strong and artificial fertilisers,
  • chemical waste containing toxic substances has been disposed of in the immediate vicinity,
  • sewage has been dumped into the soil, and
  • too much faeces and urine are produced by overgrazing.

Our tip: Although your dog usually knows instinctively what is good or harmful for him, you should rather avoid freshly fertilised fields or adjacent pastures with him. This way you are on the safe side and save yourself vomiting and diarrhoea if the stomach and intestines react sensitively!

Health reasons for eating soil and stones

Although there are usually harmless reasons for your pet to eat soil, in certain cases there may be health reasons behind it. If, for example, your pet seems tired or nervous or even apathetic and regularly eats large amounts of soil and stones, one of these 6 causes may be present:

  1. Neurosis: If kennel dogs from poor husbandry or dogs that used to live alone in a kennel lick, nibble and chew soil and stones, this may be a behavioural disorder. Such an obsessive-compulsive disorder is caused by loneliness and frustration. It can usually only be treated by intensive therapeutic training.
  2. Malnutrition: Dogs from animal rescues that have been left on their own for a long time have learned to draw nutrients from soil and stones. In addition, stones fill the stomach and make them feel full. The animals usually discontinue this behaviour on their own the longer they are fed species-appropriate food and well cared for in their families.
  3. Boredom: If your four-legged friend walks the same route every day, for example, he may become bored. He will then occupy himself with whatever is available: for example, he will bite at stones or dig deep holes in the ground. How about turning off in a different direction on your next walk? By the way: You can find even more ideas for keeping your pet busy in our "Dog activity" section.
  4. Stress: Dogs suffer quietly! This is not just a saying, but reality. Psychological stress and discomfort therefore manifest themselves with behavioural problems like this.
  5. Dental problems: Despite regular check-ups at the vet, your four-legged friend may suffer from dental problems such as tartar or gingivitis. If so, he may chew stones to loosen a loose tooth or eat soil and use its healing properties to relieve pain and inhibit inflammation in the mouth.
  6. Parasites: If your pet routinely ingests large amounts of soil, even small stones, it is best to have them examined by a vet. This can be a sign of a parasite infestation and resulting gastrointestinal problems.

Conclusion: Digging, romping around, nibbling and chewing - soil and stones are simply far too exciting and versatile for your dog and simply deserve his attention. Basically, dog owners don't have to worry about this behaviour.

If you are attentive to your environment and know your pet's habits, it will be easy for you to distinguish harmless fun from serious behavioural disorders and health problems. Does your four-legged friend have any other quirks or behavioural patterns that surprise you? You surely have a funny story or two in store - tell us in the comments, we're curious!

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