Why do dogs eat dirt?
As mentioned, it’s not uncommon to see a dog treating a pile of dirt as if it were a tasty snack. But why do dogs eat dirt? It turns out, there are a number of reasons that could be behind this behavior, including:
One reason your dog might be eating dirt could have to do with medical issues—particularly with their gut and digestion.
“There are several medical issues that manifest soil eating as a symptom,” says Jim D. Carlson, a holistic veterinarian, and owner of Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.
“Often you will see this with pets who have GI issues like irritable bowel syndrome, SIBO, parasites, and liver and gallbladder dysfunction. Soil eating can be seen by the animal as a way of helping calm down gut issues.”
The condition pica could be another culprit. “Another, less common reason [a dog might eat dirt] is called pica,” says Carlson. “Pica is when a dog eats items other than food”—including dirt. Pica can be neurological or due to illness, making it important to let your vet know if your dog is suddenly eating non-food items with gusto.
Another reason your dog might be eating dirt could be a result of their diet—or, more accurately, what they’re not getting from their diet.
“Most dogs eat soil because they may be lacking micronutrients. This is the most common reason for dirt-eating,” says Carlson. “All diets have nutrients, but not all the nutrients are available to every dog. They may not absorb the proper amount of nutrients from their diet because the dog may lack the ability in their intestine to do so.”
Even if you’re giving your dog food that’s seemingly chock full of healthy ingredients, they still might not be getting the proper nutrition. “Sometimes…not all nutrients listed on the bag are actually available [in dog food],” says Carlson. “Just because it has the ingredients in there doesn’t mean the dog will receive it by eating the food.”
If your dog isn’t getting all the nutrients they need to thrive—either because their food isn’t giving them the nutrition they need or their body isn’t properly absorbing it—it could lead them to eat dirt.