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Some dogs may have rather quirky dining preferences, but a major difference exists between merely offbeat and compulsive. If your precious pooch regularly puts his mouth on and swallows concrete, you may be dealing with a classic case of "pica," a compulsive disorder that involves eating inedible objects.
"Pica" refers to a compulsive medical condition that entails the consumption of items that are not generally considered edible under any circumstances. Concrete is certainly in this category. Other things dogs with pica ingest include sand, chalk, cosmetics, rocks, coats, plastic bags and socks -- all things that don't seem very appetizing at all.
The root causes behind pica are not 100 percent clear, the Humane Society of the United States says. However, the consumption of concrete or other bizarre items may be related to a variety of things, such as separation anxiety, frustration, lack of attention, boredom, lack of socialization, and past trauma or neglect. For puppies, concrete-eating may just be a passing exploratory phase that fades out as quickly as it begins. Think deeply into your pet's daily life -- and his past, if you have the knowledge -- and explore what may be causing him to act out by eating concrete, if anything.
Concrete-eating may be health-related. Pica occasionally is a symptom of an overarching health ailment, such as intestinal parasites, toxicity, deficiencies in vitamins, overactive thyroid, diabetes, anemia, malnourishment, inflammatory bowel disease and hyperadrenocorticism. Take your concrete-munching pup to the veterinarian to make sure the strange habit isn't linked to something else.
Concrete by no means is a healthy component of a canine diet. Not only can ingesting concrete possibly block your dog's intestines, it can potentially bring upon a bevy of other very dangerous worries, such as bacterial infection and insecticide poisoning -- anything could be covering that dirty outdoor concrete. It isn't safe in your pooch's mouth.
If your doggie's concrete-eating has a medical cause, a veterinarian may be able to guide him out of pica -- think dietary supplementation if malnourishment is the culprit. If, however, the pica is unrelated to a health disorder, eliminating the problem may be up to you. Some ways you may be able to curb the habit include promoting frequent brain and body exercises in your little one, introducing a variety of interactive and entertaining toys, and minimizing access to concrete. If you take your dog for a walk and the route involves concrete, pay close attention to him and firmly give the "No" or "Leave It" command when he approaches the substance. In the event of an especially persistent or severe pica situation, you may want to get the help of a qualified pet behaviorist. Ask your veterinarian for suitable recommendations near you.
By Naomi Millburn
The Merck Veterinary Manual: Other Canine Behavioral Problems
The Washington Post: Pica-Proof Your Pet
Health Guidance: Pica Eating Disorder
ASPCA: Pica (Eating Things That Aren't Food)
The Humane Society of the United States: Pica - Why Pets Sometimes Eat Strange Objects
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.