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Q:  Our seven-year-old German shepherd had developed a peculiar new habit.

Rocky has begun to chew and swallow unsavory items. Rocky seems to prefer rocks and landscaping mulch, but has swallowed dirt and the occasional newspaper. We’re wondering if there could be a  deficiency in Rocky’s diet. Or could this be part of a different problem

Thank you. 

A:  Rocky has a behavior called pica, or the chewing and ingestion of typically inedible items.  Common items include dirt, rocks, paper products, and household items such as socks, remote controls, etc.  There are many theories as to why pica occurs, although to be honest, we are not entirely sure of the etiology.  One theory is that there is a dietary need, specifically fiber, missing from the pet’s diet.  This has never been definitively proven.  Other causes may be attention seeking behavior, compulsive behavior, or in a middle aged dog, it may be a sign of illness, specifically in the gastrointestinal tract.  It would be best to rule any of these out with your veterinarian, then seek the help of a behaviorist.

[doctor name = “Tracy Kroll”]