Pica in Dogs and Cats: Why Your Pet Eats Dirt, Fabric & Other Nonfood Items (And How to Treat Them)

Pica in Dogs and Cats: Why Your Pet Eats Dirt, Fabric & Other Nonfood Items (And How to Treat Them)

Have your furred friends been nibbling on non-food things a lot lately? It could be Pica, an eating disorder common both among humans and animals. However, don’t worry, Pica is treatable. In our blog today, we’ll discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of Pica in cats and dogs.

Pica syndrome in Cats: What are the symptoms?

Among cats, this disorder is most commonly known to affect the Tonkinese cats, Burmese cats, Siamese cats, and other Oriental breeds.

The first and most obvious symptom of Pica is a tendency to eat non-edible items like cat litter, plants, rubber bands, shoelaces, electrical cords, and other objects made of paper, plastic, and wool. If your cat is an Oriental breed, they might go for things made of fabric.

If your little kitty is younger than 3-4 months, you can consider this normal, as many kittens outgrow these tendencies as they grow older. However, if they’re older than six months and still cling to those tendencies, it’s cause for concern.

In the initial stages of Pica, cats will only lick and suck on non-edible items. When they start chewing and swallowing these objects you should know it’s getting serious.

Here are some other Pica symptoms you might notice in your cat:

  • Reduced appetite

  • Increased vomiting.

  • Distracted, appearing wound up, and relaxing only when they have something non-edible in their mouth.

 

Pica disorder in Dogs: What are the symptoms?

Pica in dogs varies slightly from that of cats. Among dogs, this is often a compulsive behavioral issue seen more commonly in females than in males. Both pups and adult dogs are equally vulnerable to this disorder, with no particular breed being more susceptible to it than others.

A dog suffering from Pica is most likely to eat non-edible objects like garbage, metal and plastic objects, paper, dirt, fabric, rocks, and even feces. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Lethargy

  • Bad breath with a strong odor

  • Vomiting

  • Excessive drooling and burping

  • Diarrhea

  • Difficulty or struggle while defecating

  • Tarry, dark stool

  • Sudden collapses

 

Causes of Pica in pets

Whether your pet is a canine or a feline, the causes of Pica are more or less the same. Here are a few:

Nutritional deficiency

If you’re not feeding your pets a balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements, they tend to gain these nutrients from elsewhere and end up suffering from Pica.

Psychological issues

While Pica might seem like a purely physical problem on the surface, when you dig deeper, you might find a few psychological driving factors. When pet parents are unable to dedicate quality time to their pets they become bored, lazy, lonely, and stressed which fosters a habit of chewing on non-edible things. Lastly, not exercising enough is another reason why your pet (especially dogs) might develop Pica.

Medical problems

In many cases of Pica, vets have observed how infected dogs and cats suffer from deeper issues that form the root of this disorder. Here are some major medical problems in cats and dogs that could result in Pica:

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Diabetes

  • Dental issues (teething in younger pets)

  • Compulsive Disorder

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • Tumors in the brain or stomach

  • Anemia

  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (for cats)

  • Feline Leukemia (for cats)

 

Treating Pica in pets

Getting in touch with a vet

The first step towards solving any problem for your pets is figuring out the cause and for this you will need a vet’s help.

It’s best to book an appointment with your vet to figure that out and plan a treatment accordingly. You might even have to consult an animal behaviorist if the problem is psychological or behavioral.

Careful observation

Once you’ve started the treatment, you cannot expect your pets to stop eating non-edible objects right away, can you? It means that for a while, you’ll have to pay closer attention to what your furry friends put into their mouths and stop them immediately when they’re eating something they shouldn’t be.

Offering them a well-rounded diet

As we’ve discussed in the last section, lack of proper nutrition could also cause Pica in your pets. Try planning a new diet for them with the help of a pet nutritionist for better guidance and watch out for any resulting changes.

Spending quality time with them

Neglected pets will have a tendency to develop this condition. Try to devote more quality time to your pet and hopefully you should see some changes.

Enriching their daily lives

A happy day for pets includes quality time with their human, where they play and stay engaged and connected with you. Without enough stimulation, they’re bound to grow listless and more likely to start eating things they ideally shouldn’t.

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