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Dog eating dirt.

Species: Dog
Breed: Jack Russell Terrier
Age: 1-2 years
My dog consumes grass and now wants to eat dirt when outside exercising despite a balanced diet of wet and dry food. She will become bored w/ exercising (a ball and frisbee both at the same time) and then begins to sniff the ground and munch. We keep a clean yard of her feces and discourage other animals from coming into the yard. We do have the occas. wanderer who we promptly scoop up after. We also live on the edge of a wooded area, thus attempt to keep the yard clean of any wild animal excrement.
She receives one pet tab plus and one brewer's yeast w/ garlic per day for supplements.
She was a rescue dog, 5 months ago on the 4th, and I was not made aware of this issue then. She does have separation behaviour issues that we are dealing w/. Why is she exhibiting this behaviour and how can we counter this in a positive nature.
Thank you greatly for your time.

Lorrie and Annie

Related Articles written by Dr. Marie:

Can dogs eat garlic?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It really is not normal for a dog to want to eat dirt all of the time. I have some ideas for you though.

The first thing we need to do is to figure out whether this is a behavioral problem or a medical one. You've given me some information though that may make me wonder if this is a medical problem!

Some dogs will eat dirt if they are slightly anemic (low in red blood cells). It would be unusual for a young dog to be anemic. However, one possible reason for mild anemia would be if a dog was eating something that was toxic to red blood cells. Believe it or not, the brewer's yeast/garlic supplements may be causing your dog to be anemic!

Garlic, if fed regularly to a dog, even in small amounts can cause damage to the red blood cells. If you are giving a garlic containing tablet daily then this can definitely cause a mild anemia and cause Annie to want to eat dirt.

(For more information, see my chart on what foods are toxic for dogs.)

So, the first thing I would do is to stop the supplements. You can probably stop the pet tabs as well. A dog on a decent quality food doesn't need any vitamin supplements.

It takes 7 days for a red blood cell to be formed. So, within 1 to 2 weeks you should notice that the dirt eating has stopped.

Ideally, it would be great to have your vet do a blood test first to see if she really is anemic.

But, it is also possible that this is a behavioral problem. One way that you can try to break the habit is by leaving some boobie traps for her. So, put her in the backyard and have a pile of fresh dirt there for her. But, spray the dirt with a product such as bitter apple. You can also use something like tobasco sauce (but some dogs actually like the taste of tobasco sauce.

Do this several times and she should get the idea that dirt tastes bad.

Another thing you can do is to watch her and wait until you see her digging. Then, the moment she starts digging release a REALLY loud noise (like an air horn). She should learn that every time she digs or eats dirt that something unpleasant happens.

I'd love to hear if the problem clears up when you stop her tablets!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Hi Dr. Marie;

Thanks for your prompt reply.

I will stop the supplements, however due to a problem w/ tolerating advantix/advantage which covers mosquito protection, I would ask that you recommend a substitute instead of the brewer's yeast w/ garlic for that purpose.

I will obtain some bitter apple and boobie trap the backyard, along w/ obtaining an air horn if that first solution does not work (I can't see why the bitter apple wouldn't work however).

Please let me know what I can do for mosquito protection as w/o the brewer's yeast and garlic, I am helpless while watching her be bitten. Her hair is very short and she is very miserable w/the bites.

Thanks again,

Lorrie and Annie

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You've caught me just as I was heading out. I'm at the park with my little girl now...when I get in I'll talk a bit more about your options for fleas.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Sorry about the delay!

Here's another question I was asked recently about garlic and brewer's yeast for fleas. They really don't work for fleas or mosquitos!

The only product that claims to repel mosquitos for dogs is Advantix like you've mentioned. However, you can use any baby-safe mosquito repellant, or if you can find it, avon skin-so-soft works well as well.

If you are looking for natural flea prevention, ask your vet about a new product called Comfortis. It is a natural product that works really well for flea prevention.

Hope that helps!

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

Dr. Marie;

We are already on the comfortis which is working well for the fleas. It is the mosquito problem w/ which I am worried about.
I will look for the baby safe mosquito repellant and will begin, until I can find that, w/ the skin so soft aerosol.

Thanks again for all you assistance, and I hope you had a pleasant time at the park w/ your little one!

You have helped us a great deal this eve. and both of us are grateful.

Lorrie and Annie

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.