Ask the vet: dirty scoundrel

RACQ, in partnership with Animal Welfare League Queensland, can help solve your pet problems.

RACQ, in partnership with Animal Welfare League Queensland, can help solve your pet problems.

Got a curly problem with your favourite pooch? Is your cat being too catty?

While animals can bring much joy into our lives, they are not always problem free. If there is an animal issue that you need help to solve, send your question to via RACQ to the Animal Welfare League Queensland experts, to find the answer.

Dirty scoundrel

We have the strangest border collie! She is a spritely 14-year-old who, for all her life, but more so over the past two years, loves to eat dirt! She gets in there, gnawing at the ground, eating the dirt so much that we have pits in our lawn! We do a lot of camping and she will search out a good dirt café when we are away. We’ve chatted to our vet about it and he couldn’t tell us why she’s doing this. Can you?

AWLQ experts say

Sounds like your girl has a pica, the name given to the condition where an animal is compelled to eat things that are not food.

Dogs can develop pica for many reasons that can be broadly characterized as either medical or behavioural.

It is possible she has a medical condition that makes her want to eat dirt. These include dietary deficiencies, over active adrenal glands, a deficiency in pancreatic digestive enzymes, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, brain lesions, blood bypassing the liver, and other things. The first step is a clinical examination by your vet who will also ask you about her history including what food she is given. From there he might organise some diagnostics such as blood tests or faecal tests. These things are less likely in your dog’s case however because she has lead a long life and has always been a dirt eater.

Behavioural reasons include boredom and the development of OCD type behaviour. If you suspect this is the case you can try to enrich her environment with toys, or provide more exercise (walks, play time). Sometimes a dog will display an unwanted behaviour simple because she knows she will get a reaction, which equals attention, from the owner. You should ignore the dirt eating while it is happening, but try and divert her from the behaviour when she looks like she is about to go for the dirt.

What’s your question?

Send your pet questions to roadahead@racq.com.au and Animal Welfare League Queensland‘s experts will provide the answers. Letters will not receive an individual reply and should be no more than 120 words.

AWLQ work with local councils, state government, rescue groups and the community to improve the outcomes for stray and surrendered pets.