My little pup, Hyena, has a favourite hobby – to collect a mouthful of stones. The geologist within her keeps her busy the entire day. This habit of hers was cute until the moment I saw her chewing and eating the stones. If you have a puppy at home, you must be aware of this odd behaviour very well. Stones, rocks, and pebbles are probably the last things you want your tiny buddy to chew on and eat. But, why do puppies eat stones? Will eating stones harm your pup? What to do when your pup swallows a stone?
This article will answer all your questions in detail one by one.
Though it may look harmless when your puppy is chewing a stone, but actually it is pretty risky.
Puppies explore the world with their nose and mouth. So, putting everything, literally everything in the mouth, is a puppy’s way to learn and experience the world.
If you take your dog out for walks, or have a garden or backyard at home, your pup will definitely have access to stones and pebbles.
Soon, your inquisitive fur-ball will play with the stone and bite it, and may also eat it out of curiosity.
While curiosity does play a big role in eating stones, it’s definitely unwanted and might become dangerous when your little pup actually swallows the stones.
So, if you find a ‘puppy eating a stone’ situation normal, take a look at what happens to a pup when it eats a stone.
What happens when a puppy eats a stone?
If the stone is small, it may pass through in your puppy’s stool. However, even smaller stones can also cause an intestinal blockage, especially when there are more than one.
If a puppy has swallowed many stones, it may lead to death without surgical treatment.
A vet will need to do a full health check and an x-ray to identify and confirm the location of stone. He might need to take multiple x-rays to monitor whether the stone is passing through or has caused a blockage.
In serious situations, the vet will right away do a surgery, but in other cases, he may wait for some time to closely examine whether the blockage might pass.
Is it dangerous for puppies to eat stones?
Yes, it is. Even though a very popular behaviour in canines, a puppy eating a stone is no good news.
Stones are hard, and so, your pup can choke on them, especially, if he swallows multiple stones at a time.
Additionally, stones and pebbles cannot be digested. Hence, if your pup swallows a stone, it may create a blockage in its intestines, which is very serious and requires emergency surgery.
Swallowing a stone can also injure the digestive tract of your pup. There may be signs like internal bleeding, pain, blood motions, and vomiting.
Similarly, chewing stones can tear your puppy’s gums and break teeth creating dental issues. If you ignore the stone-chewing habit of your pup, it may further damage its teeth structure.
The sharp edges of stones can cut your pup’s mouth and gums, and can make him bleed badly.
Therefore, if your puppy has ingested a stone, and if any of the above symptoms happen after eating stones or chewing a rock, rush to a veterinarian straight away.
Why do puppies eat stones ?
Rocks and stones are neither comfortable nor tasty to eat. So, what’s the deal with puppies and stones?
Well, puppies eat stones for various reasons, and like many unusual canine behaviours, the reason depends on the puppy.
- Deficiency: Growing pups need calcium and minerals for overall development. So, your pup can eat stones if it is deficient in phosphorus, calcium, or iron. Additionally, it could possibly have an enzyme deficiency. Your vet can recommend the best supplements to give your growing buddy.
- Worms: Your puppy might eat stones because it has worms in its stomach. Puppies require a series of deworming sessions in the initial stages of their growth, so deworm them. Even if this isn’t the reason, you should deworm your little pooch regularly.
- Pain: Your puppy may be sick or in pain. In any case, it is wise to make a trip to the vet to get your puppy checked out.
- GI Upset: Eating stones may be a sign of a disorder of the intestinal tract. Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, gas, bloating, and diarrhea are common symptoms of a GI upset. Your pup’s vet can do some tests and x-rays to find out if this is the case.
- Diabetes: If your puppy is eating stones, it could have diabetes mellitus. This can also be tested and diagnosed at the vet.
- Bloat: Your puppy may be suffering from bloat, which is a serious disease. If not treated, puppies can die from it. If your puppy’s stomach is hard and tight, visit the vet immediately.
- Tooth Health: Your puppy may be chewing stones because it is teething. During the teething stage, puppies have this urge to bite hard things to relieve the teething pain. But, chewing on or eating small stones to help clean your puppy’s teeth, is a false notion. If your wish to keep your puppy’s teeth clean, you can use Charcoal, the pure, non-treated stuff.
- Pica: Pica is the most common cause of stone-eating in puppies. It is a mental health condition that causes dogs to obsessively eat non-food items. If your puppy has a stone-eating problem with no medical signs, it may have pica.
As the parent of a stone-chewer, you can identify whether your puppy is chewing rocks for the purpose of eating them. If this is the case, your puppy may have a psychological condition known as pica.
Pica is present in both animals and humans, which causes a craving to eat things that are not food. Puppies often choose rocks, stones, or gravel.
If your pup eats stones irresistibly, then ask your vet to diagnose this issue. Once other medical conditions are ruled out, and pica is confirmed, meet a professional behaviourist to start on specialized training for your pup.
- Attention Seeking: Your pup may be eating stones because she has found out that it is one of the ways to get your attention. I can easily relate to this one. My Indian Pariah, Selfie, used to do this when she was 5-months old. She never liked stones, but during the months when I had a very tight schedule, she did it quite often to grab my attention.
- Boredom: Your pup could simply be bored and needs exercise. This one’s relatable too. My 3-month old pup, Hyena tried to eat a lot of stones when she was confined to the bedroom and backyard after she had fractured her leg. She had to give up playing and running around on the terrace for 5-weeks, and took to stone-chewing in the backyard. What I did was, buy her new chew toys and play with her more in her area.
- Loneliness: This is another common reason in health pups and should be an easy one to figure out. Puppies left alone for longer hours find something to keep themselves busy. Try spending more time with your puppy who has only you, and see how the situation changes.
How to train your puppy to stop eating stones?
If your pooch is eating stones due to an emotional reason, figuring it out can rectify the behavior. Puppies are energy balls and need lots of exercise and playing.
Spend some extra play time with your pup during the day and make sure she has plenty of chew toys and teething bones to keep her engaged in your absence.
Do not give them all the chew toys all at once, instead keep some toys in backup so that you can rotate them. Puppies are like babies, they can also get bored of toys very soon.
However, toys are no substitute for your attention and love. Your puppy may have the best of the toys and still look for stones to chew, not because she prefers the taste and texture of the stones, but because chewing on them gets a voice out of you.
This can be a sign that your puppy misses you and needs some quality time with you.
Another effective way to train a puppy is ‘distraction’. When you find your puppy picking or eating a stone, instead of yelling or raising your voice, try replacing the stone with a chew toy.
You can also praise her and offer treats when she leaves the stone and looks up to you.
Keep doing it every time she finds a stone, and she will gradually learn to find an alternative to stones.
You can also carry your puppy’s toys with you during a walk and replace any stone that your puppy may pick up so that she comes to understand what’s okay to chew and what’s not.
Every time your puppy picks a stone to eat, use the “no” and “leave it” commands in a soft but confident voice. Practice the same commands with other objects and things you don’t want your puppy to chew or mouth.
Incorporate some treats to make the training more effective.
If your puppy still keeps going for the stones and rocks, you may need to try a muzzle with proper introduction.
You can use a mesh muzzle that will hinder your puppy from picking up any stones in the first place.
Secondly, introduce the muzzle for a few minutes every time it tries to pick or eat a stone, and not for too long. The idea is to let your puppy understand that if she reaches for a stone, she will be muzzled.
Soon, your pup will associate the stones to a negative experience, and gradually, she will leave the stone and disperse at the sight of the muzzle.
Other tips for dealing with puppies that are eating rocks
Many dog parents choose to tackle the stone-eating problem by removing rocks and stones from their gardens and houses. This may work if you are able to find all the rocks and stones, but smaller pebbles and gravel may be harder to remove.
You can spray a pet repellent product on the rocks and stones or cover them all in some vinegar. With this method, your puppy will start connecting stones and rocks with unpleasant experiences.
Fencing off a stone-free area in your garden or backyard may be useful if you have a rock-eater. Your puppy can play in this rock-free area without putting herself in danger.
Will my puppy grow out of this habit?
Yes, your pup is not going to live in the ‘stone-age’ forever.
The older your pup becomes, her curiosity will shift from her mouth to her nose. Puppies grow out of the typical chewing and eating behaviors at around 6 months of age.
But some puppies may continue this weird habit, especially if it was reinforced in the past through negative attention. Hence, if your pup has an obsessive-compulsive disorder of eating stones, it is better to get in touch with a dog behavioural expert before things get out of hand.
For keeping your puppy safe until this age and to prevent the behavior from becoming permanent, patience, training and prevention will be required.
Young puppies are extremely curious, and hence, part of being a dog owner is keeping your tiny little furry friend away from things that she should not chew or eat. Stones, rocks and pebbles are everywhere, so supervision is necessary to quickly intervene in case your pup accidentally swallows something. If your pup eats a stone, make an appointment to your veterinarian without delay.
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