Side Effects Of Medication Or Vaccination
Some medications such as steroids may cause pica. Pica can also be a symptom of rabies vaccinosis (adverse reactions to rabies vaccination or over-vaccination).
Diagnosing pica by visiting a veterinarian
If you think your pet has pica, a thorough medical work-up is recommended. Along with a complete physical exam, this should include a fecal examination to check for gastrointestinal (GI) parasites and blood work to look for conditions such as anemia, liver disease, diabetes or pancreatic disease. Depending on the signs your animal is showing, more specific blood work, to see if the GI tract is perhaps not absorbing nutrients, may be required. Typically, this involves checking folate and cobalamin levels and doing a TLI (trypsin-like immunoreactivity) test to check for pancreatic function.
X-rays may also be warranted if there is concern about a GI obstruction and to rule out other potential causes of pica. Of course, if abnormalities are noted, further testing may be needed. Describing all the diagnostic options could fill a chapter in a textbook. If an abnormality is found, the best course is to treat for that abnormality and see if the pica improves.
The cause of pica in a particular animal can be difficult to identify. It can be frustrating not having an answer that allows for specific treatment, but if a medical cause is identified, it usually either carries a poor prognosis or is expensive to fix.
Examining an animal’s environment and lifestyle
When attempting to assess why your dog (or cat) may be engaging in this habit, consider the animal’s environment and lifestyle. Does the animal get enough exercise? Does he or she get an appropriate amount of attention? Are appropriate chew or play toys made available? Is there competition for resources? That is, could the dog or cat be eating inappropriate things to prevent another pet from getting to it first? Does the animal have a fairly consistent routine? Are there other things that could be causing stress for the animal?
PICA SYNDROME IN DOGS: ¿What Causes It and What to Do?
Dogs love to chew on non-food items, as anyone who’s lost their favorite shoes to a puppy knows only too well! Chewing can be a harmless behavior … but when your dog has the urge to eat truly non-digestible objects, it’s called pica.
Pica is a behavioral disorder that drives dogs (and humans!) to want to eat non-food objects. These could be stones, sticks, dirt, household items, metal, clothing, and anything else that shouldn’t be food. The name “pica” comes from the Latin word for magpie … a bird with a reputation for eating almost anything!
Pica is dangerous because it means your dog will eat things she can’t digest. This could lead to a life-threatening bowel obstruction. (If you ever suspect a bowel obstruction in your dog, don’t waste time getting to your vet.)
It’s easy to notice pica when you see your dog eating something she shouldn’t … like plastic or rocks. You may find her trying to grab these items when you’re out on a walk. But how do you know, if you don’t actually catch her in the act? You might suspect your dog has pica if you notice digestive problems like …
You should keep track of what your dog tries to eat, how much, and how often. This is helpful information for your veterinarian as part of an examination history.
It’s normal for puppies to try eating many different items as a part of exploring and learning. They should grow out of this behavior as they age. Studies show that younger dogs and neutered dogs have higher odds of pica.