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Pica (Depraved Appetite)
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
Race Foster, DVM
Behavior and Training
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'Pica' is a term describing a condition when a dog regularly eats objects not considered a part of the normal diet. Examples include an appetite for wood, sand, metal, stones, rubber, etc. Pica is not an abnormality of the digestive system, or a nutritional problem, but a psychological abnormality.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms simply include a history of eating objects not meant to be ingested. To have a diagnosis of pica, a patient generally does not eat the objects just once, but rather seems to be obsessed with consuming certain materials.

What are the risks?

Eating foreign objects is risky because many cannot pass through the gastrointestinal tract normally. Objects such as rocks and socks cause a complete blockage of the intestines, requiring surgery to remove them. Additionally, they may cause damage to the mouth or abnormal wear on the teeth.

A wire muzzle may be helpfulWhat is the management?

Contrary to common belief, a patient with an abnormal appetite is rarely lacking in vitamins, minerals, or any other nutrients in the diet. Pica is a psychological abnormality and is more a habit than a medical problem, even though it can lead to one. There is no real cure for pica, however, providing alternative edible objects such as rawhide bones and other digestible treats will help. In some difficult cases, a wire basket muzzle may be used on the dog. This muzzle allows the dog to pant, sniff, and even drink, but not eat. NEVER use a muzzle on an unattended animal. Some human medications can be used to treat this obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs. Talk to your veterinarian.

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