Once, when I was working as a vet tech, we had a sheltie puppy come in that was sick and had been vomiting for several days. When we x-rayed the pup, we found that he had eaten coins – a dime, a nickel and 2 pennies. After surgery, hospitalization and an $1800.00 vet bill the puppy made a full recovery.

The point of this story? Dogs, especially young dogs, will eat things. It’s how they explore the world. For the most part, this is normal and they will grow out of it – but not always! When they start to eat non-edible things like socks, plastic toys or rocks, things can get stuck or make them sick.

The eating of substances that have no nutritional value is a disorder known as Pica, and it is common among puppies and certain dog breeds such as Labradors. Since a dog’s sense of smell is about 10,000 times greater than ours, they’re naturally attracted to most everything.

What causes Pica? Boredom and loneness can make dogs eat odd things, so can conditions like Diabetes and Cushing’s Disease, as well as nutritional deficiencies, electrolyte imbalances and starvation.

If you’ve ruled out a medical reason for your dog’s dietary indiscretions, then prevention is your best defense. Eliminate access; put away clothes, don’t leave trash lying around and store chemicals and pesticides out of reach.

If you suspect your dog’s pica is caused by loneliness or boredom, increase his physical activity and mental stimulation. Teach your dog the behaviors “Leave it” and Drop it” so you can easily control what goes in his mouth. Supervise and confine puppies for their safety and the safety of your things.

If you suspect your dog has eaten something dangerous, like coins, go immediately to your vet!