You feed your dog a healthy, even expensive, diet. Possibly a diet healthier than the one you feed yourself. Yet time and time again, you find your dog snacking away on wood.
Why is the call of wood so alluring? What’s going on in your dog that makes him so drawn to wood — and is it something that you should be concerned by?
Why does my dog eat wood?
Even though eating wood might seem outlandish, there’s more than one reason a dog might eat wood.
Dogs would chew on wood in the wild. It’s basically the most accessible “dog toy” for them, apart from bones. But like bones, even though dogs do it in the wild, that doesn’t make it healthy for them to do it now. Like bones, wood can splinter and cause injury.
Puppies that are teething will frequently chew on just about anything. They may not be chewing on the wood because it’s wood; they could be chewing on the wood just because it’s there.
Dogs crave mental stimulation. Bored dogs will try a lot of things to alleviate their boredom; chewing on something is one of them. A stick might just be all they could find.
It’s possible that the stick they are chewing on is insect-infested or otherwise tasty, for instance, a branch of a maple tree. They could be eating it for flavor.
Sometimes dogs act destructively. This is often the case when a dog goes after wood furniture rather than wood sticks. Your dog could be mad at you for some reason.
If a dog started chewing wood as a puppy, they may continue later. If you’ve adopted a shelter dog, you might not realize they have a “wood habit” until they next encounter wood.
Pica is the most dangerous reason a dog might eat wood. It’s a nutritional deficiency that can cause dogs to eat all manner of objects, including wood, rocks, and dirt.
These are the most common reasons; if your dog is eating wood, it’s probably because of something above.
Unfortunately, that also means that it ranges from something “mostly harmless” to “potentially dangerous.”
Regardless, while the impulse to eat wood is mostly harmless in dogs, actually eating wood is not.
What happens if a dog eats wood?
If your dog has eaten some wood, don’t panic yet. While you should take her to the vet to get checked out, it’s most likely not going to be serious. Most wood will become soft and pass through a dog. When a dog chews on wood, it tenderizes it much like meat. Chewed wood is more fibrous than sharp and pointy, like paper.
Still, you don’t want to take a chance. If your dog has swallowed hard, sharp wood, it can become embedded in her intestinal tract. It can cause internal bleeding, and it can become serious quite quickly. Chewing on wood is dangerous even if your dog doesn’t swallow. While your dog might be able to fetch a stick from time to time, chewing on a stick could lead to splinters inside your dog’s mouth — which could eventually lead to serious injury or infection.
Dogs, of course, can’t digest wood. So, if they have swallowed wood, it’s going to come out the other end. Your vet may want to take x-rays of your dog if your dog has swallowed a significant quantity of wood, to see where the wood is settling and if there are any noticeably dangerous bits.
If your dog eats a lot of wood, it can become an intestinal blockage. This is just as dangerous as internal bleeding. You will need to keep a close eye on whether your dog is able to pass anything. If your dog is straining to use the bathroom, she may have an intestinal blockage. These can become fatal very fast and always need to be dealt with by a vet.
You will want to call your vet before taking your dog down to emergency. Sometimes, in some cases, vets will prescribe feeding your dog bread before you come down to the vet clinic. The idea is that the bread can wrap around anything sharp (such as wood splinters and bones), providing some “cushion” to the intestines. Not all vets will recommend this however, and it depends entirely on your dog and what exactly they ate.
What are dogs lacking when they eat wood?
For the most part, dogs eat wood instinctively. If there’s a nice stick, they’ll chew on it. But there are exceptions. In terms of “lacking,” there are two major things a dog might lack that could lead to it chewing on wood:
- Attention. A dog will chew on wood if they are bored or if they haven’t been properly exercised. Chewing on something is an idle activity. It’s something they do that’s similar to us watching Netflix. It might not be the first thing they want to do, but it’s something. If your dog is chewing on wood out of boredom, it’s time to start playing more with him, taking him out more on walks, or taking him to the dog park.
- Nutrition. A dog can also crave wood if he is seriously ill. If your dog is losing weight, for instance, and also trying to chew on wood, it’s possible he has pica. In dogs, one of the most common reasons for pica is intestinal parasites. Your dog may need to be dewormed to get rid of them. A dog that has poor nutrition will start to eat things that it can’t digest because it’s trying to find a source of nutrients.
Nutritional absence is more pressing than a need for attention, but both can cause serious harm to a dog. If your dog is repeatedly going after wood, you owe it to your dog to figure out why. It could be that you need to spend more time with your dog playing, or it could be that you need to change up what your dog is eating.
Of course, there could be other reasons that a dog is eating wood that has nothing to do with major deficiencies. It is still possible that a dog saw another dog doing it and just happened to realize that wood is something to chew. It’s also possible that a particular piece of wood might be delicious; in fact, it might be filled with termites. But as a dog owner, it’s important to identify sudden shifts in your dog’s behavior and react to them accordingly.
How do I get my dog to stop eating wood?
Of course, the simplest answer is usually the best: Make sure your dog doesn’t have access to wood. When your dog is outside, you should carefully watch her and make sure she doesn’t pick up any wood.
But your dog might not be bringing sticks in from the backyard; she might be chewing on your dining room chairs. That’s a little more challenging.
If your dog doesn’t seem to be sick or bored, then your dog may simply have developed negative habits. This can happen when puppies teeth; the puppy gets used to chewing on all sorts of things.
You can spray something like Bitter Apple on your wooden furniture to prevent your dog from trying to eat wood. Most dogs abhor the taste. You can also redirect your dog to appropriate chewing toys. As always, buy toys specifically designed for that purpose. Bones, for example, can be dangerous for dogs if they aren’t designed with dogs in mind.
If your dog does seem to be sick, it’s likely time for a trip to the vet. By the time a dog starts unexpectedly eating wood, her nutritional issues could be quite serious. And if your dog seems bored, it may just merit a trip to the pet store for a more appropriate chew toy.
Why is my dog suddenly eating wood?
A dog that is suddenly eating wood is more likely to have some form of illness or behavioral issue. If a dog is eating wood instinctively, it’s more likely to start occurring when your dog is a puppy. So, if your dog suddenly starts to eat wood, you should take note and figure out why.
First, your dog could be anxious, depressed, or bored. Consider whether you’ve made any major changes in your lifestyle recently, such as getting a new puppy, moving, or changing your working hours. Dogs will chew when they are nervous as well as when they are less-than-stimulated. So, your dog could be chewing to get rid of excess energy.
Second, your dog could be physically ill. This is a question for your vet. If your dog seems otherwise fine, it could be just a quirk. But if your dog appears to be listless, is losing weight, or is otherwise not behaving as he usually does, it’s a more serious problem. Your vet can do a full panel to see if your dog’s nutritional profile is being met — as well as to see if there could be any hormone issues or thyroid issues affecting him.
Any sudden behavior change in a dog is something that should be questioned. Most dogs are creatures of pure habit. They are going to do the same thing every time unless they have a reason not to. While a dog could suddenly realize that sticks are great for chewing, it’s more likely that something has occurred recently that has made them more likely to chew. And that could be anything from anxiety to dietary problems.
That being said, dogs are weird. And it is possible that your dog could also stop eating wood as suddenly as they started.