Why Do Dogs Eat Wood?

Hello, I’m Patch the puppy, and, like many young pups, I love to chew. I like to chew toys and I love to chew furniture (much to the annoyance of my owners!) but above all, I adore chewing wood.

I’ve been told that it’s in my instinct, many dogs and puppies see wood as a chew toy, which is why I’m always fetching sticks or even trying to sink my teeth into the dining room table – I mean, after all, what is the difference?

However, I mainly chew because I’m teething, and chewing acts as some kind of pain relief as my new gnashers are coming through. I also use chewing as a way to explore the world around me – you call it dog damage, I call it dog development!

Sometimes, when I’m especially bored, chewing helps me keep myself occupied, especially because I’m not used to being on my own much yet.

My owner bought me a new chew toy, and this is even more fun to chew than wood, so I usually go for that now. However, I’ve also heard that some dogs chew due to anxiety.

They get so upset when they’re left by their owners that they chew to alleviate the stress. Some of my friends had to go to the vet because they suffer from severe anxiety.

However, I’ve also heard of some rarer cases where dogs or puppies chew because of a condition known as Pica, where animals (and even people) eat inedible or harmful objects. This can be caused by poor diet or nutrition, or even an intestinal parasite. Sounds awful, right?

If your dog is persistently chewing or eating wood or other harmful things, you need to consult a vet as it might indicate an underlying health issue.

What happens if a dog eats wood?

For the most part, chewing is pretty normal and most of us dogs do it. However, it can be dangerous if we swallow the wood because we might easily consume wood splinters and shards can jam into our mouth and could even cause an infection.

If we swallow pieces of wood, big chunks could even cause intestinal blockage and we might end up having to pay an emergency visit to the vet’s, and these kinds of visits are also some of the most expensive!

You can prevent this from happening by making sure we only chew items that won’t cause a blockage if swallowed. For example, our toys should be large enough so that we can’t swallow them – just like how you wouldn’t give a baby a small toy that could fit in their mouth.

If we do end up chewing the toy into small pieces, throw it away, even if we love it, as it could cause more harm than good otherwise!

The best chewing toys for us should not splinter and should have a little bit of flexibility so that they’re not rock hard.

How do I know if my dog has Pica?

Pica is that strange condition I mentioned earlier – the one where dogs (or people) compulsively ingest non-food items such as cloth, plastic, wood, paper, or even rocks.

The root cause of pica in dogs can be behavioral or medical, and the treatment of it largely depends on this, but it may include medications or behavioral modification.

Exercise, mental stimulation, and a proper diet are the best ways to prevent Pica and keep us as healthy as possible.

Like I said earlier, we puppies explore the world with our mouths, so it’s pretty normal for us to try and eat non-edible items, however, we should grow out of this.

The main symptom of pica is consuming non-food items, and, if you notice us doing this a lot, it’s time to take us to the vets. However some dogs with Pica can be sneaky, and they may be consuming non-food items in secret.

If this is the case, you might notice other symptoms that indicate something is up, as your dog may experience vomiting or diarrhea, indicating that they’re consuming something that doesn’t quite agree with them.

Symptoms of Pica in Dogs May Include:

  • Swallowing non-food items like clothing, plastic, wood, cardboard, dirt, or rocks
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

How do you get rid of Pica in dogs?

Sometimes, there’s an underlying medical issue causing Pica, however, if you’ve had us checked out and there’s nothing obvious that’s wrong, there are a few changes you can make to prevent Pica and treat the behavioral issue.

  • One of the most important things to do is to ensure we’re getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Make sure you ask the vet about our breed, age, and lifestyle, so you know we’re getting everything we need. Most dogs need at least 60 minutes of exercise per day – but some dogs, like hunting and sporting breeds, need much more.
  • You can also enrich our environment and keep us entertained with food puzzles, chew toys, and games, as the more stimulated we are, the less likely we are to chew other things. If you’re out a lot in the day, it can be a good idea to hire a dog walker as this will decrease our boredom during the day.
  • Now, this is a pretty obvious one, but you should definitely eliminate access to any objects that we may try and eat.
  • I’m not too keen on this idea, but you can consider training your dog to wear a basket muzzle, though you should never leave a muzzled dog unattended.
  • If we tend to try and eat objects while we’re out walking, you should leash walk us and distract us from eating objects or poop with treats and plenty of high praise. Teaching the “leave it” command is particularly useful!
  • Covering objects with a bitter apple spray or cayenne pepper can keep us well away – they taste gross!
  • Make sure we have plenty of safe toys and chewing objects and that they’re a size we can’t swallow or break up.
  • If we continue to eat strange objects, you should definitely take us to a veterinary behaviorist who can help us get to the root of the issue.