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Understanding PICA: Strange Eating Habits in Senior German Shepherds

As our beloved German Shepherds age, they may develop various health issues that require special attention and care. One such concern is Pica, a condition characterized by ingesting non-food items, which can pose serious risks to the well-being of senior dogs. Understanding the prevalence, causes, symptoms, and management of Pica in older German Shepherds is crucial for dog owners and veterinarians alike.

In this #lifewitholddogs blog post, we will delve into the complexities of this condition in senior German Shepherds and help you help your dog stop eating non-food items.

PICA in older dogs refers to the abnormal behavior of eating non-food items. This condition can be caused by various factors, including nutritional deficiencies, medical issues, or behavioral problems.

Examples of non-food items that older dogs with PICA may consume include:

  • Paper

  • Dirt

  • Rocks

  • Wood

  • Clothes

  • Baby wipes

  • Feces.

In older dogs, PICA can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health problem such as vitamin or mineral deficiencies, endocrine disorders, parasitic infections, liver disease, gastrointestinal problems, or even a result of certain medications, like steroids.

Additionally, anxiety, stress, or boredom may prompt senior dogs to engage in inappropriate chewing behavior. Furthermore, neurological conditions such as brain tumors or cognitive dysfunction syndrome can contribute to the development of PICA in older dogs.

Symptoms of PICA:

  • Increased appetite for non-food items such as dirt, rocks, or wood

  • Weight loss or poor body condition despite increased eating

  • Vomiting or diarrhea after ingesting non-food items

  • Dental problems from chewing on inappropriate items

  • Abdominal discomfort or bloating

  • Anemia or other nutritional deficiencies

Additional severe health issues may involve:

  • Inability to defecate

  • Intractable vomiting

  • Excessive drooling

  • Intestinal blockage

  • Internal ulcers

  • Feces that look like tar

The diagnosis of PICA in older dogs involves a comprehensive assessment of the animal's behavioral patterns and nutritional status, as well as a thorough examination of potential underlying medical conditions. Specialized diagnostic tests, including bloodwork, imaging studies, endoscopic examinations, and behavioral assessments, may be warranted to identify any underlying medical conditions or psychological factors contributing to PICA.

The treatment of PICA in geriatric canines necessitates a comprehensive approach that considers both physiological and psychological factors. Interventions often encompass various modalities, including dietary modifications, environmental enrichment, behavioral training, and pharmacological interventions. Addressing underlying medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal disturbances or cognitive dysfunction, is paramount to effectively managing the manifestation of PICA in older dogs. Prevention of PICA: It is always more effective to prevent a problem rather than having to deal with it later. To stop your dog from developing pica, it's important to keep non-food items out of their reach. If your pet has a habit of eating wood, rocks, socks, or baby wipes, it's advisable to keep them leashed when outside and keep non-food items he likes to eat in the house out of his reach.

Other strategies for preventing pica in dogs involve providing adequate mental and physical stimulation, ensuring they have a nutritionally balanced diet, and removing any sources of anxiety from their surroundings, to name a few.

If your older German Shepherd is exhibiting signs of Pica, it's best to have him seen by a veterinary professional as soon as possible.


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