Pica, or the urge to eat unnatural objects, is a fairly common occurrence in dogs. Many dogs turn to houseplants to satisfy their urge to graze, although this can be a dangerous hobby. Many types of houseplants are poisonous to dogs and should be kept out of reach.
What is Pica?
Pica is essentially a craving for something besides a normal food item. People and animals both suffer from this puzzling condition, and it often leads to severe intestinal problems. While some cases of pica are caused by boredom, others are a result of an imbalance in the dog’s body. For example, a dog that eats dirt may be lacking in natural minerals. Other dogs eat inappropriate objects as an extension of a bad puppy chewing habit.
The reason dogs eat plants is somewhat of a mystery. Many people believe dogs eat plant material in an attempt to calm an upset stomach. Others think it satisfies a dog’s natural urge for greens. Dogs, as omnivores, would often ingest plant material from the stomach of downed prey in the wild, and eating houseplants helps satisfy those urges. Still others think dogs eat plants as a way to fulfill some nutritional deficiency.
As beautiful as they may be, a number of plants are extremely poisonous to dogs. Poisonous plants contain enough toxic chemicals to cause an adverse reaction in the dog’s body. Calla lilies, for example, are a popular plant for gift and flower baskets, but they will cause nausea and vomiting in even small doses. Mistletoe is a staple during the holidays but will make your dog extremely ill. Even chrysanthemums can lead to drooling, vomiting and lack of coordination if ingested in large quantities.
Avoid Grazing Behavior
The simplest way to treat plant poisoning in dogs is to prevent access to all houseplants. Put your plants up on tall shelves or bookcases, or hang them from ceiling-mounted planter hangers. If you’ve got a number of plants on the floor, contain them behind an exercise pen or place them in a secure room and shut the door. If you suspect your dog has ingested a houseplant, call your veterinarian immediately. Depending on the plant, he may ask you to bring the dog in to start a course of treatment to counteract any potentially poisonous effects.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.