Dogs aren’t typically fussy eaters, but when their appetite expands to include nonfood items such as wood and paper, it can be a serious problem. If your dog’s weird eating habits aren't due to an underlying medical issue, you can cure this problem at home.
The desire to eat and digest nonfood items, calld pica, can have several possible explanations, so observe his behavior and eating habits to determine the most likely. Medical problems that affect digestion can cause your pooch to crave food even when he’s well fed. The eating of wood and paper may be an obsessive habit he has developed in response to anxiety or boredom, or to relieve teething pain. It’s essential to distinguish between a genuine attempt to eat and digest the wood and paper, and simple idle chewing or destructive behavior. The former is pica, the latter is not; they require different methods of correction.
If in the past you’ve rushed to your dog and made a big fuss when he’s tried to eat paper or wood, you may have inadvertently started a chain of events that has caused him to want to perform this behavior. Your dog may have figured that when he eats paper or wood he gets attention, and decided to do this when he feels neglected.
Tooth and gum injury, mouth splinters, digestive tract blockages, bowel obstruction and perforated intestines are just some of the physical risks associated with the eating of wood and paper.
Once your vet has confirmed that the pica behavior is not the result of a medical condition, you must restrict his access to wood and paper. Empty trash cans regularly, leash him while in the yard and don’t leave magazines, sticks, books or waste paper lying about the house.
Encourage your dog to chew appropriate items, such as rubber toys. Give him plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, this will often be enough to relieve boredom and if boredom is the main cause of pica, it will solve the problem. For more obsessive eaters of paper and wood, put the dog on a leash and walk him toward a forbidden item that you’ve placed down. If he goes for it, use the leash to restrain him and correct him verbally. With sufficient repetition, he’ll learn that attempting to eat wood and paper has a negative outcome.
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.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.