Why do dogs eat paper

Why do Dogs Eat Paper

posted in: Dalmatian behaviour | 4

You could easily be asking yourself, ‘Why do Dogs eat Paper?’  especially if you witness your dog running riot with the loo roll or taking paper and cardboard from the recycle bin.

Dogs can eat paper for many reasons; to supplement their food, to plain old devil may care, misbehaviour.  Let’s have a look in more detail.

Perception that something is missing . . .

A dog can perceive they’re lacking certain elements of their diet which, in turn can lead them to believe paper is the solution.

In any instance of your dog eating anything outside their normal diet, it is always advisable to seek medical help.

We cannot watch our dogs all the time so, as a matter of course, we should always keep an interested observation of their poo.  If we witness them eating paper, firstly check to see if this has passed through their system.

Keep a log of anything your dog is eating outside of their normal diet.  This way, you can answer any question that will assist your Vet in determining the cause and possible solutions.

If you see them eating paper but don’t see any trace of paper from the other end, this could be blocking their digestive system and will probably require urgent medical attention, which will usually result in surgery.

There isn’t a need for them to eat other than their normal food and/or treats, so do some research on the food you are feeding.

Different breeds can have specific dietary requirements.  In the case of Dalmatians, they are unable to process purines and their food ideally needs to be low in purines, to lessen the chance of formation of kidney stones, which can be fatal.

The good news is that there is a whole range of tests your vet can undertake with a sample of blood, urine or faeces, so if there is a nutritional defect or hormone imbalance, this can be detected and treated.Why do dogs eat paper

Psychological factors

Dogs are strange humans!  They think differently to us so there could be a number of reasons your dog starts to eat paper.  This can be hard to pin down, but it’s a good idea to try and consider whether your dog’s behaviour has been caused by a psychological reason, such as separation anxiety or something else which may cause him stress or anxiety.

With dogs, this can be anything.  Like children, dogs can misbehave to gain attention, or react to a change in their environment.  For example, if the household dynamic changes with the addition of a newbie human or another pet.

Rather than eating paper, your dog could be ripping it to shreds and leaving a trail around the house.  If you’re satisfied they’re not eating paper, it’s probably best to try and find a desirable solution to the problem, such as engaging or playing with your dog more.  In any event, make sure your dog is getting enough exercise, mental stimulation and sleep.

Endocrine disorder

The endocrine system is a collection of glands which produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development and tissue function.  Like humans, dogs can suffer from endocrine disorders which could leave your dog still feeling hungry. To combat this, they may see paper as the perfect bulking material to satisfy their hunger.

Similarly, your dog may have another endocrine disorder such as diabetes or raised blood sugar levels, where your dog is unable to produce sufficient insulin, leaving them feeling hungry.  Raised blood sugar levels can lead to drinking excessive water and over eating.

If you suspect this may be the case, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible to ensure he gets the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Insufficient food

It could be your dog is not eating enough food or perhaps is being fed the recommended amount of food, but is not getting enough calories.

We have two Dalmatians.  Our younger one, Ruby who is 18 months old, despite being fed the correct weight of breed specific food for her age, weight and activity level was too thin.  Her pelvic bones and ribs were clearly visible and despite increasing her food portion size above the recommended amount, we could not get the desired weight gain.  I sought the advice of my vet and together we decided to increase her potion size very slightly, but divide this over 3 meals instead of 2.  This worked and until she reached adulthood at 15 months, her meals were 8 hours apart instead of 12 hours apart.

Now she is fully grown, she is fed the recommended portion size for her age, weight and activity level, twice a day and is happily maintaining a normal weight.  We were lucky she never sought to eat anything other than her food and the odd treat we’d give her, but I could see why she might have tried to bulk her food intake by eating something like paper.

What to do if your dog is eating paper

If your dog is eating paper, you should consult your vet.  It’s vital to understand what is causing your dog to eat paper.  Your vet is likely to ask you questions initially about your dog, his diet, health and behaviour.

Your vet will be likely to ask how often your dog eats paper and also the type of paper.  If your dog doesn’t eat paper, preferring to play with it and rip it up, then this is likely to be behaviourial.  They will probably need to be aware of any other symptoms or behaviour which you may not have associated with paper eating.

Your vet will be trying to determine the root of the problem.  No doubt your vet will conduct a physical examination – they will be looking to feel if there is any bloating or swelling of the stomach in case of blockage.  They may well recommend a blood sample be taken, so they can determine if the problem is metabolic or due to raised blood glucose levels and/or diabetes, for example.

There are various other tests which can be performed, dependent on what your vet thinks may be root cause.  In the absence of a medical reason for paper consumption, it may be that the vet thinks the cause is behavioural in which case they are likely to give you practical information which can help with behaviour.

If all else fails, provided the problem is behavioural, you could seek the advice of an animal behaviourist.  We had cause to use one when our Dalmatian suddenly developed a fear of travelling in the car.  It was very distressing to witness her new found fear every time we tried to travel with her in the car.  We stopped using the car for dog walks and walked her from home.

As this was very limiting, we sought the advice of an animal behaviourist.  He quickly identified her fear was not related to jumping into the car, but by the doors being shut after she had jumped in.  He asked if we’d been involved in a motor accident with her in the car or if she’d been left in the car alone at any time.  The answers were negative; we’d not been involved in an accident and nor was she ever left in the car on her own, even for a few seconds.

I recalled, some weeks earlier, she’d managed to lock herself in the car with me on the outside of the car.  Worse still, my car and house keys, both on the same key fob were in the ignition.  I was forced to leave the car unattended for a moment whilst I used a neighbours’ phone to call my husband, who was working nearby to come with the spare car key.  It turned out the fear had developed as because I had left the car with her locked in it.

I’m sure we all like to think we know everything about our dog, but as it turned out in my case, what I’d thought of as a non consequential event, altered my dog’s behaviour radically.  Essentially, what happened in an instant took months to cure on a very gradual basis.  I’m an experienced dog owner who has always enjoyed a close relationship with my dogs and yet I somehow missed the signals.  I’m therefore an advocate of animal behaviourists in the right circumstances.

and Finally

Prevention is usually better than cure.  If your dog starts to develop a paper eating habit, try to keep all paper and cardboard out of reach.  This is usually easy to achieve with some minor protective measure or behaviour.  If your dog majors in pinching toilet roll, ensure the bathroom door remains firmly closed and any toilet rolls out of reach.

Similarly, it’s a good idea to remove paper pads, loose paper, envelopes, bills or anything which may be seen as a snack or plaything to your dog.  If it’s impossible to remove these items, try to make sure they are out of reach, or at least sight of your dog.  You can protect incoming mail by installing a (solid) guard for mail to drop into.

Try distracting your dog from paper by getting them chews or toys.  Avoid unsafe items by conducting research first, for example rawhide chews can be a choking or blockage risk.  Your vet should be able to help advise on which toys and chews are best and finally, always follow your vet’s advice.

and finally, finally, thank you for reading this article.

4 Responses

  1. Steve

    While we do not own a Dalmatian – we definitely are the champions to a 10-year-old Pomeranian He will shred any piece of tissue paper he can find. In addition to paper he has a thing for wood – we have to constantly pick up limbs of trees to prevent him from grabbing them to chew. While the vet says he is healthy this is a perplexing problem. Your suggestion of distracting him with a chew toy sounds like a good approach we will try. Is there any other advice you can give on the subject?

    • admin

      Hi Steve, I would remove all paper and cardboard from their reach (I know this is easier said than done!). For us trying to remember to close the bathroom door is a difficult enough job in itself! I would also just check the diet – as I said in the article, our younger Dalmatian was too thin despite feeding her the correct amount for her age, weight and activity levels. Sometimes, I think the food volume is right, but the calorie content is wrong for the individual dog, leading them to supplement this with other non food items, such as paper and sticks.

      At 10 yrs, I would hope your Pomeranian is past the maximum mischief phase, but maybe this is something he did as a puppy and it has stuck with him into adulthood. Both our dogs pick up sticks and chew them. I use distraction as my weapon of choice to try to get them to ignore sticks – there is always the danger that a stick will either cause injury to their mouths, or worse part of a stick could be ingested or get stuck somewhere in their system, requiring surgery. The moment I see either of them pick up a stick, I recall them and give them a treat. In time I hope to train them out of being interested in sticks. Sometimes I play hide and seek with high value food items, so they forget the stick altogether. I guess basically it’s distraction, reward, distraction, reward. Good luck and thanks for writing.

  2. Sonny

    When Watson was a puppy, he chewed up my daughter’s homework. I don’t think her teacher believed her excuse. lol!
    Not only was he attracted to paper, but I noticed he kept putting things in his mouth when we went for walks. Then it dawned on me – maybe he’s hungry! And I was right. I realize he was underfed. And I did recall seeing his ribs and pelvis as you described. Those days are long gone. Now he’s overweight and needs to go on a diet.

    • admin

      Watson – you little tinker! Good luck with the diet, easier said than done if you’re a foodie!

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