Dog's will eat all sorts of things, but eating dirt might be one that gives you cause for concern. However, eating dirt is a fairly common behavior among dogs. When pooches eat non-food items, whether dirt, grass, rocks, sticks or garbage, they may be diagnosed with a condition called pica, which just means that your dog is eating non-food items. If the only non-food item they eat is dirt, then they might have what is referred to as geophagia, according to Wag! But is your dog eating soil just a strange habit or should you be concerned?

If you're wondering, "Why does my dog eat dirt?" here's why you should take the behavior seriously.

Why Is My Dog Eating Dirt Outside? Possible Explanations

Dogs eat dirt for a number of reasons. The desire for munching on soil might be boredom or stress, or it could simply be because they smelled something tasty mixed in the mud. But it could also signal an underlying health problem or a lack of proper nutrition, says the American Kennel Club (AKC). Compulsive geophagia might be a sign that your pooch has one of the following issues.


Anemia in dogs is a condition marked by low blood cell count or hemoglobin levels. According to CertaPet, anemia can be caused by a nutritional imbalance. An anemic dog may instinctively turn to eating dirt in an attempt to restore any deficiencies causing this condition. The only way to reliably diagnose anemia is through blood work tests.

The Dangers of Dogs Eating Dirt

If you see your dog eating dirt, make sure to immediately discourage the behavior, as it can pose a number of risks to their health. Here are several risks associated with geophagia in dogs, according to the AKC:

  • Impacted intestines, which could require surgery
  • Consumption of pesticides and other toxins
  • Choking
  • Damage to the teeth, throat, digestive tract or stomach from ingesting rocks or sticks
  • Ingestion of soil-dwelling parasites

When Should I See the Vet?

Pay attention to see if your dog is eating dirt regularly or if it was just a one-off event. If dogs eat dirt once or twice to relieve stress or boredom, you should discourage this behavior, but it might not be cause for alarm. However, if it turns into a compulsive habit or you notice your dog acting differently after eating the dirt, contact your veterinarian. They'll need to examine your dog for any underlying health issues that might be prompting this behavior. The vet may also check your pup for any internal injuries that may have resulted from eating dirt.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Eating Dirt

If a health problem or nutritional imbalance is behind your dog's geophagia, then treating the condition or upgrading your dog's food should stop the behavior. However, if eating dirt has become a habit that needs to be broken, here are several strategies to try:

  • Provide a distraction whenever your dog starts eating dirt. You can distract them with a verbal command or a loud noise, or by offering a toy to chew on instead.
  • Leash your dog whenever you go outside so you can lead them away from areas with exposed soil.
  • Remove indoor potted plants or place them well out of your pup's reach.
Jean Marie Bauhaus Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger, and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of fur babies.