Why is My Dog Eating Dirt All of a Sudden: Mystery Revealed

The dog is all muddy again, but mostly around the mouth. She’s been eating dirt again. When you’ve had a pet for years, and they suddenly take up a strange new habit, like eating dirt, should you worry? After all, she didn’t eat dirt before. Is it some new doggy weirdness? Your pet can seem mysterious, but every behavior has a reason. As a long time pet owner, I can assure you that there is an explanation for the bizarre dirt-eating fascination. However, there are several possibilities. I’ll help you discover them all, so you can work with your vet to resolve the issue.

Why is my dog eating dirt all of a sudden? Your dog is eating dirt because something is wrong with their stomach. When your pet consistently tries to swallow soil, it’s a warning sign. A single lick isn’t a problem; after all, dogs try eating lots of weird things. However, when the ground looks like a regular snack to your canine companion, it’s time to see a vet about their tummy. 

Top 6 Reasons Why Dogs Eat Dirt

  1. Anemia- When your dog is low on red blood cells, they may try to substitute their diet with soil.
  2. Behavior Problems- Like humans, dogs can do a lot of strange things when they aren’t feeling well mentally. Your dog may be acting out.
  3. Gastrointestinal Disturbance/Upset Stomach- Most dogs eat grass to make themselves sick. Your pet may be trying out some soil because there’s trouble in their stomach, and they don’t know what else to do.
  4. Nutritional Deficiencies & Imbalances- If your dog is low on iron or other minerals, they might be seeking out what they’re missing in the dirt and eating it.
  5. Pika- The compulsive desire to eat non-food can be a psychological disorder.
  6. Wrong Food- If your pet isn’t getting what they need from their regular diet, they could be supplementing it with dirt.

Known as geophagia, dirt-eating is a fairly common problem for dogs. Since they lack the human ability to treat medical and psychological conditions, canines use their noses to sniff out a solution. Whether it’s a way to get attention, or an attempt to fix a stomach problem, your pets’ nose can tell precisely what’s in that soil they eat.

Unfortunately, dogs don’t study science or medicine. Hence, they can’t tell the difference between what smells good and what’s right for them. Your pet eats things that could harm them, like dirt, because they don’t know better.

What’s in Dirt

To understand why your dog would suddenly decide to eat dirt means it helps to learn what’s in the soil. Some of the components that appeal so much are part of a healthy doggy diet. Minerals like iron are necessary for health. However, your dog should be getting those things in their food.

The primary explanation for what dirt is made from is simple. It’s mostly composed of organic and inorganic matter. Minerals, decomposing plant and animal matter, worm casings, and other, ‘stuff,’ that falls and mixes into the dirt all become part of your soil.

Some areas have higher concentrations of individual ingredients. For example, many regions with red or pink-hued dirt are incredibly high in iron. The color is caused by oxidation on the iron particles, also known as rust.

Soil is more acidic or basic, depending on what exactly makes up the composition. Gardeners will add to the earth to help various plants grow. By mixing calcium, or lime, you can adjust the pH to be more suitable for the types of plants you wish to raise. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can add to the soil that makes it more dog appropriate.

Inorganic Minerals

The inorganic mineral particles fall into three groups. These are based on size rather than what they’re made from. These particles are clay, silt, and sand. Each has a unique texture because of the scale.

First, clay particles are the smallest and leave a sticky feeling, especially when damp. Soil made from mostly clay is where we get pottery clay and other moldable natural clays. The tiny particles are easy to restructure when sifted and mixed with water.

Silt particles are larger, but still not very big. Next, very silty soil will feel a lot like dust. It’s similar to powdered sugar but without the stickiness.

Finally, sand is the largest inorganic particle. It feels rough and gritty. Often sand is made of silicon or glass. Beach sand will melt into glass at high enough temperatures.

Organic “Stuff”

The organic part of the dirt is made of anything that was once living. Typically decomposing animals are eaten by insects, vultures, and other scavengers. Their feces becomes part of the earth after digestion.

Worm casings and other formerly living matter make up a large part of most fertile soils. Fertilizer and compost are both forms of earth without the inorganic mix-ins. Decomposing plant matter, also known as compost, makes up good garden dirt.

Will Eating Dirt Harm Your Dog

Dogs who eat dirt may be trying to solve a problem. Alternatively, your pet could merely be acting out. Regardless of the reason, eating dirt could damage your doggy. However, it’s not a guarantee.

Some dogs eat dirt with no ill effects, but that doesn’t mean you should let them chow down on your backyard soil. Too much earth internally can cause several problems. Here are some of the most common issues for dirt-eating doggies.

  • Intestinal blockages can result when soil collects inside your dog. They can’t digest most of the inorganic material.
  • Damage to their insides from sharp rocks and sanding can result from ingesting earth.
  • Constipation or the inability to poop can come from ingesting dirt.
  • Poisoning from fertilizer, pesticides, or other toxins in your yard can make your dog very sick or even kill them.
  • Roundworms and other parasites leave eggs in the soil. Sadly that means your dog could end up infested.
  • Ringworm and other bacteria dwell in the ground and can get on your dogs’ faces and paws while they dig up a soil snack.

In short, yes, eating dirt can hurt your dog. Although most canines have a robust immune system and digestive tract, it’s not impermeable. A little soil now and then is unlikely to cause significant problems. However, if it becomes a habit or compulsion, you’re more likely than not to have a sick dog on your hands.

Feed Your Dog the Right Foods

A diet made of wet food that has been cooked is excellent for your dog. Although there are many proponents of the raw diet, vets and animal biologists often suggest that this is not the right way to feed a domestic dog. They have, after all, been bred for thousands of years to live and eat along with their humans.

I suggest a high-quality wet food like Weruva Natural from Amazon for your dogs. My dogs love the Marbella Paella, which is made from pumpkin and sustainably caught mackerel. I like the lack of artificial dyes and ingredients. To find out more about this outstanding dog food, click here

Doggy Diet

It’s true that animals, like your dog, sometimes eat dirt to self-treat problems. However, their rough attempts at animal medicine don’t compare to human knowledge. We’ve been studying dogs, plants, medicine, and minerals for hundreds or thousands of years.

The human ability to teach, transferring our knowledge from one person to another, and expanding on it through generations of work makes people unique. We’re the only ones in the known universe who have this level of scientific and medical capability. Using this skill to help our pets is just one application.

Taking care of your pet means understanding their dietary needs. Sometimes we don’t think much about it until something goes wrong, like when a dog starts eating dirt. However, anytime is a great time to reassess your pet’s health needs. Puppies and aging dogs have different needs from most adult dogs.

What a Dog Needs

A dogs’ diet has six basic requirements. More importantly, they need the correct balance of these six things to maintain optimum health. Just as humans have the food pyramid, dogs have specific needs, and too much of one thing, or not enough of another, can spell trouble. While that doesn’t always mean ingesting soil, it will cause health problems.


As they became domesticated over thousands of years, our dogs have also adapted more to the diet we feed them. Although dogs are still (mostly) carnivores, like the family of animals, they come from. Yet they can and do digest carbohydrates.

Cooked grains are easier on their system than the raw alternatives found in the wild. This shows that they aren’t naturally adapted to chew on wheat stalks. According to VCA Hospitals, “The fact that the dog’s digestive system produces enzymes that are specific for digesting starches and sugars shows that they are capable of digesting carbohydrates.”

Domestic dogs are not obligate carnivores, which means they have evolved omnivorous abilities. Your pet can survive on a blend of plant and protein sources. However, any grains they consume need to be cooked and not raw.


Often when we think of fats, we assume this means animal fat. However, plants can contain plenty of fat as well in the form of oils. Dogs especially require omega family oils for skin and coat health as well as better brain function.


All mammals need certain minerals. For example, the iron in our blood is vital. Sadly, too much of a good thing can go horribly wrong. Minerals can build up, causing kidney damage and toxicity in our bodies. Dogs who eat dirt are often seeking to replace lost minerals. A good supplement can help you get your dog back on track, so they don’t feel the need to add mud pies to their menu.

One of my favorite all-around mineral and vitamin supplements for my dogs is Canine Tabs Plus from Pet MD on Amazon. They are liver flavored, which my pets have always loved. However, if yours are pickier about chewables, they also crumble easily into wet food. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what a good supplement can do for your dog. Get a container for your favorite Fido by clicking here


Naturally, the proteins that doggy ancestors raised them on are the essential building block in a dogs’ diet. However, the percentage of protein in dog food can be misleading. Because most meat is weighed before it dries in the kibble making process, a meal with grain as the first ingredient can be more nutritious than one with meat first.

Circumvent the issue by feeding your dog wet food. Talk to your vet for recommendations and see what they suggest. Ideally, food should have no more than three-hundred-fifty calories per cup. Otherwise, your pet may need more bulk to feel full, and they can end up overweight as a result.


Having the proper balance of vitamins is essential to all living creatures. Too much of a vitamin that isn’t water-soluble may cause buildup and problems. Alternately, too little will leave any creature craving something, even if they don’t know what it is they’re missing or how to get it. This can lead to dirt-eating behavior.


Though it’s not a ‘food,’ per se, your dog needs plenty of fresh, clean water to digest their food. Staying hydrated all year round is essential to preventing many health issues, from carcinogens remaining in the bladder that can lead to cancer, to kidney function issues. Make sure your dog always has access to water.

When your dog has been eating dirt, it’s highly likely that your vet will recommend dietary changes and lifestyle changes for your pet. Because your pet doctor is the only one who can test for imbalances, you should always follow their recommendations to make the necessary changes. For the lucky dogs, adding more protein, or specific minerals and vitamins is all it takes to keep them out of the dirt,

Redirecting the Behavior

Dogs who eat dirt need guidance in addition to changes in their diet and activities. You should always consult your vet about unusual behavior like ingesting soil. However, once you’ve done that, you’ll still need to pay more attention to your dog when they are outside.

Try getting more exercise with your dog for starters. Additionally, more socialization with other dogs at a dog park, for example, can help distract your pet. At home, go outside when they are in the yard. Keep an eye on your dog.

If Fido tries to get a mouthful of dirt, don’t yell or scold them. Instead, redirect the behavior in a positive direction. Throw a ball or grab a toy they like to tug. Get out their favorite frisbee. Spend time bonding with your dog to help keep them away from the strange snacking. It will help you grow closer while it improves their health.

I suggest picking up an AMZpets Dog Toy Set. The toys are designed for dogs who need to chew, so they can take a serious beating and stand up to a lot of play. Not only will the right toys help reduce any anxiety that’s contributing to your pet eating dirt, but they’re as close to indestructible as any I’ve ever found. To check prices and availability for your favorite Fido, click here

What to Watch Out For

There are times when you can’t stop a dog from eating dirt. If the behavior is extreme, you may need help from a vet or a professional trainer. Dogs who exhibit compulsive dirt-eating can be challenging to help, but don’t lose heart. You can help them get past the behavior over time.

If a dog who has been taking bites out of your garden soil shows any alarming signs, please bring them to the emergency animal hospital. Your pets rely on you for their health, and waiting can cause more trouble than any vet bill.

When your dog isn’t eating regular food or can’t use the bathroom normally, you should always be concerned. Vomiting, lethargy, lack of activity, and pale gums are also signs of serious issues. Anytime your dogs’ behavior is off after eating dirt, you need to take them in for a checkup. It may save their life.

When It’s Not What You Think

There are some examples of dogs eating dirt that don’t fall into the typical problem spectrum. The dirt-eating isn’t always what you think it is. If you spill something tasty, it’s obvious why your dog my want the dirt.  Bacon is bacon, after all.

Unfortunately, after reading all about the problems that dirt-eating is caused by, and can create, you may want to overreact. Take a step back and observe what’s happening. If this is the first time Fido tried some soil, then eating dirt is not a pattern you need to be concerned with. Check the area they took a bite out of to see if there’s anything noteworthy there. You won’t always find something. Still, it’s worth checking.

Your dog may even have buried a bone or some other treat in the spot they’re chewing. In that case, it’s not a dirt-eating issue at all. Many dogs enjoy hoarding bones in the yard. If every little bit of dirt were deadly to dogs, this habit would have killed them off ages ago.

Four Reasons Not to Worry

First, if your puppy decided to sample the soil, you have nothing to worry about. Growing babies are naturally curious, and will try all manner of odd things. They’re just exploring the world. Moreover, they may taste test more than once, or in different areas, to be sure they don’t want some dirt.

Secondly, adult dogs who’ve spent too much time cooped up may also eat some dirt. Horses also eat dirt out of boredom. Instead of going for full freakout mode, get your pet some new toys and take them out more often. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best, and there was nothing to worry about at all.

Third, when you drop something your dog wants on the ground, even after you pick it up, the scent and flavor remain. That’s enough to entice the millions of scent receptors in your dogs’ nose long after you stop noticing it. They can’t forget where it was. The scent remains. If your dog really wanted a bite of that burger you grilled, but you threw it out; they may be trying to get their piece, albeit in a weird way.

Finally, it may not have been you who dropped something tasty. Kids, visitors, and other people may occasionally drop some food on the ground without your notice. Furthermore, your pets might lose hold of something themselves. Always remember to check out the dirt your pet is eating before you jump to conclusions.

There are plenty of less-than-worrisome reasons why a dog might decide to pick a patch of dirt for a snack. However, you should still discourage the behavior. Plus, you need to keep an eye on them after dirt-eating. Make sure they have no complications. You don’t want your canine companion to develop a taste for soil.


Final Thoughts

Whenever your pet starts a brand new weird habit, you should always pay attention. Sometimes it’s nothing, like when you forgot you dropped a steak on the ground last time you barbecued and your dog likes that flavored dirt. Other times it can be a severe problem. Either way, talk to a vet when you don’t know what’s going on.

As your canine companions’ keeper, it falls to you to help them anytime something goes wrong. With luck, you can make some dietary changes, and that’s all it will take. However, if your dog has other problems, you may need to re-train them, keep an eye on them whenever they go outside or take other steps. No one want’s their dog to end up getting sicker.

The good news is that dirt-eating is not usually fatal. That means you can wait for your next vet appointment as long as you watch for other complications and keep Fido out of the garden beds for now.

Recent Posts