A dog trying to eat some dirt.

Can Dogs Eat Dirt?

A pile of dirt lies scattered in our yards, gardens, sidewalks, and even inside our homes. Some animals are known for eating such unusual things. Dogs are naturally curious creatures and often sniff around the yard or even eat some of that dirt! But can dogs eat dirt?

Eating dirt in small amounts won’t hurt your pup, but large amounts can cause serious issues. If your dog has eaten a large portion of the soil, this can make a dog sick and cause intestinal blockages. Dirt may contain parasites, bacteria, and other contaminants that can harm your pup. Try to discourage your dog from eating dirt, as excessive eating could pose potential health risks. Consult with your vet about the issue if needed. 

Why Does My Dog Eat Dirt?

An overhead shot of a dog eating some dirt.
Just eating some dirt.

Dogs may eat dirt because of a condition known as pica. Pica is the persistent eating of non-food items such as dirt, soil, clay, rocks, paper, grass, or chalk. Dirt can also be a tasty treat for some dogs, especially if mixed with feces or food.

They may eat dirt to get attention because they are bored and lonely or as an outlet for their curiosity. Some dogs also have nutritional deficiencies that drive them to eat strange things, including dirt.

If you notice your dog eating dirt more than usual, it’s essential to take them to the vet and get an accurate diagnosis.

What Are The Causes Of Eating Dirt?

Dogs naturally scavenge for food, and even though dirt doesn’t provide any nutritional value, it might still seem like a tasty treat. There are several reasons why your dog is eating dirt.


Anemia is a condition that can cause dogs to eat dirt. Various things, such as hookworms, flea infestation, and other mediated diseases, can cause anemia. All dogs are prone to fleas and ticks, blood-sucking parasites that can cause severe anemia. 

If your pup’s red blood cells are low (anemia), they may start craving soil or clay to replace lost iron or other minerals. 

Nutritional Deficiencies

Dogs may also eat dirt if they need more certain nutrients and minerals. If your pup is deficient in iron, zinc, or other essential vitamins and minerals, they might start eating soil to try and replenish what they’re missing.

Stress Or Boredom

Dogs can also suffer from stress or boredom, leading to eating dirt as a coping mechanism. If your pup has recently gone through a traumatic experience, it may start indulging in other non-food items to try and cope too. 

Boredom can lead to destructive behaviors, such as digging and chewing on things like dirt. To keep your pup from getting bored, provide lots of toys and activities that help stimulate their mind and body. 

Enjoying Taste

Some dogs may enjoy the taste of dirt. Dirt has a weird, earthy flavor that some dogs can’t resist. If there are other exciting things in the soil, like bugs or stuck food particles, it makes it even more enticing!

Effects Of Consuming Dirt On A Dog’s Health

Consuming too much dirt can have adverse effects on your dog’s health. Dirt is also a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria that can make your pup sick. 

Here are a few of the most common health effects related to eating dirt.

Intestinal Blockages

If your pup ate a large amount of dirt, some of it might get stuck in their intestines, leading to blockages. This can cause vomiting and diarrhea, as well as other digestive issues.


Dirt is full of parasites like hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms that can make your pup sick. If your puppy ate a lot of dirt, it might become infected with these parasites, which can cause various digestive and health issues.

Nutrient Imbalances 

Eating dirt can also cause nutrient imbalances in your pup, as the soil may contain things like copper, zinc, and iron that can be toxic if consumed or overconsumed. This can lead to various health problems, such as anemia, liver failure, or even death.

Bacterial Infections

Dirt may also contain bacteria that can infect your pup’s mouth or stomach. If your dog shows any signs of sickness after eating dirt, it’s essential to take them to the vet for a check-up.

Choking Hazards

Dirt can contain rocks, sticks, or other materials that could pose a choking hazard to your pup. It is essential to keep an eye on them if you notice them eating dirt and ensure they don’t swallow anything too significant, although it would be best just to try and stop them.  

Tooth Damage

Clay and dirt can also damage your pup’s teeth if eaten in large amounts. The rough texture of the soil can cause wear on your pup’s teeth and lead to cavities or other dental problems. If your puppy is eating dirt, it’s essential to take them for a check-up with the vet.

Stomach Aches

Dirt can cause stomach upset and other digestive issues in your pup. Soil may contain bacteria or parasites that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or other digestive problems. It’s essential to monitor your puppy closely if they start eating dirt and look out for any signs of illness.

Symptoms Of Overeating Dirt

There are a few signs and symptoms you should look out for. These include:

  • Lack of Appetite
  • Stomach Pain
  • Weight Loss 
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal blockages
  • Strange odors or bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Itchy skin or rash 

If your pup exhibits these symptoms, it is vital to take them to the vet as soon as possible. The vet can run tests and ensure your dog is healthy and not suffering from any digestive issues due to their dirt-eating habits. 

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Eating Dirt?

Providing plenty of mental and physical stimulation is the best way to prevent your pup from eating dirt. Try to give your dog a variety of toys, activities, and treats that will help keep them entertained and distracted from the dirt too. 

If you notice your pup is trying to eat dirt, try redirecting its focus toward something else. You can also try blocking areas of your yard or home where the soil is easily accessible. You can use fencing or gates to protect your pup from dirt-filled sites as well.

In Conclusion: Can Dogs Eat Dirt?

Eating dirt isn’t safe for your pup and should be avoided. Dirt can contain harmful parasites, bacteria, rocks, sticks, and other materials that could cause choking hazards or digestive problems. If you notice any symptoms of illness after your pup has been eating dirt, it’s essential to take them to the vet immediately. By keeping a close eye on your dog and understanding the risks of eating dirt, you can help keep them safe and healthy.

Have you ever noticed your dog eating dirt? What did you do in that situation? Feel free to share your story in the comments below! 

Dr. Mohsin Iqbal (DVM, RVMP)
Dr. Mohsin Iqbal (DVM, RVMP)
Dr. Mohsin Iqbal is a licensed veterinarian with more than 5 years of experience in veterinary medicine. After receiving his DVM degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, he worked as a veterinarian in both government and private sectors. Dr. Mohsin specializes in small animal medicine and surgery and has experience treating all types of animals including dogs, cats, horses, and reptiles. He has a passion for pets and has written several eBooks on pet care and surgery. In addition to his clinical work, he also volunteers his time for various animal rescue organizations and helps care for injured and abandoned animals.