Eating non-food items can turn a puppy’s gut into a time bomb

The second in a series.

Harvey, a fairly handsome and real spaniel mix, carries a laundry list of behavioral symptoms. Pica (eating non-food items) was the first priority because it could kill him. People often enjoy the strange things pets consume for others, but the fun is uniquely lacking when it happens in your home. The intestines naturally push and squeeze the food in the inevitable posterior direction of the creature. When the litter gets stuck along the road, the peristaltic movements stop abruptly.

Whenever Harvey’s food stray moved on him, his head and tail drooped, and he lost interest in food and play. Don Wadian knew right away that he needed to see a doctor. They were right. A stable body in the intestine, relentlessly pressing on the soft inner wall, prevents blood from flowing through the local capillaries. Dying bowel tissue quickly breaks down and fluid leaks out, along with massive amounts of bacteria. The result is raging septic peritonitis – a potential disaster. Surgery to remove the offending object and correct the damage is an emergency procedure. Junk eaters like Harvey are not school clowns. Their courage is time bombs.

Why did Harvey eat rocks? Some people assume it’s boring and that drawing bitter apples or chili sauce on random ruins might discourage this dangerous tendency. They will be wrong. Research has shown that chronic nausea is most often the cause.

Dogs are not young in furry suits. They solve their annoyance differently than we do. Rather than hoover yard wrecks like Harvey, other restless dogs may lick surfaces excessively, including floors, walls, legs, clothing, or the skin of their people. To unravel the true cause of Harvey’s abnormal eating habits, I referred him to an internist. Ultrasound evaluation of the abdomen and endoscopic examination with biopsies found IBD. His behavior was a symptom of tr double elsewhere – not in Harvey’s head .

Next week: Fear of storms, home alone, and the clothes dryer. A laundry list indeed.

• For help with behavior problems, you can sign up for a Zoom Group conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nicholl is a veterinarian who specializes in veterinary behaviorism. Offers personal and group counseling via Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and live video on Facebook to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up for free at Post your pet questions at or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

Rocks, storms and being alone – the dog Harvey was a mess

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