How do I keep my dog from eating rocks?

 |  Jan 10th 2008  |   2 Contributions


Dr. Barchas,

We have a three-month-old Border Collie who EATS rocks (gravel). Our back yard is about 1/3 gravel and that is where we took him to "potty" when we brought him home. He swallows them and then during the night gags and barfs them up. They, of course, are also showing up in his stool. What is the best cure for this? My husband has been raking and shoveling the gravel out, but since it is in the winter some are frozen to the ground or snow covered. The pup manages to find them somehow.

Carla
Emmett, ID

Believe it or not, a lot of dogs like to eat rocks. Unfortunately, it is a very dangerous habit.

If a dog eats a rock that is too big to pass through his intestines, the rock may become lodged inside of him. That is a very serious emergency. The rock will block the flow of food through the intestines, and will cause severe damage to the tissues near the obstruction. Dogs with foreign objects such as rocks lodged inside their intestines may vomit, stop eating, become lethargic, or have a tender abdomen.

In most cases, surgery is the only way to remove foreign objects from the intestinal tract. Without surgery, most dogs do not survive. And this type of surgery is not always successful, especially if the foreign object is in place for several days before anybody realizes something is wrong. Even when the surgery goes as planned and the dog makes a complete recovery, it is very expensive.

So far, your pup has been lucky. He has either vomited or passed all of the rocks he has consumed. But if he continues to eat gravel in the yard, eventually he will swallow a rock that will is too big. Your only option is to stop him from eating any more rocks.

Your husband is doing the right thing by trying to remove all of the gravel from your yard. Until he has successfully removed it all, I recommend that you stay with your dog and supervise him closely while he is in the yard. I realize that it's not convenient, but it is the only way to prevent him from eating rocks.

There is a chance that your puppy eventually will outgrow the habit of eating rocks. Many do. However, I have known some dogs who have continued to consume rocks, balls, or other foreign objects well into adulthood. These dogs always require extra supervision when there is any risk that they might consume a foreign object. I have several patients who have had three (and counting!) surgeries to remove rocks from their intestines.

So, for as long as your dog exhibits the tendency to consume rocks, you will have to prevent him from having access to them.

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