Why Does My Puppy Eat Sticks? | Should You Stop Them

With a puppy that is less than 6 months old, it is not uncommon to find them with a variety of non-food items in their mouths at various points throughout the day. It can be rocks, acorns, bark, plastic, or other materials, although the majority of the time it is sticks. And, while it’s extremely popular, especially with sticks, it raises a lot of questions, such as whether it’s safe. Why do pups eat sticks in the first place? Should you stop your puppy from eating sticks? 

Medical concerns such as nutritional deficiencies, digestive disorders, hunger, dental troubles, or a rare condition called PICA, as well as behavioral issues such as boredom, anxiety, lack of attention, or a lack of an adequate outlet for energy are all possible causes why your pup nibble on sticks in the garden. While it is very common, you should not, however, allow your dog to gnaw on sticks at all times. Sticks can harm your dog in a variety of ways. Some sticks, such as oak, chestnut, apple, locust, and buckeye, are deadly if consumed in significant quantities. Eating sticks of any kind can also cause choking, bowel blockage, or even perforation of the mouth, esophagus, or digestive tract due to the rough edges.

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Medical Conditions

Eating sticks might be a sign of a serious medical condition that necessitates medical treatment. Some of the most frequent medical conditions associated with stick-eating in pups are:

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  • Nutritional Deficiencies 

The chemical fillers and preservatives in some low-quality commercial dog diets make it harder for your dog to obtain adequate nutrition from their food. This will result in your pup looking for other ways to obtain these nutrients like chewing and eating non-food objects like sticks. This can also happen if your pet is provided an uneven homemade diet or eats more snacks than meals.

  • Digestive Disorders

Pups will try to do anything to relieve an upset stomach like eating grass or sticks. This is a common behavior even for adult dogs suffering from digestive disorders like: 

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Tumors
  • Worms
  • Gastritis
  • Stomach inflammation
  • Hunger

If your dog is extremely hungry, he will consume just about anything. This means that your dog may be eating sticks out of hunger if they haven’t been eating correctly, if you have other pets who may be eating their food, or if you’re feeding your dog less than they require.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may need to consult your vet to check into other issues such as thyroid conditions if your dog is at a normal weight or perhaps a little overweight but yet appears to be famished all of the time.

  • Dental Problems

It is possible that your dog is chewing on sticks because he has dental problems that you are unaware of like cavity or gum disease. Pups nibble on objects like sticks or stones in an attempt to ease any discomfort they might be experiencing.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When puppies are teething, they frequently chew sticks or any other object. When you discover your puppy is teething, invest in some safe teething toys that have been authorized by a veterinarian.

  • Pica

Pica is a psychological disease defined by an insatiable need for things that are not normally nutritional in nature. In other words, it frequently entails eating non-food items. 

Behavioral Reasons

Furthermore, there are other behavioral reasons why your dog may begin chomping on sticks in the backyard in addition to medical issues. Let’s go over these behavioral issues one by one: 

  • Boredom

When dogs get bored, they will eat sticks, and this is a proven fact! Some pups eat sticks because they just don’t have anything better to do. These behaviors are frequently observed in dogs who are left outside for extended periods of time. 

  • Anxiety

Puppies usually seek outlets like eating sticks when they are agitated, restless, anxious, or scared. 

  • Attention Seeking Behavior

Sometimes, puppies will eat sticks just to get your attention. Puppies misbehave when they know they’ll get more attention from you if they are doing something wrong.

  • Excess Energy

Dogs that don’t have a positive outlet for their energy may find unexpected ways to let off steam like eating sticks. Dogs need to exercise physically and mentally to be healthy. Some breeds require more than an hour of regular exercise each day. 

Now that we know the common reasons why puppies eat sticks, let’s get to how we can stop them from doing so and other additional FAQs..

How to Prevent Your Puppy from Eating Sticks?

You can come up with a program to help your dog to stop eating sticks once you’ve determined the cause of the behavior.

  • Consult Your Veterinarian

If the problem is caused by a medical condition, you should seek the assistance of your veterinarian in treating the situation. In many circumstances, your veterinarian will instruct you to “wait and see,” but in other cases, it is important that you bring your dog in right away. Your canine may need to undergo procedures such as blood testing to see whether he has a mineral deficit, x-rays for digestive illnesses, and MRI or CT Scans for dental difficulties, to name a few examples.

Check for any related symptoms as well, such as:

  • Obvious discomfort
  • Pain
  • Bleeding from the mouth is a common occurrence
  • The rectum is bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Attempting to poop
  • Diarrhea
  • Behaving strangely
  • Keep the Yard Stick-Free

Sticks and other junk lying around your yard provide your dog with plenty of opportunities to play with these things. If you notice your pup starting to chew and eat your yard junk, it’s time to clean up the yard and get rid of any loose rubbish. It would also be easier for you as you won’t have to constantly watch over your pup when he is out in the yard. 

  • Provide Alternative and Appropriate Chews 

The perfect time for you to buy new toys for your pooch is when your pooch starts to eat non-food items like sticks and stones. Providing your dog with a safe chew toy is a great way to keep him entertained. Find a toy that you believe your dog will enjoy and leave it in the yard for them to enjoy. Pig ears, pizzle sticks, and cow hooves are natural alternatives you can also give to your pooch.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Providing enough chew toys is not an excuse for you to not play with your pup. Without human interaction, puppies get bored and will seek attention. 

  • Train Your Dog to ‘Leave it’

You can train your dog to leave sticks in the same way that you can train him to sit, bring you a leash, or wait. It is a training that requires a combination of negative and positive reinforcement. You can use treats to start every time your dog follows and “leave” the stick. Over time, your dog will understand and follow the “leave it” command without treats. 

  • Make a Trade with Your Dog

Another training activity you can play with your dog is to train him to trade you sticks in exchange for treats or toys. By doing that, you can teach your dog to find sticks, but to bring them to you.

At What Age Do Puppies Stop Eating Everything?

Puppies should outgrow chewing and eating everything at the age of 6 months. Puppies that still chew and eat non-food objects after 6 months from birth may be suffering from medical or behavioral conditions. 

How Much Does it Cost to Stop My Puppy from Eating Sticks? 

Your puppy’s stick-eating problem could be treated for less than $5 with nutritional supplements, or it could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the reason for your puppy’s stick-eating habit.

  • Stick eating due to nutritional deficiencies can cost $5 to $1000 for supplements and changes in food diet.
  • Treatment for digestive problems might cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. An intestinal obstruction surgery alone can cost $5000 or more. 
  • Depending on the source, dental problems might cost up to $2,000.
  • When it comes to treating behavioral issues, the price varies based on the kind and severity of the main issue. If your dog requires long-term treatment from an animal behaviorist, the initial consultation will cost roughly $500 to $1,000, with the cost of following sessions varying widely.

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