Does your dog have a special place in their heart for toilet paper rolls and cardboard boxes? Well, they are not alone. Some dogs just really love the recycling bin. But why do dogs eat cardboard? And is it safe?
Let’s get straight to the heart of the issue, shall we?
Short answer: Probably not.
Longer answer: Cardboard is not toxic, but it’s also not particularly digestible. If your dog has eaten a large quantity of cardboard, there’s a small chance they could end up with an intestinal obstruction. The key here is to keep an eye on them, and look out for the following symptoms:
- Straining to poop
If you see any of these symptoms crop up, get your dog to a vet immediately. Blockages may require treatment with stool softeners or even surgery in serious cases. Intestinal obstructions, if left untreated, can be extremely harmful and even lethal.
You’ll need to watch your dog’s poop to make sure it’s all just passing through. Since the cardboard doesn’t break all the way down in your dog’s digestive system, you’ll see it pretty clearly in their stool.
Consider feeding your dog some unsweetened canned pumpkin to gently speed the process along.
Why do dogs eat cardboard when they have real food to eat? Lots of dogs chew up things we’d rather they didn’t from time to time.
When it’s a compulsive, chronic issue, we call it pica. That name, however, is just a description of the behavior. In humans, it can be a symptom of mental illness. In dogs it’s a symptom of….being a dog.
Dogs are hardwired to chew.
Dogs are hardwired to chew. They process a lot of information about the world around them with their mouths. It’s normal and natural for a dog to want to chew things up, and giving them a safe outlet with chew toys or naturally-shed antlers is important.
But when your dog starts chewing household items, like clothing or cardboard, it can turn into a problem pretty quick.
There are a lot of reasons why your dog may be particularly drawn to chewing cardboard.
- First, take a look at diet. Is it possible that your dog isn’t getting nutrients they need? Sometimes pica is thought to be caused by nutritional deficiency. Did you switch foods just before your dog started whaling on your Amazon boxes?
- Dogs are also know to shred paper and paper-like items, such as cardboard, because it’s akin to the feeling of feathers in their mouth. Yes, that is kind of disturbing, but think about from a purely biological perspective: many dogs were bred to hunt. It’s in their genes!
- Or could it be that your dog is going after boxes and paper for entertainment?
Never having chewed up any cardboard myself, I can neither confirm nor deny that it is a pleasurable pastime. But I know a guy who can.
Bogey is the canine companion of Amanda S., in Seattle.
“He eats paper towels, paper towel rolls, toilet paper, toilet paper rolls… I call them “treats” and save them,” Amanda told me.
Bogey has been regularly snacking on cardboard and paper since he was a puppy, and has suffered no ill effects thus far. In fact, Amanda has turned his strange addiction into a training tool.
“I have a house rule that if you balance it on your nose for 10 seconds, you get to eat it.”
That’s a case of turning lemons into lemonade if ever there was one.
Amanda is thoroughly unbothered by her dog’s cardboard habit, but that’s not the only available approach. There are some steps you can take if you are feeling less chillaxed.
When a dog is exhibiting destructive behaviors, the root cause can be a lack of exercise or attention. We all get busy from time to time, and your dog may be feeling the effects of a work-life imbalance. Possible remedies include:
- Longer and more frequent walks
- Get some help from a professional walker
- Refresh your chew toys or a cool treat puzzle
Another solution is to cut off the supply. Invest in a step trash can to keep your dog from digging through the recycling. Keep Fido out of the bathroom and keep your tissue boxes on a high shelf. Let this be a motivator to keep the house tidy.
Or maybe try shifting your perspective. Yes, this cardboard business is annoying and messy, but as long as your dog is healthy and your mental health is more or less intact, what’s the big deal? Count your blessings and adopt this mantra: at least it’s not poop.
Hero image via Pitlandia