Information for Dietary Indiscretion in Dogs

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Dog licking its chops
Dog Licking Its Chops

Just when you think you are taking the best possible care of your pets, they find something icky to chew on! Why do dogs and cats eat the things they do? We may never know all the answers to this seemingly simple question. Maybe it smelled good, maybe they were hungry, or maybe they were just plain curious.

While it can certainly make you wonder, there is a term to describe our pets' propensity to eat things they shouldn't. Veterinarians call it a dietary indiscretion. While that's a nice technical term, you probably want to know if it's something you should be concerned about. The answer depends on what your furry friend has eaten.

Dealing With Dietary Indiscretion

When you let your dog or cat out into the yard, there are many potential things for them to eat. The first thing you need to assess is what your pet ate; was it a plant or dead animal? Something plastic? Something containing pesticides? The more specific you can be about the nature of the dietary indiscretion, the better.

Organic materials include things such as a dead animal, manure, and other naturally occurring things that can be found outdoors. It is possible that these things were left by cats or other dogs who may leave their hunted prize where your pet has access to it. If you live in a rural area, it might also have been left by coyotes, raccoons, possums, or other wild animals. It also includes plants, dirt, and compost.

gray short coated dog on brown wooden floor
gray short coated dog on brown wooden floor

Plastic or potentially toxic products may also have some appeal to your curious pet. Some of these may be found in your garage, under your sink, in your yard, or in your neighbors, though none of them are good for your dog or cat to ingest.

Among the possible things you might find are household cleaners, fertilizers, and other substances such as antifreeze, snail bait, and other pesticides. Discarded chemical containers, cocoa mulch, blood meal, and similar things should be stored safely away from pets at all times as well.

Organic Snacks

If you found that your pet had a snack of organic material such as fecal or rotting matter, dead animals, unknown plants, or the like, call your vet to discuss what you found or know about the ingestion. Dead animals can often carry disease, and some plants may be toxic. Watch your pet closely for any listlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite. Be sure to call your vet immediately if you observe anything out of the ordinary.

Toxin Ingestion or Exposure


Call your veterinarian immediately if your pet ingested anything that is possibly toxic. Some toxins, such as antifreeze, are immediately life-threatening, while others take time for signs to develop.

Call your veterinarian or poison control center for advice. There are pet-specific poison control centers such as​ the National Animal Poison Control Center and Pet Poison Helpline that will be able to assist you or your veterinarian with the case.

adult brown and black Shih-tzu
adult brown and black Shih-tzu
black and white portrait of a dog
black and white portrait of a dog
short-coated tricolor dog standing on bed
short-coated tricolor dog standing on bed

Inanimate Objects

There is also the possibility that your pet has eaten the most unlikely of inanimate objects. These include items that don't always sound tasty: sprinkler heads, socks, rocks, balls, and so on. Call your veterinarian as soon as it happens to touch base and determine the best course of action because each case is different.

While some items aren't an immediate emergency, others, such as a sharp object, are. Possible problems include obstruction or perforation of the stomach or intestine, chronic metal poisoning due to ingested particles being digested and absorbed into the body, and other toxic reactions.