Everyone knows that dogs are very curious pets. They love exploring their world. And while it is normal for dogs to chow down on their kibbles, most pet parents consider it abnormal when dogs begin to show a fondness for eating paper. But before you start labeling your pet as “abnormal”, why don’t you take this occasion to find out more about this peculiar behavior? So, why do some dogs eat paper?
There is a condition in human psychology known as “pica”. This is a very unusual behavior whereby the individual eats or ingests non-edible objects. You may have already heard of people ingesting hairs, screws, nails, paper clips, and other non-food items. What is surprising is that this peculiar behavior is not only restricted to humans; dogs can have it, too.
Like pica in humans, canine pica involves the consumption of anything that is non-edible or doesn’t have any nutrient value. Unlike human pica, however, this condition in dogs can also have non-mental causes. What this means is that pica in dogs can be a sign of poor nutrition or a health problem. Pica in humans is always a psychological problem characterized by a compulsive behavior for eating non-food items. If the person cannot consume such items, it brings great anxiety to him or her.
Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Loves to Eat Paper (and Other Non-edible Items)
As mentioned, pica in dogs is not always a sign of a mental health problem in the animal. Here are some of the more common reasons why your dog may love to eat paper or any other non-food item:
- Nutritional Deficiency
Depending on the type of paper that the dog is eating, paper contains different minerals that the dog may need. For instance, there are some paper products that contain calcium carbonate and iron. Everyone knows what calcium is for. As for iron, this is a trace mineral that plays an important role in the health of red blood cells.
It is possible that the food that the dog is getting from its regular meals is deficient in these nutrients. Unfortunately, dogs cannot verbalize to their owners what nutrients they need. Hence, they will try to source this from other items, including paper.
- Low-calorie Diet
All dogs require the right amounts of calories that will help sustain their activity levels. If their calorie consumption falls below their Daily Calorie Requirement, then they will have to search for other sources of calories.
One has to take note of the difference between Resting Energy Requirement and Daily Calorie Requirement. RER denotes the base amount of calories that a dog needs to sustain vital functions like brain activity, heart contraction, and breathing. If the dog is not getting enough calories, then it will always eat something else.
Diabetic dogs tend to have polyphagia or increased food consumption. The reason is simple. Since there is failure in the delivery of glucose to the cells, these cells continue to starve. Hence, the diabetic dog will try to increase its food consumption.
But since it cannot get more dog food than what you put in its food bowl, it will try to eat other items. The idea is that the dog is hungry. It cannot ask for additional food from you. So, it will eat almost anything else.
In hyperthyroidism, the dog experiences super-fast metabolism. What this means is that it uses its calories a lot faster than other dogs. For example, healthy dogs may need about 8 to 10 hours for them to burn all the calories from their previous meal. A dog with hyperthyroidism can burn the same amount of calories in 5 hours.
If you are feeding the dog twice a day, this means you are observing a 10 to 12 hour window in between meals. For a dog with hyperthyroidism, it would already be hungry for 5 hours by the time it gets its next meal. Hence, it will have to “eat” something else within this 5-hour waiting window until the next meal.
Eating Paper as a Behavioral Issue in Dogs
We mentioned that paper-eating in dogs can have either organic or behavioral causes. In the preceding section, we pointed out the possible organic causes of pica in dogs. In this section, we will look at the behavioral causes of canine pica:
Some dogs will do almost anything to keep themselves busy. Canine boredom is an issue that is very common among active and intelligent dogs. They need something to do. They are bred to work. If they do not have any physical or mental activity to keep them busy, then they will look for something to become more “productive”. They will chew on toilet paper and other non-edible objects. At first, they may not eat it. Over time, however, they may already start munching on paper for the sheer “fun” that they can derive from it.
- Attention-seeking Behavior
Many dogs crave for the attention of their owners. They are, after all, very sociable. They thrive on human attention. There is one thing you need to understand about their concept of “attention”. It doesn’t have to be always positive. Scolding and shouting at your dog is still giving attention. As such, if the dog feels that you are not giving it the attention that it deserves, then it may eat non-edible items. This is to get your attention, even if it means you will scold it or shout at it. For the dog, it is still a form of attention.
Some dogs need an outlet to dispense negative energies associated with anxiety. Some dogs may dig in the ground, chew on furniture, or eat paper and other non-edible items. This allows them to channel their mental energies to help alleviate their anxiety. This is a lot similar to the pica among humans.
Dogs eat paper for a variety of reasons. Some may have organic causes to explain the behavior. Other reasons are more behavioral in nature. Regardless, eating paper is something that pet parents should address with the help of a vet.