How Many Rocks Can A Dog Eat? Conclusion.

by Jeff K. on February 5, 2010

Rigs the DogA few weeks ago we introduced you to Wrigley “Rigs”, a rescued Springer Spaniel with a frustrating oral habit (eating rocks and just about anything else he could find).

Welcome back. In the previous post I shared the results of tracking Wrigley’s behavior over a five-day period. It painted a very clear picture of the driven, compulsive, behavior that has been challenging me as an owner and no doubt troubling Rigs as well.

After sharing the results with our internal veterinarian staff and discussing the steps I’ve taken at home to help Rigs curb these behaviors, it was suggested that I try an anti-anxiety medication such as Fluoxetine.

fluoxetineI generally don’t turn to medications when it comes to my own personal health if there are other changes that can be made to correct a problem or ailment and I treat my pets’ health the same way. In the case of behavioral issues, although I question the use of medications, I do recognize that there are positive results when medications are used in appropriate, planned, and monitored applications. So the decision was made to start Rigs on a daily dose of Fluoxetine.

BEFORE beginning, I made a visit to my local vet for some standard blood work. For one reason, to eliminate the potential of Rigs’ drive for ingesting rocks and dirt being caused by iron-deficiency anemia.  Also, it is recommended that a baseline be established before starting any pet on medications to monitor side effects that may negatively affect certain organ functions. In the case of Rigs, his blood work came back normal.

Rigs is now entering his third week on the medication. I have continued to keep him on the same consistent, daily, routines that I outlined in the last post. The “occurrences” that were measured in times per day have now been reduced to how many days between occurrences! The most positive change (particularly for his health) has been in the amount of ingested foreign materials. Prior to the medication, he had ingested 12 objects over a five-day period. Over the past ten days, he has only ingested three; none of which has been rocks. He has also completely stopped digging for and ingesting feces containing previously ingested foreign material.

His activity level has stayed the same. He is still as willing and eager to play interactively as well as on his own. He has stopped charging his food bowl when meals are given and eats leisurely (a reduced appetite can be a side-effect) but has not lost any weight. He does still motion to go outside frequently, but is content to sit and watch the activity in the woods around him and vocally communicate with other dogs off in the distance. His nail biting has not completely stopped but he tends to lick his feet (not with the same frequency) now instead of biting his nails.

My goal is to keep Rigs on the medication while still utilizing consistent training AND discipline, with the hopes of weaning him off the medication as he begins to settle into his less stressful home environment. Previous experience with rescued animals is preparing me for a 2-3 year “correction” period.

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Jeff currently heads our Video Studio. In 1998, he also started our in-house Photo Studio. Jeff was one of a handful of North American photographers chosen to beta-test digital photography in the late 1980s and was integral in the early development of that technology. Jeff has always been a multiple pet owner, and is particularly partial to rescued Springer Spaniels.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle April 16, 2010 at 9:39 am

A lot of these behaviors sound like my dog. Except he also had a “blankie” that he carries around and sucks on especially before bed. I guess I’ll have to talk to my vet about anxiety problems.

Renee June 2, 2010 at 11:37 am

I adopted a rescue dog last year. She is part Bichon Frise and part Cockerspaniel as far as I know. She was just a skeleton of a dog when I got her, so weak that she could not even keep her head up. I cooked chicken and rice and coaxed her to eat. As she grew stronger she began to try to eat everything in sight including plants, sticks, rocks, her own poop!…everything. My vet. suggested vitamines and adding complete and balanced dog chow to her diet. She accepted the dog chow with great enthusiasm and I continued to feed her chicken, rice and some additional hard boiled eggs, which she loved. Over a short time, she began rejecting all non-foods and is now eating well, looking maybe a bit overweight, got to cut down on those eggs!, and she loves to run and play. She is a strong healthy little one who loves walks in the park. I do agree that eating such things as rocks is a strong indication that the dog has nutritional imbalances and needs careful evalutation of diet and a vitamine added every day.

Mary Rodriguez July 29, 2010 at 11:24 am

Just a thought about animals who have these types of cravings, rocks, dirt, plants etc. Nutritional needs often cause these systems. I believe that if these animals were on barf diet such as Natures Variety has, Call to the Wild, Stacy’s freeze dry raw food very well may see a bit difference in their behavior. My friend has a 12 year German Shapard on this diet and she looks and acts like a 5 year old. I do understand that there are times you just can only do so much.

Kim Spahr January 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Have you started the weaning off process? Have there been any negavtive effects? I’m weaning my dog off now. We are down to 5 mg for another 6 days and then we are done with it, but he has quit eating…..

Jeff K January 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

There was a point in January (2012) where I did begin to slowly reduce the amount he was getting, I recall his appetite did drop off a bit (nothing concerning) for 3-4 days, but he was still eating during that period. After 2-3 weeks his anxiety issues began to rapidly accelerate, so I ramped him back up to the original dose (we never did get him down to zero). In this case I would suggest you contact your vet in case there is some other issue causing him / her to stop eating.

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