Dear Dr. Fox: My dog likes to eat dirt! I try to stop him, but when he is free in our yard he will go to one corner, dig in the soil and gobble some before I can stop him. He never seems to eat much, and he never throws up, though his poop is darker the next day. Should I let him continue or put a muzzle on him?
— K.L.P., St. Louis
Dear K.L.P.: Dogs and many wild animal species regularly eat dirt, often selecting a particular kind. Clay contains gut-soothing compounds similar to kaolin, and beneficial minerals like iron and magnesium; dark, humus-containing soil rich in beneficial bacteria helps improve digestive processes and, acting as a probiotic, boosts immune system functions.
I say all things in moderation, even for dirt eating. A 30-pound dog can eat a tablespoon once in a while. If your dog is obsessive about it and is constantly seeking out dirt to eat, he may have an underlying medical problem such as anemia.
Living in relatively sterile indoor environments and being fed heat-sterilized, processed pet foods, cats and dogs may suffer from intestinal dysbiosis — a deficiency in the variety and number of beneficial bacteria in their digestive systems. This may be aggravated by the inclusion of GMOs (genetically engineered corn and soy) in their diets. (For details, see my article on my website, DrFoxVet.com.)
This is why some pet food manufacturers are now adding probiotics to their dry dog and cat foods, and it is the reason why I advise the routine inclusion of quality probiotics, present in organic sources like plain cultured yogurt and kefir, in your pets’ diets.
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