Pica Puppy

by Chris Dolley

We’re used to dogs having unusual appetites – horse droppings, small postmen – but a staircase? Yesterday we were forced to take countermeasures and place a chair at the foot of our stairs to prevent our dog (see left) from eating them. We’d tried reasoning with him – telling him that we were a one-staircase family and that if he continued to nibble away at the treads, we’d lose access to the bedroom.

But a dog with the smell of fresh staircase in his nostrils is impervious to reason.

And it’s not just stairs. He eats everything. He’s like a giant Pyrenean vacuum cleaner. Take him for a walk and his mouth glides over the ground, Hoovering up everything it finds. For those gardeners who lament the arrival of aphids and caterpillars in their prize veg plot I say, be thankful you don’t have Pyreneans. They dig holes, they eat roots, they eat leaves, and then, having ripped a path through the prize veg, they lie on top of the carrot bed and squash the seedlings.

Of course, even for the dog in question, there’s a downside to being a true omnivore. Diarrhoea and vomiting. Which is also a pretty major downside for the dog’s owners. When it’s dark and cold and 4:00 am, and you’ve just been woken up for the fourth time that night by a crying puppy, and you have the choice between racing out of bed, shepherding the dog downstairs and getting him out in time, or hoping that it’s a false alarm and that in five minutes time you won’t be staring at a mop and a steaming mound from Hell’s maw…

At first we’d put his diarrhoea and vomiting down to worms or bugs. Then we saw him honk up a large stone. Then we started researching pica – an eating disorder much beloved by dogs. Apparently it’s not uncommon and stones are one of the favourite things for a dog with pica to eat. It’s also one of the most dangerous as the stones can get lodged in the stomach or intestines. But stopping a dog from eating stones when you live in place surrounded by stones, is not easy. You can only watch a dog so far, and all it takes is a second and – gulp – there goes a stone.

Last week Asta was taken ill. He wouldn’t eat – not even a lightly braised postman could tempt him. And he had a temperature and looked sad. So we took him to the vet, plied him with tablets and injections … and waited.

On the second day, a large stone came forth and the people rejoiced. All hail the great god Diarrhoea.

We’ve now ordered a muzzle and placed Asta under house arrest until its arrival. We only hope the stairs will survive until then.

Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Handsa quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth.




Pica Puppy — 5 Comments

  1. I had a black Labrador retriever who retrieved lettuce spines, cabbage spines, blanched beets, whatever from the sink before they went down the garbage disposal. He would also pluck ripe tomatoes off the vine, soft mouth them until he got into his dog house. Not a tooth mark on the soft skin. The the moment he was safe inside his nest, chomp. Tomato juice all over the inside of his domicile. When took him camping he retrieved watermelon rinds from the fire…

    No stones however.

  2. I had a cocker spaniel who would swallow rocks. He would swallow anything, as long as you tossed it towards him like a doggie treat.
    Do omnivorous dogs outgrow this trait, or is it something you have to live with for ever?

  3. Very puzzling re: your Pyrs compulsive eating -I have had the breed for around 50 years and never encountered that problem. In fact the opposite is often true as they can be picky eaters. Your vet apparently no suggestions…? Sounds as it could be psychological.


  4. I had a much beloved giant schnauzer that was a pica dog. He ate rocks, chips of cement, tree branches, rose thorns, toilet paper (off the damn roll!) pretty much anything he could get his mouth on. Because of the worries and unpleasantness you mention, I tried a lot of things. The best thing that seemed to help cut down on adult dog pica was giving him doggie vitamins.

    Naturally, he didn’t want to eat those. But they really did help.