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Q: We recently adopted a 5 year old neutered male beagle from a local animal shelter.  He has a bad habit of eating anything off the floor in the house such as paper, cardboard, tissues, napkins.  Outside of the house he will eat twigs and just about anything he can find.  We are feeding him a well balanced dog food twice a day in an attempt to discourage this behavior.  We are concerned about internal damage due to ingesting foreign objects.  Any suggestions you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

A:  Some dogs seem to have an abnormal appetite or craving for these non-food substances. It is probably not related to a dietary deficiency as most commercial dog foods contain all the nutrients that they need. The ingestion of large amounts of paper or tissues can cause an obstruction in the intestines which can be serious and may require surgery  Chewing and swallowing sticks and twigs can result in trauma to the throat area and possibly a puncture in the wall of the stomach or intestine. It is important to avoid leaving paper materials around the house where the dog has access to them. They can easily be placed on a shelf or table where he cannot reach them.
A covered waste basket should be used to discard old tissues and papers.
Dogs have a natural “chewing instinct”. A variety of safe chewable toys should be available to him at all times. When going outside for a walk, some dogs like to carry a favorite toy in their mouth. This will decrease the chance of them picking up something that is harmful. A “gentle leader” used on walks will allow you to apply mild tension to the muzzle and prevent him from eating foreign objects. If nothing else works, a basket muzzle can be applied to his head. These are comfortable and will prevent him from eating sticks, rocks, and other objects. The gentle leaders and basket muzzles are available at most pet stores.

William Lucker, DVM

Dr. Lucker graduated from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine in 1966. He completed a fourteen month internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the Henry Bergh Memorial Hospital of the ASPCA in New York City. He remained there another year as a resident staff veterinarian. After practicing in the Morristown area for three years, Dr. Lucker joined the staff of Oradell Animal Hospital in 1971. Dr. Lucker is a general practitioner with special interests in cardiology and obstetrics. He has received numerous continuing education certificates from the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association. He sees appointments at Oradell Animal Hospital as well as our Hasbrouck Heights office. Dr. Lucker enjoys fishing, skiing and photography.