Why is My Dog Eating Drywall? Understanding and Stopping the Habit

As a dog owner, coming home to find remnants of drywall scattered across your floor can be upsetting and confusing. You may be wondering – why does my canine companion suddenly seem intent on destroying my home? Rest assured this is actually a relatively common problem that many pet parents face. The reasons behind this destructive behavior vary, but with some detective work, patience, and training you can get to the root of the issue.

In this article, we’ll explore the potential motivations behind drywall chewing, look at the health implications involved, and provide actionable tips to discourage this habit and set your dog up for success. Let’s get to the bottom of this!

INTERESTING FACTS

Fact 1: Puppies and younger dogs are the most likely culprits. Drywall chewing often starts during the teething phase.
Fact 2: There’s no real nutritional value in drywall for dogs. It simply satisfies a behavioral need.
Fact 3: Dogs can hear noises inside walls that humans can’t detect. They may be trying to get at pests.
Fact 4: Pica, the tendency to eat non-food items, doesn’t only apply to drywall. Dogs may eat rocks, soil, etc.
Fact 5: Older homes may have lead paint under the drywall – a health hazard if ingested.

The Potential Reasons Your Dog Is Drawn to Drywall

Dogs don’t destroy things out of spite. There’s always an underlying motivation behind the behavior. Here are some of the most common theories as to why your pooch may be snacking on drywall:

Your Anxious Pooch is Trying to Escape

Some dogs eat drywall as a way to attempt to literally “escape” from a situation that is provoking fear or anxiety. This is referred to as obsessive destruction or fearful escape behavior. Your home should be a safe haven for your dog, but sometimes things can unintentionally trigger anxiety. Fireworks, guests, loud noises, or even rearranged furniture could be sparking worry. Signs your dog is acting out of fear include cowering, tucked tail, raised hair, and enlarged pupils. Drywall destruction may occur alongside pacing, hiding, barking, or “accidents.”

Separation Distress Leads to Destruction

Separation anxiety is another common catalyst for drywall demolition sessions. Dogs are pack animals, and prone to distress when left alone. Symptoms of separation anxiety include following you everywhere, getting agitated during your pre-departure routine, and destructive behavior minutes after you leave. Eating drywall, door frames, furniture and more provides a distraction. To reduce separation stress, use positive reinforcement training and provide puzzle toys when you go out. Consider doggy daycare as well.

Your Dog’s Predatory Instincts are Triggered

Dogs have incredibly sensitive hearing – far better than our human ears. Your pup may be hearing pests scurrying within the walls, triggering their natural predatory drive. Instinct tells them there’s prey to hunt in there. They use their jaws and paws to tear away at the drywall and access their “prize.” This explains why the damage is often focused on one area.

Boredom vs. Attention-Seeking Behavior

Lack of stimulation is another possible factor. A bored dog with excess energy may start ripping up drywall for some fun. However, don’t confuse boredom with attention-seeking. Some dogs may act out because they want you to engage with them. Any reaction from you, even scolding, provides the attention they crave. Pay attention to when the behavior happens to determine if it’s boredom or attention-seeking. Boredom tends to happen when you are away, attention-seeking when you are home but busy.

PRO TIP: If you notice sudden behavioral changes in your dog, start a diary. This creates a timeline that helps identify patterns and assists vets or trainers in troubleshooting.

It’s the Puppy Teething Phase

Puppies teethe for around 6 months and love gnawing on anything they can sink their sharp little teeth into. Drywall and wood trim offer an enticing chew toy for relieving their sore gums.

Provide plenty of edible teething toys to deter destruction. Cool the toys in the fridge for extra relief. And remember – supervision is key to limiting damage during the chewing phase.

The Texture is Intriguing

For some dogs, drywall simply provides an interesting texture and crunchy sensation they can’t resist. Plaster is powdery and crumbles easily when chewed. The sound may be satisfying as well.

Try providing safe chew toys with varying textures and sounds to match this appeal. Items that can be “demolished” are especially rewarding.

Is Drywall Toxic? Understanding the Risks

Drywall is made from gypsum plaster pressed between sheets of paper or fiberglass. The plaster is a mineral, while the paper facing contains cellulose. On its own, drywall is not poisonous. However, it presents both short and long-term health risks for dogs. Consuming large chunks can cause gastrointestinal obstructions or even perforations as it passes through the intestinal tract. It does not break down easily. The plaster coating and paper contain minuscule amounts of minerals and mold spores that can cause toxicity with large consumption. Older drywall may also harbor traces of lead-based paint underneath if the walls were not properly stripped. Lead causes heavy metal poisoning when ingested.

Health Risk Description
Intestinal Blockage When a dog ingests a significant amount of drywall material, it can create a blockage in the digestive system. This can lead to discomfort, pain, and potentially life-threatening complications that may require surgery to resolve.
Gastrointestinal Irritation Consuming drywall can cause gastrointestinal irritation, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms can be uncomfortable for the dog and may require medical intervention to manage.
Toxic Substances Drywall material may contain toxic substances such as lead or asbestos. If ingested, these substances can cause serious health problems for the dog, ranging from neurological issues to cancer.

What are the Long-Term Dangers?

A one-time ingestion likely won’t harm your dog, especially if you only notice shredded fragments around. However, habitual drywall feasting can cause some chronic health issues. Repeated consumption can lead to intestinal irritation, bowel inflammation, vomiting, loss of appetite, and malnutrition or dehydration if it fully blocks the GI tract. Dogs who display obsessive destructive tendencies towards drywall should be evaluated for underlying conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, thyroid disease, or other nutrient deficiencies.

Your vet can run tests if they suspect your dog may have consumed toxic amounts of drywall or lead paint. X-rays may reveal gastrointestinal obstructions.

Act Fast When Your Dog Eats Drywall!

If you catch your dog gobbling up drywall or see the aftermath, stay calm but take action right away. Here’s how to respond:

  • Have a Plan in Place: Firstly, keep your vet’s emergency phone number handy. Bookmark it or keep it on your fridge. Time is crucial in cases of suspected poisoning or obstruction. The quicker you call, the better.
  • Don’t Induce Vomiting Before Speaking to a Vet: Your instinct may be to immediately make your dog vomit up the drywall. However, this can do more harm than good. Only induce vomiting at home if your vet gives you the green light. There are risks of aspiration.
  • Provide Details: Let your vet know how much drywall you think was consumed when it happened, and any symptoms you’ve observed. Bring a sample of the drywall with you if lead toxicity is suspected.
  • Withhold Food Temporarily: Your vet may advise you to skip your dog’s next meal and restrict food and treats for 6-12 hours. This allows the GI tract to settle and pass the drywall naturally before their next meal.
  • Monitor Closely: Keep an eye out for vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, constipation, or straining. Take note if the drywall is visible in the waste. Contact your vet promptly if symptoms persist beyond 24 hours. Serious cases need veterinary treatment.

Can Your Vet Help Manage and Prevent This Behavior?

Your vet’s office is a great resource for curbing drywall chewing habits. They can check for underlying medical issues that may be provoking the behavior, such as thyroid disorders. Vets can also refer you to qualified dog trainers or behaviorists who specialize in destructive behaviors. Medications may be prescribed in extreme cases, but behavioral modification is ideal long-term. Your vet can advise you on specific deterrents as well. Regular wellness exams allow your vet to monitor your dog’s dietary and behavioral changes over time. Don’t be afraid to bring up any concerns!

PRO TIP: Always notify your home insurance provider regarding instances of substantial property damage by your pet. Most policies have exclusions, but documentation is key!

Preventing Dogs From Eating Drywall

Now we get to the big question – how do we stop this destructive chewing for good? Here are some effective tactics:

Bust Boredom and Excess Energy

Lack of exercise and mental stimulation is a common culprit. Make sure your dog gets adequate activity daily. This means at least 20-30 minutes of walks and active playtime. Provide puzzle toys stuffed with treats, rotating novel toys to keep things exciting, and access to safe chew bones so they have an appropriate outlet. Consider fun classes like obedience training, agility, or canine parkour to tire them out mentally and physically. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog!

Toy Type Benefits Examples
Interactive Toys Keep dogs engaged and mentally stimulated. Kong, puzzle balls, treat dispensers
Chew Toys Provide a constructive chewing outlet. Nyla bones, raw hides, bully sticks
Plush Toys Appeal to natural prey drive. Soft squeaky toys, rope toys
Distraction Devices Gain attention with sound or movement. Hard rubber balls, frisbees, ropes

Ease Anxiety and Fear

If stress or fear is the catalyst, focus on creating a calmer environment for your dog. Use pheromone diffusers and calming treats, sprays, or supplements to take the edge off. Try positive reinforcement anxiety training to build confidence. Start slow with short departures. Reward calm behavior, and ignore anxious outbursts. Mask outside noise that may be causing alarm. White noise machines and ambient music are very soothing.

Dog-Proof Your Home

Manage your environment to remove temptation. Use baby gates to restrict access when you’re away. Apply cord protectors to exposed electrical wires and block access to tempting spots behind furniture. Trim shrubs where pests could nest. Consider installing acrylic sheeting as a protective barrier on lower wall areas within reach. Secure firmly with construction adhesive. Spray areas with deterrent sprays designed to curb chewing habits. Some include anti-bite additives.

Dog-Proof Your Home

Remember, safety comes first!

While we’ve covered many possible motivations, the exact reason your dog is snacking on drywall may require some sleuthing. Keep notes on when it happens and any correlating factors. Does it occur when you are gone? Only by a certain wall? During storms? Patience and gentle positive reinforcement will help guide your dog to better habits. Work with professionals and your veterinarian as needed.

While chewing behaviors can be trying, it helps to remember dogs aren’t doing this out of spite or anger. There’s always an underlying cause. With compassion and commitment, you can solve this puzzle together!

Conclusion

Preventing your dog from eating drywall requires patience, consistency, and the application of appropriate solutions. Whether it’s training techniques, providing appropriate chew toys, increasing mental stimulation, addressing anxiety or boredom, or consulting with a veterinarian, it’s essential to identify the underlying causes and implement a plan to protect your furry friend’s health and your home’s integrity.

FAQ

Why do dogs eat drywall in the first place?

Dogs chew drywall due to boredom, separation anxiety, prey drive, attention-seeking behavior, pregnancy/nursing habits, teething puppies, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or nutritional deficiencies.

How can I stop my dog from eating drywall?

Provide more exercise, mental stimulation, access to appropriate chew toys, anxiety training, pheromones, or medications if needed. Dog-proof your home and use deterrent sprays.

Is it dangerous for my dog to eat drywall?

Large amounts can cause obstruction or toxicity. Seek vet care if they display symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite.

What are good alternatives to occupy my dog?

Interactive puzzle toys, chew bones, training classes, and daily physical activity and playtime. Also, rotate novel toys to keep them engaged.

Will my dog eventually grow out of chewing on walls?

With proper training, exercise, and addressing underlying issues, dogs can learn healthier habits. However, the behavior may return during times of stress if it stems from anxiety.

How typical is pica behavior in dogs?

Eating non-food items is very common in dogs, especially during teething or if bored. However, obsessive pica could indicate an underlying disorder.

What symptoms require urgent vet care?

Contact your vet immediately if you notice symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling or pain, constipation, or bloody stools.

How can I best communicate with my vet about this problem?

Come prepared with details on when the behavior started, how much may have been ingested, what changes you’ve observed and steps taken. Bring a sample of the drywall if old enough to contain lead paint.

How are boredom and attention-seeking different?

Bored dogs destroy items when alone. Attention-seeking pups destroy items while owners are present but busy or ignoring them.

Does the type of paint matter if drywall is consumed?

Drywall paint manufactured before the 1970s may contain lead-based paint, posing toxicity risks if consumed. Newer acrylic paint is less hazardous.

Are there any home remedies?

Do NOT induce vomiting at home – contact your vet first. Withhold food temporarily, provide extra water, monitor waste, and watch for signs of obstruction or toxicity.

How can dog trainers help?

Professional trainers have experience with behavior modification techniques, anxiety reduction protocols and recommending enrichment tools to stop destructive habits.

What breeds are prone to drywall chewing?

High-energy breeds like Labradors, Jack Russell Terriers, Australian Shepherds, and Border Collies are more likely to be destructive when bored.

How much drywall ingestion is truly dangerous?

Any amount of drywall may cause obstructions if consumed. Toxicity is only likely after eating large quantities over time. Consult your vet with any concerns.

What signs require urgent action?

Seek emergency vet care if you notice symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling or pain, constipation, or bloody stools.