Rocks in Guts

Rocks rads

Second in a series

Harvey, a rather handsome and genuinely sweet spaniel mix, carried a laundry list of behavior symptoms. His pica (eating non-food items) was priority one because it could kill him. Folks are often amused by the bizarre items consumed by other people’s pets but the mirth is singularly lacking when it happens at your house. Intestines naturally push and squeeze ingesta (food) in the inevitable direction of a creature’s rear end. When junk gets stuck along the way, peristaltic movements come to an abrupt stop.

Whenever Harvey’s dietary indiscretion acted up on him his head and tail drooped and he lost interest in food and play. Don and Diane knew right away that he needed to see a doctor. They were right. An object lodged in the intestine, pressing relentlessly against the soft inner wall, stops blood from flowing through the local capillaries. Dying intestinal tissue breaks down quickly and leaks fluid, along with prodigious quantities of bacteria. The result is a raging septic peritonitis – a potential catastrophe. Surgery to remove the offending object and correct the damage is an emergency procedure. Junk eaters like Harvey are not class clowns; their guts are time bombs.

Why did Harvey eat rocks? Some people posit that it’s boredom and that painting Bitter Apple or hot pepper sauce on random rubble might discourage this perilous proclivity. They would be wrong. Research has shown that chronic nausea is most often the culprit.

Dogs are not little people in furry suits. They manage their discomfort differently than we do. Rather than Hoovering yard debris like Harvey does, other queasy dogs may lick surfaces excessively, including floors, walls, their legs or the clothing or skin of their people. To unravel the real reason for Harvey’s aberrant eating habits I referred him to a veterinary internist. An abdominal ultrasound evaluation and endoscopic exam with biopsies found chronic inflammatory bowel disease. His behavior was a symptom of trouble elsewhere in his body – it was not “all his head”.

Next week: Freaked-out by storms, home alone, and the clothes dryer. A laundry list indeed.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.