Our canine friends are an integral part of the family, and often are our best friend, confidant, exercise partner, and movie-watching cuddle buddy. Dogs have unique ways of communicating with each other, and they can use these same behaviors to communicate with you. While it may appear they are trying to entertain you with their sudden bursts of energy or tail chasing, these behaviors may be an indication of a serious problem. Understanding your dog’s odd and sometimes disgusting behavior is vital to know when veterinary care is necessary. Our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team explains four common dog behaviors, and what clues your dog is relaying about their health.  

#1: Why does my dog eat plastic, paper, and other weird things?

Maybe you have come home after an outing or a day of work to find your house full of ripped up toilet paper, your favorite shoes destroyed, your furniture shredded, or items missing from their usual places. In some cases, your guilt-stricken dog will be hiding or ignoring your wrath. Dogs who crave and ingest non-food items are exhibiting a behavioral condition called pica. Some dogs will focus on items like paper or rocks, while others will seek out rubber bands, plastic toys, golf balls, or drywall. Dogs with pica may be overly curious, or they may have a medical or behavior problem including:

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Diabetes
  • Nutritional deficiencies or imbalances 
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Generalized or separation anxiety
  • Boredom

Pica can cause serious medical problems for your dog, including cracked or damaged teeth, poisoning, and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders or blockages. If your dog is exhibiting this behavior, or if you notice items suddenly damaged or missing from your home, bring your dog in for a veterinary exam. GI blockage signs may not be immediately obvious, so bring them in for a veterinary exam as soon as possible. Your veterinarian may recommend blood work to rule out underlying medical conditions, as well as X-rays or an ultrasound to look for any blockages. Additionally, consider a veterinary behavioral consultation for your dog if all medical causes of pica have been ruled out.

#2: What does my dog get the zoomies?

From time to time, you may  have observed your dog abruptly run around your house for no apparent reason. This sudden burst of energy is referred to as a Frenetic Random Activity Period (FRAP), or, more commonly, a zoomie. Dogs typically do zoomies to release pent-up energy after prolonged confinement or rest. Zoomies are a normal dog behavior and often occur first thing in the morning, after a nap, a bath, an extended period in a crate, or a car ride. However, increasingly frequent FRAPs could be an indication your dog is not receiving adequate physical or mental exercise. If these FRAPs seem to be increasing, consider walking your dog more frequently or providing them with a variety of toys to decrease their boredom and ensure they remain active. If your dog is getting adequate exercise and you still notice more frequent zoomies, bring them in for a preventive care examination to check for any potential medical or behavior problems. 

#3: Why does my dog twitch or run in their sleep?

It may surprise you to learn your dog requires an average of 12 to 15 hours of sleep each day. During your dog’s daily naps, you may have seen them appear to be chasing a squirrel or a ball. Like humans, dogs experience a deep rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, and they dream once every 20 minutes. During REM sleep you may notice a change in your dog’s breathing pattern, or their eyes moving beneath their lids. However, REM sleep disorders may cause your pet’s muscles or legs to move in response to their dreams. This movement can become violent in some dogs and cause them to run into walls or attack objects. Dogs who twitch during sleep may also be having a seizure or suffering from some other brain disorder.  Make an appointment for your dog with their veterinarian if you notice any disruption in their sleep. REM sleep disorders can usually be managed with medication.

#4: Why does my dog yawn?

According to a recent study in National Geographic, dogs may yawn in response to their yawning owner. Contagious yawning is common among people, and you may yawn by reading about it. Such contagious yawning can occur in dogs if they see other pets or people yawn. Dogs may also yawn if they are anxious or stressed, so seek veterinary advice if you notice your dog is yawning frequently.

Call our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital office if you have any questions about your dog’s odd behavior, or to schedule an appointment to ensure they do not have an underlying medical or behavior problem.