Pica and iron deficiency?

We adopted our standard poodle, Philo, from a local shelter last November. He was 2.5 years old, and he weighed only 45 pounds (he is about 24 inches tall at the shoulder). His ribs and hip bones were very prominent--though he has a hard poodle coat, so they weren't visible.

As you might expect, he exhibited a number of problem behaviors that have greatly improved in the 4.5 months he has been with us. When he came home with us, we started him on Earthborn Holistic Great Plains Feast, because that was what I could get at the Tractor Supply in the small college town we live in. (We had not thought we would be chosen to adopt him, so, when we got the call, I had to move fast!)

We have kept him on Earthborn Holistic since then, alternating between Great Plains Feast, Meadow Feast, and Primitive Natural. He eats well, and, at his second vet visit earlier this month, he weighed 60 pounds. And his problem behaviors are much improved.

The one problem behavior that continues is shredding and eating paper: paper towels, magazines and catalogs, mail, any kind of paper. The shredding is not unexpected (our ALD Cosmo used to love shredding paper towels and paper napkins just for the fun of it), but Philo is truly eating the paper. 

I have read that eating paper could indicate an iron deficiency. I don't see iron mentioned specifically in the nutrition analyses for any of the recipes of Earthborn Holistic that we're feeding. Is there something we should be supplementing his diet with on this? His vet has not mentioned any concerns about anemia or iron deficiency--but I have not discussed the pica behavior with him yet.

Or could it be just a habit left over from the time when he was so undernourished, before we adopted him?

We really want to do our best for him. He is really a wonderful dog who has been through a lot. I'd really appreciate any advice!



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  • Okay, so first, iron is listed as ferrous sulfate on dog food ingredients lists. It's in all of the Earthborn formulas and in every other dog food that we recommend, as it's an AAFCO requirement. So no worries there. It's actually incredibly rare for a dog to have an iron deficiency unless he has a severe worm infestation or a bleeding disorder. If you really need reassurance, you can ask your vet to run bloodwork, but I really don't think you have anything to be concerned about. 
    Eating paper is pretty common, I think most dogs have done it at one time or another.  It's not a sign of any kind of nutritional deficiency, and it's not even really pica unless it's excessive. Even my Jasper, who is 4 years old and has never been deprived or malnourished in his life will occasionally munch on a little bit of toilet paper when he can get it. It may be a habit for Philo, perhaps left over from the days when he was starving, and I do think it will lessen with time. A bit of TP or paper towel won't hurt him, but I would do my absolute best to keep mail, catalogs, magazines, etc out of his reach, the ink and printing are probably not great things for him to be ingesting. 
    Also, don't be afraid to correct him when you catch him eating something inappropriate, or doing anything else he shouldn't. It's really easy to feel sorry for rescue dogs, especially one who has so obviously been badly treated, and to have lower expectations for them than we do for dogs we've raised from puppyhood; believe me, nobody knows that better than I do. :) But in the long run, we don't do them any favors by allowing them to get away with undesirable behaviors. It might be time to tell Philo that the honeymoon is over and hold him to higher standards....no pun intended. :)
    Thank you for saving this boy and giving him a loving home! 

    • This and I just think dogs get something chewy and think it's fun. My doodle has never had any lack of food and treats, never misses a meal and probably could lose a few pounds still will chew on some toilet paper and grass if she gets bored. 🤦🏽‍♀️ she drops it when we tell her leave it but she is 4 now and still does it lol. 

  • Thank you so, so much, Karen! This is very encouraging.

    Philo is so tall, and he counter- and table-surfs when we're not looking--so it has been tricky keeping paper out of his reach. But we will double-down on that.

    I really appreciate your reassurance and support. We do love Philo to bits!

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