I have a 6.5 year old male chocolate Labrador, sterilized, who currently weighs about 38kg. When he was younger he weighed about 35kg but at some point he reached almost 40kg.

I'm not certain he looks that overweight, especially for a Labrador, but the veterinarian keeps saying he should ideally weigh about 32kg. Even though I was already feeding him rather low according to the bag's feeding guide (for-sterilized food, amount was supposedly for weight-loss programs for 30kg dogs, although we add maybe a teaspoon of olive oil a day plus the occasional snack) and most weekdays he gets close to 2 hours of walking per day, he wasn't losing weight and the veterinarian actually said to disregard the feeding guide and cut down another 10% in quantity.

I coincidentally just started to mix some dental food with his regular food after he got a dental cleaning, but its feeding guide is pretty identical to that of his regular food so I just calculated them together to weigh 10% less. But his last weighing showed he went from 37kg to 38kg so the veterinarian said he must still be getting too much food.

Now for the last several weeks he started to eat dirt from plant pots; he's done it some times in the past but now it's going on for weeks whenever he's in the balcony.

Could it be he's actually experiencing vitamin deficiency? Perhaps it's a different problem, or just his reaction to feeling his food getting reduced? And why is he still gaining weight?


2 Answers 2


The condition of eating non-food items is called pica. You are correct that it might be caused by nutritional deficiency, but there are numerous other possible causes as well, such as an underlying illness, or it could strictly be behavioral. When it's behavior, there still might be an underlying problem such as stress, boredom, separation anxiety, or something like that, or there could be no obvious cause, and it just appears to be an inexplicable compulsion.

Since your dog just started doing this so frequently recently, I would take him to the vet to make absolutely sure it's not being caused by an illness. If you honestly have reduced the dog's meal intake as well, the unexpected weight gain despite the dog being on a diet is also something that you might want to investigate. Weight gain can also be caused by illnesses. It's possible your vet told you your dog is still eating too much because it is fairly common with owners whose animals are overweight for their indulging their pets way too much to be the root cause, and they will feel bad and cheat on their dog's diet by constantly giving it extra food. If you are strictly following the diet, then it seems odd that the dog gained and not lost weight.

If illness is ruled out, you might think to any changes to the dog's environment that could cause a change in behavior. The obvious is the change in diet. Maybe it's even the case that as you said the dog is hungry due to the sudden reduction in portion size, and so he's eating dirt.

  • Thanks. I doubt it's separation anxiety because he has access to the balcony with these plant pots when people are around him. He actually sometimes just waits by the door waiting for someone to open it for him and then we find out he's gone eating dirt. He should get some shot not too far from now, so I could ask during that visit at the vetrinarian, but can you name some of the common medical conditions that may induce weight gain?
    – TLSO
    Mar 27, 2022 at 20:08
  • I'm not remotely an expert on vet stuff, but I know that hypothyroidism or other endocrine disorders can cause it. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of illnesses could have weight gain as a symptom, to be honest.
    – Kai
    Mar 27, 2022 at 21:08
  • 1
    pets.webmd.com/dogs/hypothyroidism-in-dogs When looking up hypothyroidism in dogs, I found that Labrador Retrievers are actually a breed more predisposed to it, so it might be good to ask about.
    – Kai
    Mar 27, 2022 at 21:31
  • Yeah, it did come up in a seatch earlier but I'm not sure it matches my dog that much. But I will ask the veterinarian, although my dog already had blood test taken a couple of months ago because of the dental cleaning and he said it seems fine (there a "well, here there's... nah, it's fine" moment, but nothing was explained so I don't know what's the reference).
    – TLSO
    Mar 27, 2022 at 23:07
  • In my experience the vets accept a curious, not judging pet owner to ask a lots of questions ^^ It feels natural for me, wanting to know what is going on. Mar 29, 2022 at 10:39

Last Spring, we decided that it was time to fertilize and change out the soil in our raised garden box. While we were cleaning out the old soil, one of our dogs got into the fertilizer we purchased and ate a bunch of it.

Apparently, organic fertilizer often contains blood and bone that has been freeze dried and ground up because it is a way to increases nitrogen levels in soil. This probably smells like a prime meal for a dog.

Eating fertilizer can be harmful to dogs, so we ended up calling the vet. We were instructed to keep an eye on the dog, ensure that we prevent the dog from eating any vomit that may come up, and call again if he got worse.

If you have been fertilizing the plants in any way, your dog could just be smelling some part of the fertilizer. If your dog started to eat the soil after the 10% food reduction, it is possible that their nose is more sensitive (if I am hungry, my nose seems to work better).

I have no idea if organic fertilizer contains enough calories to make up for the missing 10% off their original diet. But if you are fertilizing your plants it is important that you prevent your dog from eating the soil. Even if you are not fertilizing, potting soil is often per-fertilized.

To prevent your dog from getting into the pots, you can probably find a screen to fit over the soil but still allow the plant to stick through. There is a plastic mesh designed to be placed at the bottom of flower pots that may work for this purpose. This plastic is easy to cut with a hand held clipper so you could make a cutout to allow the plant to pass. The plastic is kind of flexible, so it is easy to work with but you will want to reinforce it somehow if your dog is persistent.

Edited to fix amazon link part cause it was broken.

  • 1
    Welcome to pets.SE! Please add the relevant information from the links, so if it may brake the information is still available. May 9, 2022 at 6:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.