How to Stop My Dog From Eating Worms? 2 Methods That Will Work

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

It’s kind of crazy to me that dogs seem to eat almost everything.

Has that got something to do with their desire to stay full? Or are they just greedy?

I had to pause when I saw my dog eating worms as I was quite horrified. What was going on? How to stop my dog from eating worms?

The best way to stop a dog from eating worms (garden worms, earthworms, all kinds of worms!) is through training and ensuring they are well-fed and getting all their nutritional needs. Occasional treats should be given to them to satisfy their cravings.

While doing my research, it led me to discover why they behave this way and how I managed to stop this behavior.

Let’s find out more in this post.

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why do dogs dig for worms
Dear Dog Owner

Why do dogs eat worms?

You should realize that dogs are very curious animals.

They like to sniff around and put strange things in their mouths.

Disgusting as that may be, it is their nature to explore and try things out.

Here are some of the possible reasons that your dog might be digging around for worms.

Curiosity

As most of us know, dogs are curious by nature, especially when they are puppies. The same behavior can also be seen in adult dogs so you should not be too surprised to find this out.

While poking around, your dog will be curious to know if an object is food or not, which leads to them trying it out.

Doggy says, consider reading this too: What To Do if a Puppy Poops 2 Hours After Eating?

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Pica

Pica is a condition that can occur in humans and dogs where one craves and eats non-food items.

In some dogs, they may only stick to eating one particular item for example paper or grass, while other dogs might find eating several different kinds of non-food items normal.

This can be very dangerous to your dog as the items they ingest may be toxic and cause serious health problems.

Another potential problem this causes is swallowing hard objects that cannot be digested or can get lodged in their intestinal tract.

It typically happens to objects that have the owner’s scent, which might give a dog the wrong impression that it is safe to eat it.

Natural scavengers

Most dogs are scavengers by nature. Their instinct tells them to eat whatever they can since they may not know when the next meal might be.

Even now that they are domesticated and receiving regular meals, they simply cannot resist the urge to fill their stomach.

Doggy says, you might like this too: Dog Bobbing Head Around Food Bowl [Explained]

They like the taste

If your dog has tried eating worms previously and is doing it again, it might be due to the fact that they find worms yummy.

Gross, but our taste buds are very different. You know what, I think I have seen some people eat worms before too. Strange world we are living in.

Anyways, your dog might simply be enjoying a worm as a protein-packed snack.

Hunter mentality

There are several breeds of dogs that have a strong hunting instinct.

This trait makes them highly territorial and probably makes them think that the worm is prey.

No guesses for what they might do to the worm.

dog digging for worms

How to stop my dog from eating worms?

There are a couple of steps you can take to prevent your dog from eating worms again. They take time to implement and be patient if you do not see immediate results.

Dog behavior can be changed through positive reinforcement, but it takes a while so do give them the space they need. Another area that you should look into is their diet.

Since we know what causes them to behave this way, we can reverse engineer a solution.

* note: if you suspect that your dog has Pica, you should consult a professional vet for advice. There might be other deep-rooted problems such as anxiety or deficits in their diet that require immediate attention.

Doggy says, read this too: Why do dogs sleep with their tongues out? Should you be worried?

Positive Reinforcement Training

“Worm training” is an important part of correcting your dog’s penchant to dig up those slimy worms.

How does it work though?

The first thing to do is to introduce the command to your dog.

You can use “no” or “stop” as the command and continue to use it whenever it displays any other kind of undesirable behavior.

This can be useful in teaching it to stop doing things that are not right and not limited to just stopping them from eating worms.

Another way is to use a specific command such as “yucky” or “yucks” whenever it tries to eat a worm.

This is useful if you do not want it to get confused with generic “no” commands.

Whichever command you use, always make sure to praise it when it follows your instructions.

At the start, it is highly likely that your dog will not follow the command, so you should ensure that you are standing close to it and give it a light tug on its collar followed by the command to bring your point across.

During this time, you can also introduce a distraction when you see your dog attempting to eat a worm.

Bring along its favorite chew toy or ball when you go for walks and toss it when you see your dog misbehaving.

You should also try to avoid letting your dog come into contact with worms as much as possible.

For example, after the rain stops, worms commonly appear.

Be mindful of letting your dog out to play during this time.

When you are taking your dog out for a walk, you should also pay attention to areas where it tries to search for worms and avoid these areas.

Sometimes, out of sight, out of mind works very well for our dogs too.

There’s one more trick that worked wonders for a friend of mine.

Try spraying your dog’s mouth with mouthwash before heading out.

It seems to make them dislike the worms and lose interest in them very quickly!

Doggy says, read this too: Can Chihuahuas Live Or Sleep Outside? Know The Dangers

Well Balanced Diet

Is your dog getting the right amount of food and nutrition?

If they are not sufficiently fed, they may tend to seek out extra food to fill their tummy (although in most cases they are simply following their instinct and gobble whatever they can find).

Ensuring that your dog is receiving the right diet is important not only to keep it satisfied but is also critical for its overall health and growth.

Make sure that they are getting their food at the right time, and in between meal times, you can feed them with some snacks.

I am personally feeding both my dogs Ollie fresh dog food, the best decision I have made!

Right now, our readers get 60% off their first order, so if you’re not taking advantage, I don’t know what to say!

Doggy says, read this too: Why do dogs sleep with their bum facing you? 6 reasons to make you smile

Are worms harmful to dogs?

Generally speaking, worms are pretty harmless to your dog.

However, because of the way they live and the environment of their habitat, there are a few potential dangers posed to your dog if it consumes them.

Worms eat organic matter, and that includes soil, dead plants, fungi, etc.

The problem is, that there is a lot of nasty stuff in soil that we cannot see with our naked eye, and these nasties can really cause serious issues with your dog.

For us humans, we have a number of ways to mitigate these issues.

We can gut a worm and remove the organs that contain the dangerous elements.

We can also cook the worms over very high temperatures and kill them off.

And did you know that in worm farming, these little critters are fed vegetables and other healthy food?

By doing so, it is likely that they do not develop nasty parasites and bacteria.

But, obviously, your dog can’t do all of that, so that makes eating worms pretty dangerous for them. Let us dig a bit deeper.

Bacteria

First up on the villains billboard is the omnipresent bacteria.

There are both good and bad bacteria, and it is the bad ones that can really do some serious damage to your dog.

Although it is uncommon, your dog can get infected with Blastomycosis, an infection caused by a fungus that is present in moist soil.

It can lead to respiratory problems as well as weight loss and loss of appetite.

In serious cases, it can lead to blindness, seizures, and skin lesions.

Chemicals

If your dog is running through farms, gardens, or areas where there are lots of human activities, it is quite likely that chemicals are present in the soil as well.

This can come from the use of pesticides or any other sprays or solutions that contains harmful chemicals.

Although the amount is very unlikely to cause any damage to your dog, if left undetected, it can lead to serious illnesses such as cancer.

Parasites

Getting parasites in your dog’s body is extremely dangerous and is the most serious problem when they eat worms.

There are many parasites that can be found in the soil such as roundworms, ringworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and hookworms.

These parasites can create a myriad of health problems for your dog, especially puppies, ranging from skin lesions, intestinal blood loss, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can even pose a death risk.

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Thank you. The rest of the article continues below.

Doggy says, read this too: My Dog Screamed and Died [Finding Closure]

What to do if my dog ate some worms?

If you suspect or witnessed your dog ingesting some worms, you should keep track of their behavior for a few days.

Things to look out for include changes in behavior, becoming lethargic, developing a fever, runny stools, and the appearance of worms in their poop (in the case of roundworms and tapeworms).

They are white and can often be seen clearly.

Although there shouldn’t be much of an issue in most cases, it is better to be safe than sorry and monitor them closely.

From this point, you should also train your dog to stop eating worms! And make sure you bring them in for regular yearly checkups.

If you discover anything abnormal, send them to the vet without delay.

Doggy says, read this too: How long is a day for a dog?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why does my dog roll on worms?

This might seem like somewhat strange behavior to us but it is probably something instinctive for dogs. It links back to when dogs have to hunt for food, and they roll themselves in dirt or even the poop of plant-eating animals to disguise their smell. They are even known to roll in carcasses too.

Why Does My Dog Dig for Worms?

Again, this ties back to a dog’s ancestry and is common in many breeds of dogs. By digging, they are behaving just as their ancestors would long ago, trying to dig up underground animals. This is part of their natural instinct and is generally not a problem unless they start eating worms (it seems they enjoy grub worms!), which needs to be corrected.

In Conclusion: How to Stop My Dog From Eating Worms?

Although this behavior can be quite concerning, you need to keep a cool head and figure out why your dog is doing so.

In most cases, they are just messing around and would probably hate the taste of worms, but if it becomes something that happens more regularly, that’s when you need to take further action.

Check out other dog behavior articles such as why does my dog look at me when he eats, why is my puppy walking funny, why do dogs flip their ears inside out, and many more on our blog!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

2 Comments

  1. Can I used any type of mouthwash to spray in my dogs mouth to help them to stop eating worms?

    • Hey Sheri, I do not recommend using mouthwash or any kind of spray as a way to stop your dog from eating worms.

      Firstly, it’s unclear if the mouthwash has any ingredients that can harm your dog.

      Secondly, using a deterrent is ultimately not as effective as positive reinforcement training where the desired behavior will stick permanently.

      Hope this helps!

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