It’s the million dollar question for people with trees in their garden: Is bark bad for dogs?
From being potentially toxic, to causing internal obstructions, bark is generally not a safe option for a dog to chew.
There are a few different reasons why your dog might be eating or chewing bark. Knowing why they are engaging in this behavior can help you avoid negative reinforcement and enable you to figure out how to solve the problem.
Just like humans, dogs can get bored easily if not properly entertained. If your dog isn’t getting enough stimulus through appropriate toys or exercise, they’re probably going to find other ways to amuse themselves.
Boredom can lead to building of bad habits and destructive behavior which can then result in sickness or injury.
Many dogs love to chew, and if they don’t have an appropriate toy or safe way to satisfy this urge, they will chew on whatever they can find. Tree bark, acorns and metal can all start to look pretty tasty if your dog is looking for its next chew toy.
Dogs who suffer from anxiety, especially separation anxiety, can resort to destructive chewing. Engaging in bark or stick chewing can be an outlet for dogs who do not feel comforted or safe in their surroundings.
Chewing creates a distraction from what is causing them to feel stressed. The act of chewing is a natural, primal behavior for dogs. Resorting to this type of behavior is comforting for dogs who don’t know what to do without their human.
Sometimes your dog is just looking for a snack. So many pups out there are treat-greedy and love finding their next nibble (Funyuns!). They will try anything they find to see if it tastes good and satisfies their hunger.
Trees might not even taste that good- they sure don’t look it!
However, if it is available to snack on, sometimes your dog can’t resist. If they find that it is edible, they might keep coming back for more. Tree bark also contains fiber, which might be lacking in your dog’s diet. If so, they will use it as a way to satisfy this nutritional need.
Many dog breeds have the instinct to chew, more so than other breeds. Check to see if your dog falls into this category.
Even if your dog is not on the list, chewing is a huge part of dog anatomy. Tree bark can be very enticing if your dog loves to chew. It breaks off easily, has a nice crunch, and there’s plenty of it to keep your dog entertained for hours.
Dogs can also suffer from a medical condition called Pica. Pica is seen in both humans and dogs and is a condition where you feel the need to eat non-food things. It can result from boredom, anxiety, or fear.
It has also been linked to more serious conditions like parasites, hormonal imbalances, OCD tendencies and vitamin deficiencies.
Animals who suffer from Pica won’t just chew the inedible object, but will attempt to swallow and digest it, potentially causing several medical issues.
It may seem harmless, but even if your dog is not ingesting the bark, chewing it can result in a number of serious medical issues. Eating bark or chewing wood is not a behavior you want your dog to engage in; it is important to discourage this as soon as you notice it happening.
If your dog is ingesting the bark instead of chewing it up and spitting it out, this can cause intestinal blockage and damage. If your dog eats too much too quickly, it can get stuck in their intestines, which could lead to expensive surgery to clear the obstruction.
There are many different types of tree bark that are toxic to dogs, such as oak and black walnut. They have chemicals such as gallotannin in all parts of the tree that when eaten can cause tremors, incoordination and seizures.
Not only can tree bark be toxic, but the mulch made from tree bark can include a bunch of added chemicals that can also harm your pup.
Bark and mulch that claim to be non-toxic can also cause adverse side effects to your dog.
Individual dogs can develop allergies to many different things in our world, including chemicals added to mulch for color or texture. To err on the safe side, you’ll want to keep your dog away from ingesting any kind of bark.
Even if they are not ingesting it, this is still a behavior that can cause harm to your best friend. Bark can be pretty rough, and certain kinds contain spikes or spines. Chewing this kind of material can cause harm to their teeth and gums.
Now that you know this behavior can be harmful to your dog, how do you keep them away? Many of the reasons why dogs resort to this act are due to a lack of appropriate and safe entertainment.
If your dog is bored, anxious, or a heavy chewer, you will want to find ways to keep them entertained with safe alternatives. Finding toys for heavy chewers that won’t rip apart in minutes can save your trees from canine destruction.
If your dog needs to be more entertained, look for toys that are a little more advanced, like puzzle treat dispensers, that will engage your dog both physically and mentally. If anxiety is the issue, check out these awesome tips for soothing an anxious dog.
Keeping your dog on a leash while outside can prevent them from wandering into your landscaping. You’ll want to make sure there is nothing around for your dog to get tangled up while roaming your backyard.
Building landscaping or gardening fences around your trees and shrubs could also prevent your dog from getting to these plants. You should also be sure to monitor your dog while outside.
Finally, pet owners should spend time with their pups and make sure they are getting plenty of exercise! Remember, a tired dog is a dog that will be less inclined to chew things that they aren’t supposed to.
We all know mishaps can’t be 100% avoided. Even your best efforts might not keep your dog out of the garden once or twice. To ensure that you are as safe as possible, you might want to look into mulch that is safer for dogs.
Pine, hemlock, and cedar are some of the safer kinds of mulch you can buy. These do not have toxic chemicals or add-ins that would be harmful to your dog.
No mulch is fully safe, though. Even these types can cause damage through chewing or can be choking hazards if swallowed. It is always a good idea to consult with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.
Is bark bad for dogs to chew or eat? The answer is a resounding yes.
Not only can large pieces of bark and wood cause stomach blockages in your dog, some types of wood also have toxic properties that can seriously put your dog’s life at risk. Talk about a doubly whammy.
Like any other large foreign object, bark can also be a choking hazard. If it has sharp edges, your pup is also in danger of getting cuts and scratches in its mouth and throat.
The best thing you can do is to prevent your dog from ever having the opportunity to chew or eat bark. To do this effectively, you have to firstly figure out why it is driven to seek out bark in the first place.
This could be due to boredom, anxiety, a medical condition called pica, or simply because they are a breed that especially likes to chew!
After you have pinpointed the cause, you will be able to come up with an effective solution. This may involve providing your dog with a wood-like toy alternative (SEE our recommendations here!), or even completely removing access to trees and mulch around your property.
Whatever it is that you need to do, do it! Removing your dog’s unhealthy bark-eating habit could save yourself expensive vet bills- not to mention your best friend’s life.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.