Almost all of our canine friends share one common trait: They love to eat. In fact, dogs will eat just about anything. The list includes meat, fruits and veggies, and even things they're not supposed to consume, like socks and dirt. Another strange thing that you might notice your dog munching on is grass.
Many dog owners report their four-legged friends chowing down on the green stuff while they're on their daily walk or during a bathroom break in the backyard. It turns out that eating grass is relatively common among our furry companions. But why do dogs eat grass? And even more importantly, is it a problem?
The answer to this second question isn't as simple as yes or no. While eating grass may not be a major health hazard in and of itself, it could indicate an underlying medical issue. And it's possible that eating grass could make your dog sick, even if they aren't suffering from a medical problem.
Read on to find out more about grass-eating behavior in dogs, including why they do it and when it could be unsafe.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
The truth is that there isn't one simple answer to the question, "Why do dogs eat grass?" There are several possible reasons, and even the top veterinary experts don't know for sure why our canine companions do this. It's also completely possible that your dog simply likes the taste of grass.
Some of the additional possible reasons your dog eats grass include:
There is a common belief that dogs eat grass when they have an upset stomach and that ingesting grass helps make them vomit in order to feel better. While this is possible, the evidence shows that it isn't common.
Studies suggest that most dogs aren't sick before they eat grass. And less than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit afterward. So, while it is possible for a dog who is feeling sick to eat grass and then vomit afterwards, there isn't as strong of a cause-and-effect link as some people think.
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Your dog's ancient canine ancestors had to scavenge in order to survive. Wild dogs eat animal matter and plant matter — our canine friends are technically omnivores. This means that your dog might eat grass because it's an instinctual grazing behavior. This behavior may have been passed down from your dog's ancestors to your modern-day canine companion.
Pica is the medical term for a dog craving and ingesting non-food items. Those items can be almost anything: Rocks, dirt, socks, shoes, coins, batteries, and — you guessed it — grass. Of course, eating grass is usually far less dangerous for your dog than, say, rocks or batteries.
You'll want to seek out your veterinarian's help if your dog seems to constantly ingest non-food items, as these things could get lodged in the stomach and cause a serious and even life-threatening intestinal blockage.
Boredom or Anxiety
Did you know that dogs might eat grass when they're suffering from stress or anxiety? Our four-legged friends exhibit a wide range of odd behaviors in response to anxiety, like loud vocalizations, house soiling, and ingesting things they shouldn't, grass among them. Contact your vet if you think your dog might have anxiety.
There is also a related but simpler explanation for a dog's grass-eating behavior: They're bored. If a dog doesn't have a proper outlet for their pent-up energy, they might start tearing things apart in the house and chewing on whatever they find. That thing might just happen to be grass. For dog anxiety, choose our Calm chew. It's designed to address overall stress with key ingredients like melatonin and l-theanine.
Another possibility is that your dog is suffering from a nutritional deficiency. This means that a certain nutritional need isn't being met; there isn't enough of a particular nutrient in your dog's diet. As a response, some dogs try in vain to glean nutrients from whatever material is nearby, like grass.
Grass is, in fact, a decent source of fiber. It's possible that a dog eats grass as a way to add some roughage to the diet. Talk to your vet about putting Fido on a high-fiber diet if it's found that your pet needs a little more fiber in their meals.
Some dogs have been known to eat grass when they're suffering from an intestinal worm or parasite infestation. Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and giardia are a few possibilities. If your dog's grass eating has appeared out of nowhere and it won't stop, this could be the cause.
Can Eating Grass Be Dangerous?
Why do dogs eat grass, exactly? We've learned that in some cases, grass eating is relatively harmless. Dogs might chow down on the green stuff simply because they like grass, because they're bored, or because they're grazing.
However, grass eating may mean your dog is suffering from an intestinal parasite, or that they have a nutritional deficiency.
Even if your dog doesn't have a medical issue, eating grass is not always safe. That's because grass can be treated with things like pesticides, fertilizer, and herbicides. The same goes for house plants (some of which can be toxic in and of themselves) and other plant material, too. As you can imagine, you don't want your dog ingesting these things. Ingesting toxic chemicals can result in serious health problems.
If you see your dog exhibiting signs of illness like drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy after they've eaten grass, see a veterinarian straight away.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Grass?
How do you get your dog to stop eating grass? Pet parents who have trained their dog to respond to verbal commands can give a "come" or "heel" command to halt the dog's behavior. Otherwise, you may need to redirect your dog's attention. Consider bringing along treats or toys on walks or during bathroom breaks, and distract Fido with them when he looks like he's about to eat grass. And, of course, you'll want to keep your dog on a leash so that you have control over their movements.
If you’re having trouble getting your dog to stop eating grass, it’s time to call your vet. He or she can evaluate your dog and find out if there’s a medical problem. They’ll treat it as necessary. If there’s no medical issue, your vet can help you with behavior modification and training solutions to get your dog to stop.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass, and How Should I Respond?
Why do dogs eat grass? There isn't one single answer, but several possibilities. Your dog might eat grass because it's instinctual grazing behavior, because it makes them throw up, or because they simply like the taste. An anxious dog might eat grass, or it could simply be a sign of boredom.
It's also possible that your dog has nutritional deficiency or an intestinal worm infestation. A dog suffering from pica might also choose to eat grass.
Here's the bottom line: When your dog is eating grass every time they go outdoors, or if other symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting are accompanying the behavior, it's time to see the vet. An underlying medical issue like intestinal parasites could be to blame.
In general, pet owners shouldn't let their dogs' grass eating become a habit. Even if there isn't anything medically wrong, it's not worth the risk of your dog getting sick from ingesting toxic chemicals that could have been sprayed on grass.Would you like more advice and insight into your dog's behavior, health, and wellness? Visit the Native Pet blog today.