Have you ever seen your dog chew on grass? Veterinarians will tell you that they answer this question all day, every day which means lots of dogs eat grass. In fact, more than 67 percent of people say that their dog eats grass on a weekly basis.
The good news is that it’s common, it’s completely natural and it’s generally considered safe by vets. But, have you ever wondered why your dog does it?
Your beloved canine companion clearly isn’t a cow, so you might be confused when you see them eating grass. You might even be worried about it. While you might panic and think about the vomit you’ll be cleaning off the carpet later on, this behavior is not always cause for alarm.
Many dog owners worry that their pet eats grass to make themselves sick to get rid of something they’ve eaten, or because they’re feeling under the weather. Others think that eating grass is a sign that their dog is lacking in some nutrients. But the reason behind this foraging behavior isn’t entirely clear.
Dog owners and vets alike have often tried to figure out the underlying cause of dogs eating grass, but the behavior is still somewhat of a mystery. Even so, there are a few potential reasons why dogs engage in this odd behavior.
Theories About Why Dogs Eat Grass
There isn’t a scientifically definitive answer to the question of why dogs eat grass. And there aren’t a lot of research dollars being spent on this question, so we may never know for certain!
- Some sources claim that dogs eat grass when they need to vomit, but not many dogs – in fact, fewer than a quarter – actually vomit from eating grass.
- Other theories posit that grass-eating may improve digestion, help with intestinal worms, or fulfill an unmet nutritional need for fiber. Grass does contain some essential nutrients, but even dogs that already have a balanced, nutritious diet will sometimes eat grass.
- Yet another theory is that eating grass is a compulsive behavior signaling psychological distress.
Scientists point out that wild dogs aren’t strictly carnivores – they’re omnivores that scavenge, hunt, and include plants in their diet. Wild dogs may also ingest plants secondarily, by consuming whatever is in the stomachs of their herbivorous prey. So there’s a good possibility that eating grass is your domesticated pup’s way of making up for the plants that are missing in his kibble.
Possible Reasons Why Dogs Eat Grass
Although no one knows for sure why dogs engage in this behavior, many vets feel the reasons are psychological ones. Below, you’ll find information about some of the most common reasons of why, psychologically, dogs feel a need to eat grass, even when it makes them vomit.
Bored, Stressed or Upset
Some vets believe dogs eat grass because they’re bored, stressed, anxious, or upset about something. Dogs may be more likely to eat grass when they believe they’re alone in the backyard, which contributes to the idea that they are unhappy when they do so.
Other vets believe dogs eat grass because it gets their owners’ attention, which is something they want. Even if they’re being told to stop doing something, dogs perceive this as attention, and it’s good enough for many of them.
In both cases, dogs generally don’t chew grass as often when their owners are outside with them.
Instincts Could Be the Cause
There may be some instinctive psychological reasons for this behavior, too. Dogs come from wild canine ancestors which ate whatever animals they could hunt, including the stomach contents of those animals.
Those contents usually included the grass the animals had been eating. It is believed that up to half of all modern wolves eat grass sometimes, whether purposefully or along with their regular diet.
Dogs who eat grass instinctively usually don’t vomit afterward. If you notice your dog chewing grass and don’t see him throw up from it, there’s not really anything to be worried about. He’s just doing what his ancestors did.
They Like the Taste of Grass
Finally, there’s one other psychological reason dogs may eat grass: they like the way it tastes. Some dogs only eat grass in certain locations or at certain times of the year, and this contributes to the idea that they like the taste and texture of the grass they chew.
And of course, there are some dogs who are more than happy to rush outdoors every chance they get and chow down on the grass in the backyard. These dogs also make it obvious that some dogs simply enjoy consuming grass regularly.
It may be less likely for dogs to gain anything physically from eating grass. Even so, there may still be some physical reasons that contribute to this behavior. Check out this list to see if you notice anything that could describe your dog.
Many pet owners think dogs eat grass because they have an upset stomach. This is probably because the behavior is so closely linked with vomiting.
However, it is actually difficult to tell whether or not the dog is throwing up from eating the grass, or he is throwing up because his stomach was upset and he thought the grass would help.
Vets still aren’t sure which leads to which in most situations. However, most dogs who eat grass seem completely fine beforehand, which leads vets to believe that the grass causes the vomiting more often than not.
A Dietary Response
It is possible that dogs may eat grass because they need more fiber in their diets. If you notice your dog eating grass often, especially right after a meal, he may realize he isn’t digesting the way he needs to (at least in some way).
Eating enough grass can give him the fiber he needs to process food appropriately. You may want to try upgrading your dog’s food to a high-fiber diet that includes healthy sources of the nutrients he needs.
There is a good chance a food upgrade could stop the grass eating behavior.
If your dog does show symptoms of stomach problems, he may have an issue that requires veterinary attention. If he vomits a lot – more than just once after eating grass – or he is having watery, frequent diarrhea, it’s time to schedule a vet visit.
Dogs are prone to several very dangerous stomach and digestive disorders. However, these problems can usually be easily treated by your vet.
Dogs don’t always vomit after eating grass, and some dogs never do. This may mean that there is no real connection between the two activities. Some dogs may vomit because of the strange texture or taste of the grass, rather than for any digestive reason.
Is Eating Grass Dangerous for Dogs?
For dogs that are otherwise healthy and on regular parasite prevention medication, eating grass is considered to be safe.
But be aware of what might be on the grass your dog eats. Pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals can endanger your dog’s health. Furthermore, if your dog isn’t limiting his intake of greenery to simple grass or clover, make sure he’s not nibbling on plants that are poisonous for dogs.
Pay attention if your dog, or more significantly your puppy, is eating a lot of grass. In rare cases, it could lead to an intestinal blockage.
When Should You Take Action?
If you notice them eating grass more frequently or excessively, be alert of potential underlying illnesses that your dog is attempting to self-treat. Also look for vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, decrease in appetite, blood in stool, lethargy, or lip licking.
Always monitor your dog when there are house plants nearby, as certain varieties can cause toxicity if they’re chewed or ingested. While chewing on the lawn is a common behavioral action in many canines, you can train your dog out of the behavior to help provide peace of mind.
It’s always best to consult with your vet if you think your dog has chewed on a toxic house plant or possibly ingested too much grass or small amounts of chemicals. The vet will be able to perform assessments like fecal samples, blood tests, or even physical exams to determine underlying conditions.
If your dog doesn’t exhibit any symptoms, but you feel that they may have ingested too much grass, keep them hydrated and allow time for potty breaks. Have your dog fast 8-12 hours before introducing food slowly. After 12 hours if your dog continues to show signs, check in with your veterinarian.
Occasional grass eating isn’t a cause for concern. If your dog is partaking of grass because of boredom or a nutritional deficiency, you can make simple changes to add some ‘spice’ to your pup’s life and food bowl. However, there are times when you’ll need to stop this behavior cold for your dog’s safety and other times when it may be a sign that your pup is seriously ill.
Step 1: Avoid poisonous plants.
Indoor dogs may indulge their urge to graze by nibbling houseplants. This may be a dangerous or even fatal activity, depending on the plant species. To be on the safe side, avoid growing any potentially poisonous plants inside or out.
Step 2: Keep your dog away from poisonous plants.
If you can’t or don’t want to avoid growing plants that are toxic to dogs, keep the plants in an area that your dog can’t access. Or work on training so your dog knows which plants or areas are off-limits in your home or garden.
Step 3: Be aware of chemicals on the grass.
Never allow your dog to eat grass that’s been chemically treated as this could lead to poisoning. Even if you don’t use herbicides or pesticides on your own lawn and garden, your neighbor might. Toxic substances could end up in your yard via water runoff or wind, especially if they’re applied on a windy day. This also pertains to public areas, such as parks, where the grass may have been treated.
Step 4: Provide your dog with alternative.
Give your grass-loving pup an alternative to satiate its craving. For instance, you can provide a patch or a container of healthy wheatgrass for your dog to munch. Pet-supply stores often have grass- and herb-growing kits available that are safe for dogs as well.
Step 5: Provide your dog with enough exercise.
Be sure your dog is getting enough exercise each day. This includes physical and mental exercise to ward off boredom. Taking time to play with your dog and work on training daily can make a significant difference in suppressing boredom-related behaviors.
A sudden increase in grazing incidence may be a sign that your dog is sick or missing vital nutrients. Pay attention to your dog’s activities so you can discuss them with your vet if necessary.
Step 6: Examine your dog’s food.
Examine the ingredients in your dog’s food to see if it’s really providing a balanced diet with all the nutrients your dog needs. Changing to a food that’s higher in fiber or improves digestion, in general, may curb some of your pup’s need for its grassy supplement.
Note:The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.