Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Why do dogs eat grass? Clearly, you aren’t raising a baby farm animal, so it might concern you as to why your dog is grazing on grass in your backyard.
You always make sure that your furbaby is getting enough food, so they can’t be hungry. Are they sick? Bored? Will the grass hurt them?
Trust us when we say that you are not alone with your concerns and confusion in this matter.
The honest truth is even experts aren’t 100% sure why some dogs are prone to eating grass.
But not to fear! We will dissect all of the possibilities as to why your four-legged friend is now a grass-loving fiend.
Pica in Dogs
Pica is the technical term that refers to a disorder which is characterized by eating things that are not food. At times, pica can be a sign of something serious such as a nutritional deficiency. However, often it is simply a sign of boredom.
In terms of eating grass, pica usually does not cause many issues. In fact, dogs eating grass is pretty common in both domesticated dogs and wild dogs as well as cats. You may be surprised at the incredibly small number of species that do not eat plant material from time to time.
The Pica Dispute
It is likely that you’ve heard the idea that dogs eat grass in order to make themselves throw up. The concept involves a dog realizing they are ill, deciding to self-medicate, and then inducing vomiting and diarrhea by eating grass in order to feel better.
Of course, when we phrase it like that it does sound pretty ridiculous. However, that truly is the idea that has been passed around the dog world for decades.
Experts don’t believe that a dog is smart enough to realize they are ill and then decide to eat grass in efforts to feel better. Most dogs do not act sick before eating grass and furthermore, many dogs (less than 25%) don’t end up throwing up after they eat the grass.
The fact of the matter is, there is no definite way to prove the theory one way or the other. However, studies strongly lean towards the idea that other, more explainable, components are causing the dog’s grass eating habits.
Why Is My Dog Eating Grass?
Your dog may be eating grass for a slew of reasons, and most of them won’t cause many (if any) problems. However, just because we know not to panic over the grass eating habit completely, pet owners still want to know why it is happening.
They Like the Taste
Dogs are natural scavengers. They also have a relatively impartial palate. In other words, dogs will pretty much eat anything. It’s a popular opinion that dogs eat grass simply because they like the taste and texture.
Perhaps the most probable reason for eating grass comes from boredom. Sure Fido has an entire backyard to run around in but is there really that much to do out there all by themselves?
Dog owners should consider simple solutions such as making sure their dog has a few chew toys. Additionally, setting aside time and having a consistent exercise routine can prove to do wonders for your dog’s behavioral and physical health. A long daily walk or frisbee time in the backyard can stimulate the dog’s mind and decrease the desire for eating grass.
Fulfilling a Nutritional Deficiency
Some experts believe that eating grass is a sign of an underlying nutritional deficiency. In one study, a toy poodle ate grass and then vomited every day for seven years. (This sounds excessive but it’s true) Then, her owner placed her on a high-fiber diet and three days later, the grass eating and vomiting stopped entirely.
If you think that your dog may not be receiving the nutrients they need, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian about potential options or supplements that you may be able to add to their food. We always recommend a species appropriate, raw food diet when possible.
Another possibility of why a dog is eating grass is if the dog is homeless and therefore underfed. It is also possible that if you adopt a dog that has recently been without a consistent food source, they may eat everything in site (including grass) because they have grown accustomed to not knowing when their next meal will be.
Yes, earlier in this article we pointed out the possible absurdity of a dog self-medicating, however, there are experts who do believe it to be true. In efforts to provide our readers with all of the information available, it’s necessary for us to state their case as well.
Some experts believe that when a dog senses that they are feeling ill they will eat a great deal of grass in order to induce vomiting and clear their system of the toxicity.
Again, according to pet owners, eating grass doesn’t often result in vomiting so it’s hard to say whether this theory holds much weight.
Regardless of whether or not you believe in the self-medicating theory behind grass eating, if dog owners feel that their dog is having stomach distress, they should make an appointment with their veterinarian straight away.
Gastrointestinal upset may be the cause of something much more serious such as gastric reflux or inflammatory bowel disease that will require treatment.
A study of chimpanzees showed that they would eat plant material in efforts to rid their bodies of intestinal parasites. It is possible that the same could be said for canines.
Some experts believe that eating grass is inherited behavior and that wild dogs would eat prey that had plant material in their bowels. While domesticated, these experts believe it is possible for present-day dogs to seek it as well.
Dogs Eating Grass is Common, But Is It Safe?
A small-scale study showed that of 49 dog owners whose dogs had access to grass and plants, 79% of owners reported that their dog had eaten grass or plant matter at some point.
In other words, dogs eating grass is very common. However, is it safe? What should dog owners be aware of?
Certain herbicides and pesticides used to treat lawns can be highly toxic for dogs. Yard sprays, such as weed control and fertilizers can have harmful effects on your four-legged friend. Also remember that while grass itself is not toxic, many common weeds that sit adjacently to the grass are very poisonous! Don’t leave it up to Fido to determine what is ok to eat and what is not.
Additionally, many household plants also have high toxicity levels if ingested. Dog owners should be hyperaware of what their dog is munching on and whether or not the grass snack could lead to potentially dangerous issues.
Grass does have nutritional benefits including being a plentiful source of fiber and roughage. Additionally, because the grass is a living green source, it contains phytonutrients. Grass also contains chlorophyll and potassium and can be a useful source of digestive enzymes.
With this being said, if the grass has received any sort of herbicide or pesticide treatment, it is no longer beneficial for your dog and will prove only cause adverse, harmful reactions.
Substitutes for Eating Grass
Luckily, there are many sources that pet owners can use as substitutes for grass if they believe their dog is eating it simply for the taste and texture. All
things in moderation, of course!
Can Dogs Eat Lettuce
Yes! Again, make sure the lettuce is chemical-free and clean. Dog owners should cut the lettuce into small, digestible pieces to decrease choking risks and ensure their dog chews it properly.
Can Dogs Eat Celery
Yes – in limited amounts dogs can eat celery that has been cut into small, digestible pieces (without the leaves).
Here are a few other dog-friendly vegetables and fruits:
- Sweet potato
- Snap peas
- Green beans
- Apples (without the seeds!)
- Cabbage ends
Final Thoughts on Grass Eating Dogs
If you’re still unsure why your beloved dog is eating grass, don’t panic. The majority of veterinarians consider dogs eating grass to be perfectly normal.
Pet owners can help protect their grass loving pup by only using non-toxic products on their lawns.
As always, if something seems off, chances are, something is off. Always consult with your veterinarian if you feel that your dog is trying to tell you something (they tend to be good at doing so).
Bonus Tip: How to Make a Dog Throw Up
While this doesn’t exactly play into what we were discussing in the article, it is a common question when the concept of dogs eating grass arises.
Obviously, pet owners cannot force their dog to eat grass and even still, as we discussed, eating grass does not often prove to induce vomiting.
If you believe your dog has ingested something toxic and needs to throw it up, check out this article. As always, make an appointment with your veterinarian before things progress and potentially become irreversible.