If you’ve just taken your pup for a walk and you’ve seen it nibble on grass, you may feel worried that it’s a sign that something is wrong with your furry friend, especially if you see them vomiting afterwards. The first thing you should know is that it is not abnormal to see a canine munch on some greenery and it isn’t necessarily a cause for serious concern. Below we’ll look at why dogs eat grass, when it’s a problem and what to do to stop your dog from eating grass.
Myths & facts about dogs eating grass
Not just dogs, but cats too, often happen to eat grass, prompting pet owners across the globe to search for answers. The reality is that like with many other questions regarding dog nutrition, there are various theories why this might be happening. Despite the fact there is no one single answer that has been proven to be true in all situations, scientific research has shown that some of the things we believe to be true about dogs eating grass are actually myths.
Myth: It’s odd and bad that my dog is eating grass.
Fact: Reportedly, 70% of dogs eat plants (mostly grass) weekly or even daily.
Myth: My dog is eating grass because it has an upset stomach.
Fact: Only 8% of dog owners have seen their dogs show signs of an upset stomach before eating grass followed by vomiting. This suggests that an upset stomach isn’t likely to be what’s driving your canine to eat grass.
Myth: Eating grass makes my dog sick.
Fact: Only 22% of dog owners reported having seen their dog vomit after eating grass and there is no scientific evidence that grass itself is harmful to your dog in any way. That being said, chemicals sprayed on grass could be harmful to your pet (more on this below).
So, why do dogs eat grass after all?
As we said earlier, dog experts are yet to agree on one single cause for grass-eating in dogs but there are several explanations that we can share with you.
Not enough fibre in your dog’s diet
To have normal digestion, dogs need roughage - an indigestible material found in plants that helps food pass through their system. Grass contains roughage and it is a source of fibre, so it could help smooth the process of digestion. This is why improper nutrition and a lack of fibre in your dog’s diet could be the reason why your dog feels the need to search for additional nutrients in your lawn.
Wild dogs and their ancestors would hunt and eat whole animals that would have had a plant-based diet, ensuring that the predators had enough fibrous material in their system to satisfy their basic dietary needs. Pet dogs, on the other hand, eat whatever their human owners feed them, which can be anything from special dog food, such as kibble and canned meals, to home-cooked food and bones.
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It’s an instinct
Another explanation that has gained popularity in recent years is that dogs are inherently driven to eat grass. It derives from the same theory that the dog’s ancestors were consuming plant-based materials via their prey to achieve an optimal diet. However, this take on the research suggests that dogs don’t have to have a nutritional deficiency to want to eat grass but that it’s actually an instinctive craving that has been passed on to them for generations. Basically, wanting to take a nibble off your lawn is in their genetic makeup.
Your dog actually likes grass
One of the simplest explanations as to why dogs eat grass is that they actually enjoy it. Grass is fresh with a nice, crisp texture, so it might be just that your pooch is helping itself to a refreshing treat. In fact, some dogs appear to be more interested in eating grass in spring when the grass is the freshest.
Your dog is bored
Some members of the dog community have expressed the belief that dogs eat grass not for physiological but for psychological reasons instead. Simply put, if your dog feels bored, ruminating on a strand of grass might be the most exciting thing it can do to pass the time. It could also be their way of getting your attention, especially if you scold them for doing it - much like kids who act out to get their parents to interact with them.
When should you be concerned about your dog eating grass?
The grass itself isn’t harmful to your dog, however, green areas are often treated with various chemicals and certain fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides can be dangerous if consumed by your dog.
Another potential danger of eating grass is that slugs and snails that commonly live in the turf can pass on lungworm. Lungworm doesn’t respond to the usual flea and worm treatments accessible in pet stores, so it’s best to discuss lungworm protection with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is safe.
Now you must be wondering how to find out whether you should be worried about your dog’s grass-eating. Some of the warning signs to check for include:
- your dog refuses to eat their normal food but eats grass instead
- your dog eats grass excessively
- grass-eating followed by vomiting occurs multiple times within a few hours
- your dog is acting out of character or appears under the weather after eating grass
If you notice any of the behaviours described above, call your vet for advice, it’s always best to make sure everything is OK if you have any reason for concern.
Last but not least, during the summer, your dog may come across grass seeds hidden in patches of long grass. Those can be quite a nuisance because they can get stuck in various places, including the paws, eyes, ears and skin of your curious pup. This is not a danger that results directly from consuming grass but it’s one to look out for nonetheless.
In conclusion, we may never know for certain why dogs eat grass but in most cases, it is not a cause for concerns. Also, as most explanations are benign there isn’t much to worry about, especially knowing that the unwanted behaviour can be amended with some positive dog-human interaction and a proper nutritionally balanced diet.