The first time you see it, you may not believe your eyes, but dogs will sometimes eat grass – but why? Any veterinarian has to answer that question repeatedly, so we know this is a common issue. There could be many reasons for your dog’s behavior ranging from a nutrient deficiency to boredom. We will discuss the reasons your dog may eat grass and what you can do to stop it.
One possibility is that grass is a yummy treat for your dog, especially during the spring and summer months when the grass is more lush and fresh. As long as they don’t indulge too frequently, there may be no need to worry.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if your dog eats grass on occasion.
- Ensure that the grass has not been treated with pesticides. Many of these can be toxic to your dog.
- Consider the plants in the area. Many household and garden plants are also toxic to your dog. Check the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center for more information.
- Ensure that your dog has been treated for Lungworm, which comes from snails and slugs.
- Watch out for grass seeds, which are found in long grass and can get into your dog’s skin, eyes, ears, and paws.
A common belief is that dogs eat grass instinctively because they need it. You will sometimes witness a dog eating grass desperately, as if they must do it quickly. Then they regurgitate it just as fast. This leaves many wondering if the grass made them sick, or did they eat the grass to vomit whatever was upsetting their stomachs?
According to Fetch by WebMD, less than 10% of dogs appeared to be ill before they ate the grass, and less than 25% of dogs who eat grass regurgitate it. So dogs may not be self-medicating by eating grass, or at least not as a rule.
Contact your vet immediately if your dog often shows signs of an upset stomach, whether he eats grass or not. It could be an indicator of a more serious problem.
Other thoughts regarding this topic suggest that your dog may be improving his digestion by eating grass or treating intestinal worms. Neither of these has been proven, but one study on an 11-year-old, castrated miniature poodle had interesting results. For seven years, this dog regularly ate grass and then vomited. No health issues were discovered, but just three days after the owner switched the dog to a high-fiber diet, the grass-eating behavior ceased.
This brings us to another possible reason for this behavior – nutritional deficiency. Dogs need roughage in their diets; without it, they will have problems digesting their food and passing stools. Grass is a good source of fiber, so they may be drawn to it. But with all of the other potential dangers associated with eating grass, like pesticides – it is more sensible to ensure your dog’s diet is enriched with everything they need.
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Remember that dogs aren’t complete carnivores, nor are they omnivores. Stool samples taken from wolves in the wild revealed that 11 to 47% of them also eat grass. In the wild, wolves hunt for their food and eat all of it – meat, bones, organs, stomach contents, etc. And since they hunt animals that eat grass, they are also getting the same fiber. The grass may help purge intestinal parasites.
Although modern dogs don’t have to hunt for their food, there may be some residual instinct that motivates dogs’ current behavior.
The final reasons we think dogs may eat grass are psychological ones. Dogs crave interaction with you and other dogs. When they’re left too long or too often on their own, without even chew toys to play with, they’ll find something to amuse themselves. Dogs may eat grass out of boredom.
Anxiety is also a factor. Dogs who feel neglected or are in difficult circumstances may eat grass as a comfort mechanism, similar to developing nail-biting habits. The dog’s behavior may intensify if he doesn’t begin to feel loved, protected, and closely befriended.
If your dog’s reason for eating grass is mental, be sensitive to his psychological needs as well as his physical ones. More active dogs may need to be walked more frequently. Moreover, your dog doesn’t just need a walk; he needs to engage with you – often and lovingly. When you can’t be there, chew toys or a piece of clothing with your scent on it might help. There are also treats that are combined with puzzles to provide mental stimulation.
As habits go, your dog can do far worse than eating grass. By itself, it may not harm your dog, but because of herbicides and pesticides sprayed on the grass, it becomes a toxic habit. Additionally, the grass can be contaminated with fecal matter from other dogs, and roundworms or hookworms can accidentally be ingested, giving your dogs parasites.
Consider training them out of the habit the way you would any other harmful behavior. Keep doggy treats with you when your dog’s likely to snack on grass, so you can give him an option.
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