Why do dogs eat grass?

Pug-with-grass-in-mouth

You may wonder why dogs eat grass, don’t worry too much you are not alone in your concerns, and your dog is not the only dog out there doing it.

Even though it is strange to humans and we may find it odd behavior, it is prevalent among dogs and cats to eat grass. Dog owners and vets have tried to find the underlying causes, but the behavior is still a mystery.

Pica is the medical term for the disorder characterized by eating things that are not food. It could indicate your dog has a nutritional deficiency, but most of the time, it is due to boredom, especially for puppies and younger dogs.

Dogs eating grass is common. It has been observed in wild dogs and may be completely natural, and this type of pica should not usually cause too many problems. Most veterinarians consider it ‘normal’ dog behavior. Some say that grass contains essential nutrients their dogs instinctively know they need.

Some people speculate that grass offers much-needed fiber that aids food in moving through the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, the grass may serve as a laxative to help move the stool along for constipated dogs.

Why is my dog eating grass?

There is a number of reasons your dog might be eating grass.

Some people think dogs eat grass because there are unwell as a way to make them vomit and feel better. However, some people do not agree with this. They think dogs are smart enough to treat an upset stomach by eating grass. According to their owners, fewer than 10% of dogs seem to be sick before eating grass. Grass eating doesn’t usually lead to throwing up. Under 25% of dogs vomit regularly after ingesting grass.

Other people think your dog eats grass due to improving digestion or fulfilling unmet nutritional needs, including the need for fiber.

Psychological reasons dogs eat grass and vomit afterward

No one knows for sure why dogs eat grass, but vets believe some reasons are psychological.

Bored, Stressed, or Upset

Some vets believe that dogs eat grass due to boredom, stress or because they are anxious or upset. Dogs may eat grass when they are alone because they feel abandoned, which contributes to the idea that dogs are sad when they do so.

Dogs may eat grass to get their owners’ attention, which is something they want; even when they are being told to do something, most dogs see this as attention, which is good enough for them.

Dogs generally do not chew grass when their owner is outside with them.

Instincts could be the cause

When dogs were wild, they ate whatever they could hunt, including the stomach contents of other animals. Those contents included the grass the animal previously ate. It’s believed that half of all modern wolves eat grass, whether purposefully or with their normal diet.

Dogs that eat grass instinctively tend not to vomit afterward. So if you see your dog eat grass and they do not vomit after, there is usually nothing to worry about. They are doing it because of their ancestors.

They like the taste of the grass

There is one more psychological reason they might eat grass, which is because they like the taste. Some dogs may only eat specific patches of grass or grass at certain times of the year; this adds to the idea that they just like the grass.

Many dogs will rush out the door at any chance they have to eat some grass. These dogs make it evident that some dogs just enjoy the taste of it.

Sickly looking dog walking along grass

Physical reasons dogs eat grass and vomit afterward

A dog might be less likely to gain from physical reasons for eating grass. There are some physical reasons why.

Upset Stomach

Some dog owners think dogs eat grass because they have an upset stomach and because the behavior is so closely linked with vomiting afterward.

It is hard to tell if your dog is throwing up because of the grass or because they thought the grass would help their stomach.

Vets are not entirely sure which leads to which. Most dogs that eat grass seem to be completely fine beforehand, which means the grass causes vomiting more often than not.

A Dietary Response

Dogs may eat grass intuitively because they need more fiber in their diet. So if you notice your dog eating grass often, especially after a meal, this could be why.

Eating enough fiber can give them the necessary nutrients to process the food appropriately. You may want to consider changing your dog’s diet to a high-fiber diet that includes healthy sources of the nutrients it needs.

There is a good chance a food change may stop the grass-eating habit.

Stomach Problems

If your dog is showing stomach problems, it may have an issue that requires veterinary attention. For example, it is time to see a vet if they vomit more than once after eating grass or have watery, frequent diarrhea.

Dogs are prone to multiple very dangerous stomach and digestive disorders.

Dogs may not always vomit after eating grass, and some dogs never vomit after. This might mean there is no real connection between these two activities. Many dogs vomit due to the strange texture of grass rather than any digestive reason.

Dog with snout in grass

Is eating grass safe for dogs?

There are multiple safety risks.

Here are the most common:

Pesticides

Pet parents need to make sure the grass their dog is eating does not have pesticides because they are poisonous to dogs.

If you think your dog has eaten grass that contains pesticides, take them to the veterinary clinic immediately for treatment.

Dogs that ingest pesticides will show signs like:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea

Fecal material

Grass can also be contaminated with droppings from other dogs and animals. Eating grass with fecal material may make your dog sick.

Some intestinal illnesses, such as parvovirus, are transmitted via feces. Parvovirus can be a severe gastrointestinal disease in unvaccinated dogs. Some dogs may die from this.

Fecal materials from other dogs may contain eggs or larvae from intestinal parasites. Dogs with intestinal parasites may lose weight and have diarrhea. Puppies are most at risk of suffering from anemia and dying from it if the worm burden is significant. Adult dogs are less likely to die from intestinal parasites if they have a healthy immune system.

Monthly dewormers should be given to any dog that is regularly eating grass. There are certain intestinal parasites that need to be treated with different medications.

Will it harm my dog if they are grass-eating?

Nibbling on grass now and then will not cause harm to your dog. But many lawns are treated with pesticides, which may be toxic to dogs. Even if your yard is chemical-free, your dog could still be eating parasites and feces with the clump of grass they eat. So the question is, how do you get your dog to stop? If your dog eats grass regularly, speak with your vet for options on how to stop it for good.

woman seated on yoga mat giving her dog a command

What can I do to stop my dog from eating grass?

These are some tips to help discourage your dog from eating grass:

  • Time your outings immediately after a meal so your dog’s stomach is full
  • Make sure they have enough walks and exercise
  • Avoid grassy areas
  • Give your dog access to grass later in the day
  • Use positive reinforcement and reinforce alternate behaviors. If you see your dog eat grass, calmly interrupt the behavior and ask them to do another behavior, such as touching your hand or chasing a ball
  • Give your dog grass you have grown yourself. Doing this means you won’t have to worry about your dog ingesting toxins or eggs and larvae of intestinal parasites.

When to call a vet?

If you tried all of the above tips and your dog still eats grass daily, or they are eating a lot of grass and then getting sick, then it is time to get them checked by a veterinarian to ensure they do not have any underlying medical conditions.

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