Our dogs love eating grass, so much so that I leave patches of grass to grow just for them to munch on. My husband jokes and says they are grazing like cows, LOL.
Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to enjoy munching on grass? You’re not alone, I’ve often wondered the same, so I got some answers from Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a registered veterinarian, and spokesperson for SpiritDog Training, to find out why dogs eat grass and if there are any concerns to be aware of.
The good news is there’s no need to worry. Eating grass is a common behavior for many dogs.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
According to Dr. Wigall, “There is no definitive answer as to why dogs may eat grass, however, there are several theories as to why they may show this behavior. Dogs may eat grass out of boredom, or simply because they like the taste or texture, however, they may also consume grass for health benefits, such as adding fiber to their diet.
There is a well-held theory that dogs may eat grass if they feel sick, once they eat grass it makes them vomit and then they feel better. However, studies have shown that less than 25% of dogs vomit after eating grass, with only 10% showing signs of sickness before eating it – so this theory of eating grass to self-medicate could just be a myth.”
As soon as springtime arrives and the grass starts growing, my dogs search out the best patches of grass to eat. They eat grass even when they feel good, so I believe they enjoy the taste of the sweet spring grass. Their favorite grass is growing around our grapevine, my guess is that the grass there tastes sweet.
Top 4 reasons why dogs eat grass:
- Enjoys the taste of the grass
- Fulfilling a nutritional need for fiber
- Has an upset stomach
- Is bored or looking for attention
Is grass bad for dogs and puppies?
Dr. Wigall says “Grass itself is non-toxic to puppies and dogs so consuming it may not be harmful. However, grass treated with herbicides, fertilizers or pesticides is toxic to dogs so consuming grass contaminated with these compounds can be extremely dangerous.
When your dog eats grass, it isn’t just the plant they may be consuming. When they pull grass from the ground, they may also consume some nearby toxic plants, soil, and even feces from other animals which may contain infectious parasites such as hookworms and roundworms.
If your puppy or dog starts consuming large amounts of grass and continually making themselves vomit within a few hours, then contacting your vet is recommended.”
Puppies can have a more sensitive stomach, so be sure to monitor them closely to watch for vomiting or diarrhea.
The health and safety implications of eating grass
Vomiting and Diarrhea
While eating grass may seem harmless, it can sometimes result in vomiting or diarrhea. This can happen if your dog consumes a large amount of grass or if they accidentally ingest pesticides or other harmful substances found on the grass.
Vomiting and diarrhea can also be signs of more serious issues, so it’s essential to keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior and contact your veterinarian if these problems persist.
Grass eating may sometimes expose your dog to intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms. These parasites can cause discomfort and lead to serious health problems if left untreated.
It’s essential to frequently check your dog for signs of worms and regularly visit your veterinarian to ensure your dog remains parasite-free. Regular deworming can also help reduce the risk of intestinal parasites.
Pica and Nutritional Deficiencies
Dogs eating grass might be a sign of pica, which is the consumption of non-food items due to an underlying health issue or nutritional deficiency. If your dog is lacking nutrients, minerals, or vitamins in their diet, they might eat grass as a source of fiber or to aid in digestion.
Here are some potential dietary deficiencies that could lead to pica:
- Lack of fiber
- Poor-quality food
- Insufficient minerals or vitamins
You should consult your veterinarian to discuss your dog’s dietary needs and ensure they receive the proper nutrients to maintain overall health. Additionally, be mindful of your dog’s environment and remove any hazardous items they might be tempted to consume.
Pesticides and Herbicides
When your dog eats grass, you need to be cautious about the potential exposure to pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals can be harmful and may cause various symptoms, such as excessive salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite.
It’s essential to know what chemicals are used on your lawn, as well as your neighbors’ lawn. If you suspect your dog has ingested grass treated with these chemicals, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately.
In conclusion, grass-eating can have various health implications for your dog. By paying attention to their behavior, providing a proper diet, and regularly visiting the veterinarian, you can help ensure that your furry friend remains happy and healthy.
When to Consult a Veterinarian
Sometimes your dog is eating grass may warrant a visit to the vet. This section will guide you in understanding when you should be concerned and consult a veterinarian about your dog’s grass-eating habits.
Excessive Grass Eating
While occasional grass eating is considered normal for dogs, excessive consumption of grass may indicate an issue. If your dog is frantically or obsessively eating grass, it could be a sign that they’re experiencing digestive upset or trying to soothe an upset stomach. In such cases, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical concerns.
Persistent Gastrointestinal Issues
Keep an eye out for symptoms of gastrointestinal issues in your dog. If you notice vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite along with grass eating, you should consult your veterinarian.
Persistent gastrointestinal problems may indicate an underlying health issue or gastrointestinal disease, and your vet can help diagnose and address these concerns, ensuring your pet’s well-being.
Underlying Health Problems
Dogs may eat grass to fulfill an unmet nutritional need or due to a condition called pica, which involves eating non-food items. Lack of certain minerals (such as fructooligosaccharide) in their diet may lead to this behavior.
If you suspect your dog is eating grass due to a deficiency, your veterinarian can guide you in adjusting your dog’s diet and implementing proper exercise routines to ensure their overall health.
Remember, while grass eating is relatively common in dogs, monitoring your pet’s behavior and being proactive about their health can make a difference. Reach out to your veterinarian if you notice any alarming signs or symptoms related to your dog’s grass-eating habits.
Why do dogs vomit after eating grass?
For the small portion of dogs that are eating grass to self-medicate, Dr. Wigall explains that “it may create a small amount of irritation in the stomach which induces a vomit.”
Eating grass can act as a natural antacid helping settle their stomachs. Eating grass may even help purge parasites.
Should you worry if your dog doesn’t vomit after eating grass?
There is no reason to worry if your dog does not vomit after eating grass. As Dr. Wigall explained above, dogs do not always eat grass to self-medicate.
If you have concerns about your dog eating and/or vomiting grass, contact your veterinarian for guidance.
Tips on how to stop your dog from eating grass
If you treat your lawn with chemicals, pet safe or not, you should stop your dog from eating grass. If you have a natural lawn with zero chemical use, then there is no reason to stop your dog from eating grass.
Training and Distractions
Dr. Wigall and Spirit Dog Training have these training tips for how to stop your dog from eating grass:
- Redirecting the grass-eating behavior to something else and rewarding them may help stop their grass consumption.
- In dogs that are food driven, each time they show the behavior get their attention with a verbal cue or direct them away from the grass, offering a tasty treat when they respond correctly.
- In dogs that are motivated with play or affection, you can use the same technique of distraction, redirection, and reward but offer their favorite toy or lots of attention once they have performed correctly.
- Over time they should stop needing the reward and adjust their behavior appropriately.
If your dog is eating grass out of boredom, ensure your dog is getting plenty of physical and mental exercise.
If you notice that your dog is frequently eating grass, incorporating high-fiber foods into their diet may help curb the behavior.
Check the ingredients in your dog’s food easily on Chewy.com. If necessary, transition your dog to a food with higher fiber content.
Here are some of my favorite brands that have high-fiber options:
- Nature’s Logic, all protein options (5.0% Crude Fiber)
- ACANA Wholesome Grains Red Meat Recipe Dry Dog Food
(6% Crude Fiber)
- Lotus Oven-Baked Small Bites Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food (6% Crude Fiber)
- Native Pet Pumpkin Fiber Powder (use as a food topper, add to your dog’s water, or make frozen treats) (8.6% Crude Fiber)
- Daily Dog Probiotic by FullBucket
By providing your dog with a balanced, high-fiber diet, you can help reduce their desire to eat grass and ensure their overall.
Why dogs eat grass, summed up
It is totally normal that your dog likes to eat grass. There is no reason to be concerned unless you have other health concerns such as vomiting or diarrhea for more than a couple of days.
Understanding the underlying causes of your dog eating grass is crucial for addressing the behavior. It could be that your dog just likes the taste and texture of the grass.
If your dog experiences nausea or excessive salivation, their grass-eating behavior may be a sign of an underlying health issue. In this case, consult with your vet to ensure that the issue is identified and treated accordingly.
If you suspect that nutritional deficiencies are causing your dog to eat grass, consider adding fiber.
Be aware of chemicals used on the grass in your yard and neighborhood. Consider stopping the use of such chemicals. I’d rather have weeds than chemicals any day.
Fecal material from other animals may contaminate grass and pose risks to your dog. This is one of the concerns I had when fostering dogs with parasites. It’s essential to keep your yard clean to keep your dog safe and prevent any potential health issues.
By training and offering safe alternatives, and investigating the root causes, you can manage your dog’s grass-eating habits, ensuring their safety and well-being.
About the contributing vet
Dr. Corinne Wigfall, BVMBVS(Hons) BVMedSci(Hons)
A veterinary spokesperson for SpiritDog Training. Cori graduated from University of Nottingham, U.K, in 2014 and lives in New Zealand. Cori has worked with all animals big and small over the years. Currently, she splits her time between writing and working as an emergency care veterinarian.