Like cows, horses, and other grazers, dogs eat grass. And unlike what most people may think, there is nothing truly abnormal about dogs eating grass. Having said that, it’s also not very typical of dogs to eat grass.
Dogs eat grass because they fancy the texture and taste of the plant. Certain dogs, however, eat grass out of pure boredom. Then there are also dogs who could nibble on grass to address their digestion woes. Kindly note, some of these reasons could be based on conjecture and anecdotal evidence.
Keep reading to learn why dogs eat grass, how they feel after having consumed the plant, what veterinarians have to say on the matter, etc.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
There could be different reasons why your dog could be eating grass. There is one school of thought that states dogs eat grass to remedy their gassy stomachs or treat intestinal worms. Others dispute this theory, however. According to these naysayers, canines do not possess the acuity needed to detect a bad stomach and self-diagnose.
In a study, the grass-eating tendencies of canines with mild gastrointestinal irritations to dogs without those disturbances were compared. The researchers concluded that healthy dogs were much more likely to consume grass compared to canines with an upset tummy. It’s, therefore, safe to assume that a dog eating grass on a bad stomach is just a coincidence.
Having said that, some dogs still exhibit anxious behaviors before eating grass, heading out in search of longer grasses and quickly eating them. The vomiting sensation some dogs experience right after eating grass could be attributed to this hurried nibbling.
Dogs Like the Taste of Grass
There is a strong possibility that dogs eat grass because they like the taste and texture of the monocotyledon plant, akin to how some people like celery or lettuce. Though there have been no empirical studies carried out to prove this theory, there are too many anecdotal reports to refute it.
For most people, it could be hard to believe that dogs like the taste of grass. Remember, dogs fancy all kinds of things that typically disgust humans or make them retch. Dogs have had this reputation of being opportunistic scavengers for several thousand years. It means they can devour pretty much anything, provided it fulfills their basic dietary needs.
How Common is Dogs Eating Grass?
Dogs eating grass is not as rare a phenomenon as many people think. Grass-eating is quite routine, in fact, for quite a lot of dogs. Even wild dogs tend to eat grass. Most veterinarians consider such behavior in dogs as normal. Several wild canid species (dog-like carnivores) also eat grass. But just because it’s normal, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Keep a constant eye on your dog’s grass-eating tendencies – particularly if it’s frequent and/or the amount of consumption increases with time. If there’s a sudden spike, it could mean an underlying illness.
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If it’s a teething puppy nibbling on grass, you need to be even more cautious since ingesting grass, leaves, and sticks could result in blockages in the puppy’s throat or digestive system.
Can Eating Grass Make Dogs Fall Sick?
Not all dogs fall sick after eating grass. As mentioned above, some dogs eat grass because they have nothing else to do. And the majority of them get by fine with the ingestion. Quite a few, however, could vomit right after eating the plant. The number of dogs that throw up is usually lesser than those that do not puke.
Though not palatable for some dogs, grass inherently has no issues. But because it’s usually exposed to the elements and also often sprayed with certain chemicals, ingesting it could lead to certain stomach issues. Eating grass that is chemically laden – particularly the ones that are freshly sprayed on – could irritate your pet canine’s stomach or lead to health issues.
If your dog is eating lawn grass, it’s possible your dog munches on common garden and house plants too in the process. Those plants could be toxic and may add on to the troubles caused by grass.
Let a Vet Examine Your Dog
Whether your dog is eating grass and vomiting, or eating grass and showing no signs of throwing up, it’s highly recommended you take your pet to a veterinarian to confirm it doesn’t have a sick stomach.
Oftentimes, vomiting sensations could be the tip of the iceberg or a sign of a major health issue – usually linked with your dog’s digestive tract or throat. Therefore, the absence of vomiting doesn’t mean zero health concerns. The health issue could be in its nascent stage or not have surfaced yet, and it would be best treated only when it’s detected early.
Your veterinarian would ascertain whether your pet canine has an existing gastrointestinal (GI) disease with the help of a fecal and physical exam, and some blood tests that include a chemistry panel and blood count. The chemistry panel looks into the functioning and overall health of your dog’s bodily systems, which include the liver and pancreas. Both the organs are linked with the GI tract.
The blood count, on the other hand, indicates whether there is any blood loss or inflammation that could, in turn, denote bleeding into the digestive tract. If your vet diagnoses a GI disorder, proper treatment could be prescribed.
The aforementioned tests are precautionary and not mandatory. However, if your dog experiences diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss after bouts of vomiting, you must visit the vet and get these different tests done.
Are There Any Benefits to Dogs Eating Grass?
Dogs do not feed on grass or consider it as their primary food. The plant doesn’t contain several beneficial nutrients. Grass, however, could help your dog with its digestion.
Dogs require roughage (dietary fiber) in their food, and grass provides that since it’s a solid source of fiber. The absence of dietary fiber impacts a canine’s ability to assimilate food and have normal bowel movements. Upon ingestion, grass blades tickle a dog’s throat and tummy lining. The sensation generated causes the pet to vomit, particularly if the dog gulps down the grass instead of chewing on it.
Circling back to the topic of grass and nutrition, grass could have dietary components and some nutrients that supplement your dog’s existing diet. Many vets believe the lack of green foods in a dog’s diet could be compensated for to a certain extent by grass. Having said that, grass can never completely replace traditional green foods.
If you would like the grazing tendencies of your dog to contribute a lot more to its health, you may plant some sprouts in place of grass as they contain more vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes than grass. Also, they are easier to grow compared to grass.
Preventing or Managing Your Dog’s Grass-Eating Tendencies
If your dog likes to graze, but you don’t want it to eat the grass in your lawn, you may create a special grazing spot for it in your backyard or some other place appropriate. You would need a small grass tray for that. You could even set up your own herbal home garden. It will offer your pet an alternative to munching landscaping and outdoor grass.
Just make sure your dog doesn’t eat a lot of grass, too often, even if the grass is devoid of chemicals, herbicides, or pesticides. If the grazing is going out of hand, take your pet to its doctor.
Help Your Dog Become More Physically Active
Before you fix an appointment with your vet, here are a few things you could do to prevent your dog’s penchant for grass or fix the boredom issues that are causing the behavior. Engage your dog in fun activities. Take your dog on a walk by the street or head to the local park and play interactive games with it.
For example, you may play frisbee with your canine friend. If your dog has nothing much to do and you are too busy to spend quality time with it, buy your puppy a sturdy, chewy toy so that it stays occupied while you do your thing.
Check Its Food Intake and Nutrition
At times, dogs eat grass or unwanted things due to a nutritional deficiency in their food. If you suspect a dietary gap, switch to better pet food – particularly one that’s high in dietary fiber. If your canine friend has been eating grass or munching on houseplants, it clearly indicates it likes greens. Take this as a cue and introduce cooked vegetables and/or natural herbs into its diet.
Having said that, even dogs that are on a well-balanced diet could end up eating grass. In such cases, boredom could be the big reason and you may have to put in more effort to keep your pet physically engaged.
If your dog has been eating grass and showing no signs of uneasiness or sickness after the intake, you need not worry much about it. But if your dog eats grass regularly, you need to be concerned even if there are no adverse effects to show.
Dogs are meat-eaters, primarily. But to thrive and survive, they also need a well-balanced and at times carefully vetted vegetarian diet. Like humans, dogs require a combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and water to meet their daily nutrition needs.
Grass, or any other plant material, includes certain beneficial nutrients. But when the intake exceeds a certain level, other foods and the various nutrients are denied a place in its system. And when this becomes a routine, your dog is bound to develop major health issues.
Long story short, dogs can eat grass. But make sure the nibbling doesn’t become the norm.
Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.