You feed a healthy, well balanced diet. You add fruits and vegetables and nutritious supplements. Yet, when your dog’s out there in the backyard you catching her munching on the tall grass. Why? Why do dogs eat grass? What causes this desire to graze about like a dairy cow?
Many assume that the main reason why dogs eat grass is because of an upset tummy. Others think it’s because the dog lacks fiber in her diet. But is there more it than that? Does a penchant for chowing down on the green stuff mean your dog’s not feeling her best?
Or is she actually as healthy as a horse?
Science Shows Us
Many pet parents assume that a dog will eat grass because their stomach is upset, as a way to induce vomiting. The thing is, there’s actually no hard science proving a link between grass eating and vomiting. In fact, one study actually shows the exact opposite – that dogs spent significantly more time eating grass when fed a regular, healthy diet and producing normal stools than when they were fed a less healthy diet and producing loose stools. To researchers, this was clearly an indication that dogs don’t use grass to self-medicate when their stomachs are upset.
And a study of pet parents done by researchers at the University of California, Davis supports this. The study, which surveyed more than 3,000 people, found that about 68% of the pet parents stated their dogs ate grass on a weekly basis. Of the group, only 8% noticed any signs of illness before the grass eating.
So, what gives? What’s causing our furry friends to snack in the backyard?
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
There are actually several different reasons a dog might choose to eat grass.
- It’s just normal dog behavior. Plant material has been found in up to 74% of wolf poop samples. It’s likely that this is just something that’s been passed down from their wild wolf ancestors.
- Boredom. Sure, this may seem odd, but do you ever raid the fridge when you can’t find anything better to do?
- Nutrition. Grass has a high cellulose content, which makes it hard to digest, but it is high in fiber, and dogs often know instinctually which plants are good for them.
- Anxiety. For some dogs, the simple act of eating grass may be a comfort mechanism – just like you might chew on your fingernails.
- Attention. If you tend to correct your dog when she’s eating grass, eating it may be the equivalent of stealing a shoe or chewing on an inappropriate item. It’s being done just to get your attention.
- They just like the taste. After all, we all eat things because they taste good, right?!
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Grass
So, if your dog is eating the grass in the yard, or on walks, or at the park, is there anything you can do?
Well, if you know the grass is safe, it’s harmless to let your dog eat it. But there are other ways to keep it dog-friendly.
- Skip the pesticides. Pesticides are dangerous no matter what your dog’s doing in the yard. Dogs experience the same reactions to pesticide exposure as humans. These can include immediate symptoms such as skin rashes, nausea and vomiting, eye irritations, and respiratory problems. Longer term health issues are more serious. If they’re eating grass that’s been sprayed with pesticides, you’re exposing them to all those potential health risks!
- Discourage strange grazing. If your dog likes to graze on walks, or at the park, try to discourage this. You can never be sure the area is safe, that there are no dangerous chemicals, or even that parasites are not present. Try to stop your dog from eating grass when in these areas, just to be safe.
- Keep an eye out for dangerous plants. If your dog eats grass, make sure there are no other dangerous plants in the garden they can accidentally ingest. Watch out for ivy, daffodils, baby’s breath, tulips, and lilies. This also includes foxtails – small, dry seeds produced by invasive, grass-type weeds – which can cause significant problems for dogs who ingest them. If you have foxtails in your yard, remove them, and be sure to watch your dog closely when she’s out in the yard. Opt instead for pet-safe plants and healthy herbs that will help, rather than hurt, the dog who eats it!
And, keep an eye on what happens when your dog eats grass. If it tends to only be occasionally, and she vomits afterwards or seems unwell beforehand, perhaps make an appointment with your holistic vet.
So, why do dogs eat grass? Clearly for several different reasons. And with a little careful observation you may just be able to narrow down that why.
While pesticides or other poisonous plants may make the habit of grass eating not-so-great, with a little attention, you can make sure that harmless habit remains so! Happy grazing 🙂
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!