Why do dogs eat grass?

Nearly every dog owner has been in the frustrating situation where his or her dog is in the yard and will not stop munching on the greenery. Perhaps when you have asked your dog to stop eating the grass, your pooch has only run around the yard biting at grass blades, as if to mock you. Why do dogs eat grass, and is this behaviour safe? Here, the reasons dogs eat grass will be discussed.

1. Boredom

When dogs are bored they find interesting ways to entertain themselves. One theory for why dogs eat grass is that they are searching for worms in the ground, either out of boredom or due to a hereditary hunting trait. While searching for in-ground creatures, grass is sometimes ingested as a result. If you believe your dog is eating grass simply because he or she has nothing better to do, limit your dog’s time spent alone outside or purchase interactive toys for your pet.

2. Seeking attention

Dogs love attention, and do not discriminate in the type that they receive. If you have ever yelled at your dog or brought him or her indoors because of the grass eating, you have unknowingly reinforced the behaviour. Therefore, one possibility for eating grass is that your dog is seeking the same type of attention that has been given in the past because of this behaviour.

3. Poor diet

Sometimes, dogs eat grass because they are experiencing nutrient deficiency. This is especially true when dogs are not receiving enough fibre in their diet. If your dog has started eating grass (in addition to feces and/or dirt) after switching to new dog food, consider whether his or her diet may be to blame.

4. Gastrointestinal distress

Perhaps the most common reason that a dog eats grass is to make itself throw up to relieve any type of gastrointestinal discomfort. When a dog eats something that does not agree with his or her stomach, gorging on grass or water is a surefire way to induce vomiting. If your dog frequently eats grass until vomiting, schedule an appointment with a veterinarian to determine if your dog has an underlying illness.

5. Gastric reflux/irritable bowel syndrome

Interestingly, chronic grass eating has been linked with irritable bowel syndrome and gastric reflux in dogs. Veterinarians performed a study see if there were any abnormalities among dogs whose owners complained of bouts of eating grass in conjunction with symptoms such as licking the air, gulping, and anxiety after meals. What veterinarians found is that these dogs often have more acid in their stomachs, which can lead to the aforementioned symptoms as well as irritable bowel syndrome. One remedy is to slow down your dog’s eating by use of a slow-bowl, and to ask for a prescription for a canine antacid for your pet.

6. Evolution

Finally, the answer to this question may simply be rooted in science and evolution. Researchers have observed both wolves and wild dogs indulging in greens. A prevailing theory among evolutionary biologists is that the high fibre content of grass helps to keep parasites out of the intestinal tract by making bowel movements more regular. While today’s dogs do not need to de-worm themselves thanks to modern preventative medicines, some canines have retained this habit.

Is eating grass safe for dogs?

The short answer is yes, as grass is highly unlikely to cause a bowel obstruction or any other negative side effects. However, the behaviour is unsafe if the grass has been treated with any chemicals, particularly fertilizers or pesticides. If your dog is a known grass eater, keep him or her away from treated areas in your yard by utilizing temporary fencing. Additionally, grass eating is generally safe so long as grass is the only greenery being consumed. For instance, plants such as daffodils, azaleas, lilies, aloe, jade, and tulips are all toxic to pets. Contact a veterinarian immediately if you believe your dog has consumed an indoor or outdoor plant and is showing signs of pain, weakness, excessive drooling, rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, or pale gums.

Additionally, sometimes grass eating can result in a grass-filled stool. Occasionally, long pieces of grass are difficult for dogs to pass. It is important that pet owners never pull these pieces of grass from their dogs, because doing so can result in intestinal harm in rare cases. Instead, it is best to allow the dog to pass the grass naturally.

Should dogs that eat grass see a veterinarian?

If eating grass is a habit that your dog has always enjoyed, there is little need to schedule a visit to a veterinarian, However, if grass eating marks a sudden change in behaviour, it would be warranted to talk to a professional. Additionally, if grass eating is accompanied by other symptoms, such as licking the air, gulping, or discomfort after meals then you should ask your vet whether your dog is showing signs of acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome. In some instances, the veterinarian can prescribe medications to relieve these symptoms. Finally, if grass eating has begun after a change in diet, consider switching back to your old dog food to see if the behaviour disappears. In this case, your dog may simply be seeking more fibre in his or her diet, which you could discuss with your veterinarian if you are in doubt about the right foods for your dog.

Overall, there are many reasons for dogs to eat grass with little cause for concern. This behaviour is likely rooted in evolution, but should be addressed if the dog’s behaviour drastically changes, or if your pet begins to eat grass frequently until vomiting. Care should always be taken to ensure dogs are not eating fertilized or chemically treated grass. In addition, dog owners should know which indoor and outdoor plants are strictly off-limits to pets.