Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
One of the most common questions that a veterinarian gets asked by concerned dog owners is: Why does my dog eat grass? While the question may be simple, the answer is not that straightforward.
When dogs are seen eating grass, this question usually arises even when they may already have a well-balanced diet and full stomach. In usual cases, most grass types are not harmful to dogs unless it is ingested in large quantities, or if the animal is emitting signs of being unwell like vomiting.
There are not enough studies or research to show that munching on grass is directly linked to something being amiss in their diet or upsetting the stomach of the dog.
There can be a plethora of reasons to explain why the grass has piqued a dog’s interest. We explain all this and more in this article:
- Medical Reason
- Behavioral Reasons
- How can we help our dog?
Brush up on history
A plausible theory for your dog’s interest in the grass can be attributed to their history of evolution.
Undomesticated dogs have naturally been omnivorous (meat and plant-based diet); therefore, domesticated animals look for a way to inculcate plant material in their diet. There is also speculation that wild dogs may sometimes ingest vegetation present in the stomachs of their prey. Hence, it can be assumed that subsequent species that evolved developed a craving for it.
A universal nature observed among animals is their need for scavenging and devouring anything that can be found to fulfill their primary dietary needs, as a measure to survive.
Grass possesses a variety of nutrients that a canine might crave. It is also believed to be a method used by dogs to relieve their upset stomachs, subsequently causing them to vomit. The reasoning for this is, “when the grass is gulped instead of being chewed, the plant’s blades tickle the stomach lining of the eater, causing them to throw up.”
There are two ways to approach this fact – Does the dog develop a stomach ache and vomit before it eats the grass? Or does the dog ingest the turf to provide relief to an upset stomach? Studies have shown that less than 25% of dogs fall sick after eating vegetation, so it is not plausible to assume that dogs use grass as a natural remedy to treat their upset stomachs.
It is also interesting to mention that only 10% of the dogs show signs of sickness before they start eating grass. The ultimate conclusion that can be drawn here is that more than half of the dogs don’t get sick after their grass-eating escapades.
However, if your dog shows constant signs of being sick or obsessively eating grass, there can be multiple medical reasons such as:
One of the medical reasons for a dog’s obsession with grass can be showing symptoms for ‘ Pica.’ It is a technical term for a compulsive eating disorder in which the patient resorts to eating non-edible items. Dirt, clay, and flaking paint are some of the most common things eaten.
Pica in dogs can be indicative of the fact that the dog may have a nutritional deficiency. However, more than often, it is a sign of being bored and not being exercised enough, as this behavior is mainly found in puppies and younger dogs.
Before you start getting worried, it will be helpful to know that this type of pica is common in dogs, is entirely natural, and is not known to cause too many flare-ups. Veterinarians also believe that, in many cases, it is not a cause for serious concern. A small study was conducted of 49 dogs that had access to plants in their owner’s homes. The results found that 79% of the dogs had, at some point, eaten plants.
Regardless, we should keep our eyes on the pets when they are out and about taking care of their business. The grass may not be a threat, but small sticks, branches, or even small stones that come with the ground can cause a severe blockage. If they are unable to pass it from their system, it may result in a trip to E.R. or an endoscopy.
Helpful signs to judge the signs of medical danger:
- Excessive diarrhea
- Difficulty in excreting
- Loss of interest in food
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of energy
Allergies and Hygiene
Like humans, animals can acquire allergies throughout their lives, which they may not be born with. The most common natural elements in the environment which can cause allergies in dogs are plants, pollen, and related bacteria that can cause severe side effects that may manifest as skin allergy, gastrointestinal issues, and other hygiene issues when inhaled, ingested, or physically contracted.
Allergies in dogs can manifest into issues like skin scabs, itching, stomach issues, among many other symptoms. While all dogs are susceptible to allergies, many breeds with weaker immune systems like setters, retrievers, terriers, pugs, and bulldogs may be at a higher risk.
Keep a watchful eye on your dog; if it is allergic to pollen, plants, or related bacteria, even mere contact can prove to be harmful.
As the warning signs for pancreatitis may not be serious, this condition tends to fly under the radar until it becomes life-threatening. This could be caused by inflammation in the pancreas, an organ responsible for releasing enzymes that aid in digestion. As the condition progresses, the enzymes can begin to digest the organ itself, causing the animal immense pain and suffering.
One of the many causes for pancreatitis is dietary indiscretion, a medical term that means that the dog will eat anything, including flora. If your dog is unlike its usual self, and something seems amiss with regards to its eating habits, energy levels, and posture, then schedule a visit to the veterinarian as soon as possible without waiting for ‘DIY’ methods.
By being watchful, aware, proactive, and responsible, there is a possibility that your pet may not have to undergo surgery for this pesky and uncomfortable condition.
Sometimes, the answer to a question can be a no-brainer and an uncomplicated one. Your dog may be interested in eating grass simply because they just enjoy eating grass. Whether the pets gobble up the turf, nibble at it, or like to tear the grass from the ground, it just could be because they like it. There are many things that an animal does, which is revolting to a human being, but regardless of our judgment, or our commands, they keep doing things that bring them happiness.
Eating grass could also be due to anxiety and stress or boredom. A pet’s day is focused around their owners, watching them leave every day with nothing to do, which can result in a dog resorting to anything to keep itself busy. Eating plants could also be a cry for attention or a adopted by , similar to how a human chews nails as a measure to relieve stress.
How can we Help our Dog?
Now, we know the ‘why’, the next obvious question to ask is what can be done to break the habit of eating grass as snacking on large quantities of grass cannot be right. While the habit itself is not toxic, the things present in the greenery like pesticide and herbicide can prove to be problematic for your pets. More cause for concern can be the parasites such as roundworms and hookworms that lurk in plantations and weeds that can disrupt the host organism’s internal mechanism.
There are many methods through which we can effectively work with our pets to stop a bad habit, and we will elaborate on each one so that you will never have to worry about grass again.
Replay your dog’s routine in your mind and evaluate, if according to its breed, it’s getting enough exercise or not. A bored pet can be driven to nibble at anything within reach.
Engage in activities that are fun for both of you; it will also help to bond more with your pets. Many dog breeds require almost 60 minutes of exercise a day, and if the breed is hunting or sporting one, they will need much more.
Some changes in the home environment can also yield positive results. The time spent apart from their owner can take a toll on a dog as they are well-known to be affectionate. A dog walker, a check-in from a friend who lives nearby, brain puzzles, or self-playable toys can teach a dog to be less dependent on you. Also, eliminate any objects that can be eaten by your dog.
A puppy or a younger dog might resort to eating grass to calm their teething. Soft toys, bones and chewing objects can be inculcated in their routine to replace their habit of eating plants.
You can check out another article about chewing bones in our other article here: To Chew or Not to Chew: The Ultimate Safe Bones for Dogs Guide
Changing the diet
Excessive eating of grass can be a result of missing nutrients like fiber from the diet which the dog is trying to replace. Try switching to better dog food that your canine companion loves and is rich in high-fiber, and it might do the trick. Another change that can be introduced is by incorporating natural herbs or cooked vegetables in their diet.
Also, as done with human babies, the things that are not meant to be eaten can be coated in horrible tasting stuff. Owners can try covering the plants in cayenne or bitter apple spray but use it sparingly.
If you are still not sure what to feed your dog, you can click here to read a more in-depth explainer about good diet and choosing the right food for your dog.
Switching to dog-friendly plants
You may be surprised to learn that pet supply stores have dog safe grass and herb growing kits. The next time your dog starts its assault on grass, direct it to a home-grown patch of grass that has not been treated chemically, wheatgrass is an excellent option to grow.
If you are confused about what plants are toxic and non-toxic for your dog, then visit this site for a complete guide to solve your predicament.
There are almost always positive outcomes if you are patient enough with your pets and devote enough time with them for training purposes. Exercises like –
– Leash walking your dog, and when he tries to eat non-edible things, make them understand the ‘leave it’ command with treats and praise. Also, commands like ‘look’ or ‘focus’ can be effective in getting their attention away from what you don’t want them to do.
– Muzzling the dog’s mutt to discourage it from eating anything when they are outside. Be cautious as a muzzled dog should not be left alone unobserved.
– Trading a bad habit with a high-value treat. The next time you see the dog eating away the grass, try coaxing them to leave it by giving them a rare high-value treat, they cannot refuse.
– Teaching the pets what plants or area is off-limits in the owner’s lawn or backyard.
When none of these tricks mentioned above works, owners can consider hiring a professional dog trainer or a behavioral specialist to aid them in training their pets. Overcoming pica can be an ongoing project. As long as we detect the issue and seek out professional help, we can get rid of the harmful munching habits in our pet.
Prevention is always better than cure, and by changing up some things in your dog’s life, you may be able to save them from an emergency visit to the veterinarian. Surgery to remove foreign objects from the digestive tract is not fun for either the patient or their owner.
To conclude, eating grass does not have to be a significant cause for concern. If the dog is its usual self and is not behaving abnormally, it should not be a problem. However, to reiterate everything that we have mentioned, if something is not harmful does not mean it is good either. So, as an owner, you can educate yourself about the situation as thoroughly as possible to ensure the well-being of the pets that are in your care.
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