Every dog owner has, at some point, wondered: “Why does my dog eat grass?” Dogs do it all the time (and so do some cats). Additional questions might be: “Why does my dog vomit after eating grass? Is he sick?”
In fact, eating grass is relatively common among dogs, and some do it regularly as part of their daily routine. Most veterinarians consider it to be normal dog behavior. It is considered a minor disorder known as “pica,” or the desire to eat things that aren’t food, such as grass.
The majority of dogs who eat grass aren’t sick beforehand and don’t vomit afterwards. In fact, dogs vomit in less than 25% of cases.
So: is this normal or not? Is something wrong with your dog that he eats so much grass? And, what should you do about it?
Top 7 Reasons Why Dogs Eat Grass
- Your dog’s tummy is upset. If your dog’s stomach is bothering him, he may eat grass to induce vomiting and get relief. The grass blades tickle his throat and stomach lining and cause him to gag and throw up. If he eats grass to vomit occasionally, there’s probably no reason to worry. But if it happens often or if he eats an excessive amount of grass in a frenzy, it could be a sign of that he has a more serious medical problem such as gastric reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, or pancreatitis that should be looked at by a vet.
- Your dog’s diet is deficient. When a dog starts eating grass, vets believe she could instinctively be trying to get key nutrients and/or fiber that are missing in her diet. Dogs need vitamins, minerals and roughage just like we do. Dogs are highly instinctive and may seek out what their body needs (just like not eating when their body should not have an additional load on her system – but that is another topic). Even though dogs are carnivores their bodies still require roughage which vegetation can provide. In the wild carnivores often eat berries and other vegetation to supplement their diet. Double-check the ingredients / type of food you feed her – it may be time for a switch to a higher quality diet.
- She likes the taste of grass. To her, it’s as good as a doggie treat! If this is the case, there’s no need to worry. New grass growth, the little sprouts coming up, may be flavorful to your dog. However, where is she eating the grass? Is it at the park or the neighbor’s yard? Those areas may be treated with chemicals (mosquito treatment, weed treatment, chemical greening, etc.) and those chemicals can be harmful to your dog. In your own yard make sure you stay away from chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers, which you don’t want her ingesting along with the delectable green stuff. If you need to treat your yard select products that are more naturally based and, leave the area where you allow your dog to be, untreated, especially if you are not able to monitor her all the time in that space.
- Your dog is bored. It’s a little like what we do when weare bored – we raid the refrigerator. If your dog is outside most of the day with nothing to do, he may resort to grazing as a way to pass the time. Puppies and young dogs get bored more easily and need to find some way to expend all that energy – so they turn to eating grass (or other items). More exercise, more play, more grooming, more toys, more doggie playgrounds may be part of your solution.
- He might be trying to get your attention. Your dog may feel lonely and crave your attention – and may resort to eating grass and vomiting just to get you to spend more time with him. Do more with your dog – take him for walks, play a little, brush/groom him, and pet a lot. Teaching him a new trick may stimulate him enough to leave the grass or reduce his grass eating. If you are unable to take your dog for a long walk, then go for a few short walks.
- She might be anxious. If your dog shows signs of anxiety or nervousness, eating grass could be a form of comfort mechanism (the same way we eat chocolate when we’re feeling those emotions). You can try giving her an old tee-shirt with your scent on it, or a new toy to distract her attention. To prepare the tee-shirt sleep in it one or two nights, that will really get your scent on the shirt, and your scent can be a very comforting item for your dog. Also, dogs like routine so be consistent with walks and time together, and your dog is likely to be less anxious.
- He’s following his instincts. In the wild, dogs are scavengers – they eat the meat they kill, including any grass and plants that may have been in the prey’s stomach. They instinctively eat anything that provides their basic dietary requirements. Your dog, of course, probably gets all those things through commercially-available dog food – but the instinct to eat grass and plants is still there.
Should I Stop My Dog From Eating Grass?
Most veterinarians agree that eating grass is a behavior issue that really isn’t too serious. Watch out for sudden, frenzied and excessive grass eating – that could be a sign of a more serious issue that should be checked by a vet. But if it’s a casual grazing session, you don’t need to stop your dog from doing it.
However, whether you feel you need to stop her from making a habit of this or not, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure you maintain consistent parasite prevention – both intestinal and external. Your dog can pick up parasites from the ground when grazing. This is especially common in areas where there is fecal residue from other animals, like at the dog park, common ‘potty’ areas for other pets and barn yards. You cannot see the parasites
- Feed her higher quality food, and try adding vegetables (cooked or raw, depending on what she likes) to her diet. Vegetables can also be fed as treats, like a piece of carrot, for example.
- Give him plenty of exercise and provide some mental exercise with new toys and attention.
- Be aware of toxins in your yard and get rid of them to keep your dog from accidentally ingesting them with the grass. That includes fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides, dumped liquids and items that might secrete toxins.