Why Dogs Eat Grass

dog eating grass
Image by smerikal, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Want to know the truth? We don’t know why dogs eat grass.

You’ve probably heard that this is a form of self-medication, though no one knows for sure where they first heard it… some old wives tale, certainly. Some dogs eat grass with little to no side effects while others wolf (pardon the pun) down the whole yard and vomit 30 seconds later. Most studies have found that this is rare – less than 25% of dogs vomit after eating grass.

An upset stomach (gastroenteritis) is often a sign of something more serious, so it’s worth calling your vet. Most ingestions are harmless, but others can be life-threatening. Signs of gastroenteritis are lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

I always remember a severe case of a dog who ate seaweed at the beach. He was very lethargic, just laying down. After a visit to the veterinary clinic I prescribed some common intestinal medication for his gastroenteritis. A few days later, after a lot of worry and phone updates, he was feeling much better and back to his old self.

Now, what about grass? Yes, dogs love to eat grass. There are many theories out there as to why. The reasons your dog is eating grass is probably not the same as another grass-eating dog. But understanding why your dog is eating grass can help you address the behavior.

Top Reasons Your Dog is Eating Grass

It’s Delicious.

Some dogs just love a good salad. Dogs are natural scavengers, looking for food and nutrients any way they can get them. So it could be that you dog simply finds the flavor off grass delightful, or it could be that his food isn’t giving him all the nutrients he needs.

If you suspect the latter, talk to your vet about switching to a higher fiber dog food.

He’s Bored.

You have 300 channels and nothing to watch, your dog has the whole backyard and nothing to do… so why not eat something?

Try providing a chew toy or some other activity to distract your dog from his bored snacking. Make sure the toys are durable and in good condition, as toys that are easily torn apart and ingested can become lodged in the stomach and can lead to an intestinal obstruction. Teaching your dog a new game, like fetch or frisbee, will distract you too.

It’s Instinct.

Some research suggests that grass eating may be inherited. In the wild, wolves eat grass because it makes their stomach contract, and worms and other parasites get stuck in the grass before it is passed out of their systems.

 

In general, eating grass is normal dog behavior. Just be cautious in public areas, grass is often treated with fertilizers and pesticides that can be harmful to dogs. Dogs sometimes ingest sand, insects, and bacteria with grass, which can lead to an upset stomach or, even worse, an intestinal infection. If your dog becomes ill after eating grass, the best advice is a fast of 12 to 24 hours followed by a bland meal of boiled rice and small pieces of skinless boiled chicken.

What are some of the oddest things you dog has eaten? Tell us in the comments!


Meet the Author

Clayton-Jones-DVM

Dr. Clayton Jones

Dr. Jones has 25 years of veterinary medical experience as a staff veterinarian and medical director of his own practice. He also is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Society and President of the US-Cuba Veterinary Cooperation Society.

 

One thought on “Why Dogs Eat Grass

  1. My dog ate an entire medium cheese pizza!! We left it on the table when we went to watch a movie in the other room.. We didn’t hear a sound. And my dogs only 7 pounds. Strangely she didn’t even barf. She’s also still very healthy. She’s like a little human!

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