If you’ve ever caught your dog chowing down on a patch of green grass, you may be wondering why and you aren't alone! This is a common query for vets from dog owners all over the world, particularly as dogs cannot digest grass and it comes out the same way it went in.
So why do dogs eat grass and is it something to be concerned about? In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into why your furry friend is seeking out fresh grass, whether it's a problem and what it may mean for your dog.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Contrary to popular belief, your dog is not only eating grass due to an upset stomach. So why then do dogs eat grass?
IllnessWhy do dogs eat grass when sick? Vets believe this is down to the ability of grass to soothe an upset stomach. Similar to how humans take an antacid due to discomfort caused by built-up stomach acid, dogs may use grass as a natural antacid.
Other theories include that grass helps to induce vomiting in your dog. This can help them to feel better if they have ingested something that is upsetting their digestion.
Dogs need chlorophyll for healthy red blood cells and green grass is jam-packed with chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is present in many green vegetables, but as your dog is unlikely to have a selection of veggies at his or her disposal, they may seek this out by eating grass instead.
Grass, as with other veggies, also provides a good dose of roughage to your dog's diet. The dietary fibre found in roughage such as grass is essential for your dog's healthy digestion.
Including steamed green vegetables such as beans, spinach, broccoli or similar in your dog's diet can help to boost their chlorophyll and meet their fibre needs. Steaming vegetables is not necessary, but it does make it easier for them to digest them and obtain the vital nutrients they contain.
BehaviouralAll dogs, including their undomesticated cousins such as dingos, coyotes or wolves all eat grass. It’s considered part of their natural behaviour and many simply enjoy chewing and biting at it. That’s right, they may simply like the taste or texture and there’s nothing untoward behind it.
Can Eating Grass Be A Sign Of A Problem?
While there can be several good and arguably quite normal reasons for your dog to eat grass, it could be indicative of an issue.
Eating non-food substances such as dirt, chalk, rocks or grass can also be related to a condition called pica. Pica is most often exhibited (in humans and dogs) when there is a nutritional deficiency present and could also be a reason why dogs eat grass and leaves.
Keep in mind that with pica, the desire to eat these non-food items is a compulsion and not easily remedied without proper medical intervention. If you feel your dog's consumption of grass is excessive, you should seek the help of your vet to ensure their diet is not lacking in vital nutrients.
Occasionally, excessive grass consumption can also be a sign of a behavioural issue. Bored dogs that are left alone a lot have also been known to eat grass as a way to keep themselves entertained.
Risks Of Eating Grass
While your dog eating small amounts of grass is nothing to be worried about too much or consuming the wrong type of grass could harm them.
Ingesting large volumes of grass could lead to intestinal blockages or in some instances it may be toxic. You should never let your dog eat grass clippings as the risk of blockages or issues is higher when consumed in this way.
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If your dog is eating grass in a public location such as a park or oval, you should be mindful that there could be pesticides or poisons present. You should never let your dog eat grass in locations where you are unsure about the presence of pesticides or fertilisers.
How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Grass
So now we understand why your dog might be eating grass, let's look at how to stop it if it's becoming problematic. Remember, by and large, there is no risk to your dog eating small amounts of grass, however, in cases where it is deemed excessive you can try:
In this method, you simply distract your dog when you see them eating grass and give them something else to do instead. If they respond appropriately and leave the grass, you should reward them with a treat. This treat does not have to be food-oriented, it can also be verbal praise or physical affection.
Not always a feasible option due to work and life commitments, but supervising your dog and simply stopping them every time you see them preparing to take a bite of grass can also be effective.
The goal is to break the habit and this is often down to simply telling them no and guiding them to another area of your yard.
Limit Their Access
If you do not have the time to supervise your dog while outside, you may need to limit its access to grass until the habit is broken.
This may mean fencing off an area where your dog can be safe but not reach the grass or keeping them indoors and away from our lawn aside from scheduled toilet breaks. It may also mean avoiding dog parks where they have free reign to run away and eat grass on the sly.
As previously mentioned, you may need to seek the advice of your vet and have an assessment done regarding your dog's diet. This could be as simple as chatting with your vet about their usual food or may extend to having a blood test to check for any deficiencies.
Introducing the appropriate vitamins and minerals at the right levels into your dog's diet could see their obsessive grass-eating behaviour cease without the need for any other steps.
Enrichment Activities And ExerciseIf the grass consumption is down to boredom, you’ll need to find some boredom-busting activities or toys to keep your pet otherwise occupied.
Enrichment toys that involve having to solve a puzzle to find a treat are a great option, but an ice block with a treat frozen inside or a self-rolling dog ball can all be used to great effect. Exercise is also beneficial as a tired dog is less likely to act out from boredom.
Keeping Your Dog Safe
If your dog's grass-eating habits appear to be within the normal range, great! However, you should still be mindful of their safety while in your yard and out and about.
As we touched on earlier, never let your dog eat grass in public areas where you cannot be sure if the grass has been treated with dangerous chemicals or fertilisers. When it comes to your backyard, you’ll need to avoid using any unsafe pesticides or fertilisers also.
This will likely mean skipping any weed sprays, fungicides or insecticides. You can always check with the manufacturers directly for each product regarding their safety around pets.
For any dogs prone to munching on the lawn, we also recommend doing a check of the plants within your garden to check they are dog friendly. For some dogs, taking a bite of juicy leaves can be just as appealing as eating grass, so it is important to remove or avoid planting any vegetation that is known to be toxic to dogs.
For dogs diagnosed with pica by their vet, you should also remove any potting soil, leaves and other non-food debris from your yard to limit the risk of your dog ingesting something they shouldn’t.
When To See Your Vet
While for the most part, you don’t need to see your vet regarding when your dog eats grass, though there are some instances where we would recommend seeking urgent advice.
If your dog is eating grass and vomiting before repeating the same behaviour, you should contact your vet. Repeated vomiting may mean something else is going on that hasn't been resolved by eating grass to induce vomiting.
Dogs can quickly become dehydrated and quite unwell through vomiting. Vomiting can also be a sign that they have ingested something harmful to their system and needs to be checked out.
So there you have it, hopefully, we have helped to shed some light on the possible reasons for this behaviour.