Why Do Dogs Eat Grass

Dog Health February 15, 2024
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass
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Why Do Dogs Eat Grass

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Why Do Dogs Eat Grass

Dog owners often encounter their dogs eating grass, often as a remedy for an upset stomach or out of boredom or taste. This article provides an explanation of why dogs eat grass, whether it is acceptable to let them eat grass, and if they need to take their dog to the vet for eating grass.

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

The question of whether dogs eat grass is a physical or psychological need is often debated. While some assume that it is a form of self-medication, studies show that less than 25% of dogs vomit after eating grass, suggesting that it may be a digestive need filled by grazing.

However, only 10% of dogs show signs of illness prior to eating grass, so the majority of grass-eating dogs are not sick beforehand and do not vomit afterwards.

Grass may also be a psychological need for dogs, as they spend their days focusing on their owners’ activities and may feel bored when alone. Anxious dogs may try to get their owners’ attention through inappropriate actions, like eating grass, if they feel neglected.

For these dogs, owners can provide a modicum of comfort by offering a new toy or an old t-shirt with their owner’s familiar scent, a food-containing puzzle toy that challenges the dog, more frequent walks and strenuous play time, or doggie day care.

Is Eating Grass Instinctual?

Dogs in the wild balanced their diets by eating what they hunted, including meat, bones, internal organs, and stomach contents of their prey. Modern dogs do not have to hunt for their food, but they still have the natural instinct to scavenge.

Some dogs, even those that love their commercial dog food, will eat grass as a reflection of their ancestry and the need to be scavengers.

For these dogs, eating grass is a behavior problem that may not be a problem at all, as consistent parasite prevention is provided. Behavior modification may interfere with natural instincts and do more harm than good.

Is Eating Grass Bad for Dogs?

A study at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine found that only 22% of dogs frequently vomit after eating grass, and only 9% show signs of illness before eating it. The researchers concluded that grass and plant-eating are normal behaviors of domestic dogs.

However, grass can be treated with toxic herbicides and pesticides, and it can also cause dogs to ingest intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms from animal droppings. Veterinarians may need to perform assessments with fecal samples or blood tests to look for parasites and toxicity.

If your dog is eating grass more frequently or excessively, be alert for potential underlying illnesses, such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, appetite decrease, bloody stool, lethargy, or lip licking.

Why Did My Dog Eat Grass and Then Throw It Up?

Dogs often eat grass to alleviate digestive discomfort or soothe an upset stomach. However, this can cause vomiting in dogs, which can be concerning for pet owners. The irritation to the stomach lining triggers the vomiting reflex, which helps rid the stomach of the grass and other substances causing discomfort. Large amounts of grass can also cause a blockage in the digestive system, leading to vomiting.

If your dog vomits after eating grass, it’s crucial to monitor them closely and ensure they are drinking enough water. If vomiting persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, it’s recommended to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues. In some cases, vomiting may indicate a more serious condition, such as gastroenteritis or pancreatitis, requiring medical treatment.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Grass?

To stop your dog from eating grass, you should consider the potential health risks associated with grazing. Herbicides and pesticides sprayed on the grass can be toxic, and when plucking the grass from the ground, your dog may ingest intestinal parasites such as hookworms or roundworms that contaminate the grass in fecal residue from other dogs.

Dogs that respond to food treats may be trained to stop eating in exchange for a better option, such as bringing treats along when taking your dog for a walk and accompanying him on potty breaks. Dogs driven by affection can be trained using positive verbal reinforcement and petting as rewards.

Food allergies occur when your dog’s immune system decides that a protein in the food is a threat instead of a food, leading to itchy skin or other allergy symptoms.

When Should I Call the Vet?

If your dog is eating grass, it’s normal, but it’s important to contact your vet if they show signs of other health issues, such as not eating food, feeling tired, having diarrhea or constipation, eating grass obsessively, or continuing to eat grass and be sick.

Consult your vet or a Kennel Club-accredited instructor for advice on your dog’s health.

Final Thoughts

While eating grass is generally not harmful, it can cause vomiting and other digestive issues in some dogs. Pet owners should monitor their dogs’ grass intake and be aware of any unusual behaviors or symptoms that may indicate an underlying health issue.

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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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