Grass-eating in dogs is a very common occurrence but to-date we don’t know the exact reasons behind it. Several guesses have been posed although there isn’t evidence supporting or disproving any of them. One thing remains clear – you shouldn’t encourage or ignore this behavior. Grass-eating can be harmful and it can also be indicative of an underlying illness.
One hypothesis is that dogs eat grass to cure themselves. Detractors say dogs don’t have the intelligence to cure themselves. However, the grass-eating may be a biological instinct which wouldn’t necessarily require a higher order of intelligence. It is said they may use this method to cure themselves of parasites or to add fiber to their diet. They may be deficient in nutrients and their biological instinct may order them to eat grass as a survival method.
Grass can induce vomiting. Dogs are aware of when they need to vomit – you may have noticed your dog licking the floor, eating the tassels off your bedspreads or curtains, and chewing on your clothing. Soon after exhibiting this strange, compulsive behavior, they heave up the contents of their stomach. Likewise, perhaps the long, fibrous grass blades help them to eradicate whatever is in their stomachs causing them distress.
Others speculate that many dogs just like the way grass tastes. Canines are omnivorous, contrary to popular belief. Wild canids such as wolves are known to eat plants or undigested plants matter from the stomachs of the animals they eat or scavenge. The plants provide them with necessary nutrients that may not be in meat.
Is It Harmful?
Grass itself isn’t harmful to your pooch but secondary factors most definitely are. Pesticides, chemicals, fecal matter from sick pooches, glass fragments…get the picture here? Even though your own backyard may be cleaner than a common area, the ground is still loaded with parasites and bacteria that shouldn’t be ingested by anyone.
Some may be thinking, “Well, dogs in the wild eat grass and other stuff off the ground. Why shouldn’t my dog?” It is worth mentioning here that outdoor dogs and cats, ferals, and strays have a lifespan that is about one-third that of their nurtured counterparts. Don’t allow your dog to do something just because his wild or homeless relatives do it.
How Do I Prevent It?
The first order of prevention for humans or dogs is to look at the diet. What is your dog eating? Make a change! If your dog won’t eat fresh vegetables, try steaming or boiling them. Allow your dog a bite of the plain, unseasoned carrots or spinach that you are cooking for dinner. Dogs usually love tender, cooked broccoli or kale. They also love ripe mango, thinly sliced apples, and blueberries cut in half. For more information on foods that your dog should not eat, read Human Foods That Are Bad for Dogs.
You can also opt for a dog food made to assist weight loss. These varieties usually have more fiber added. Some companies are making vegan lines which have more fiber. Many canine parents report that changing the diet or adding vegetables to the diet stops the grass-eating behavior.
If changing the diet doesn’t make the grass-eating cease, you will have to keep your dog indoors and let him out only when you can monitor his behavior. Additionally, a vet visit might be necessary. Your vet can take samples from the blood and fecal matter to investigate how his organs are faring. While eating grass may be a common behavior in dogs, it is not a good behavior and points to something that is lacking in your dog’s life.
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.