Do you catch your pooch grazing on grass in the backyard? You might be worried by this peculiar behavior and wonder if something is wrong. However, it’s totally normal for dogs to eat grass and it isn’t typically a cause for alarm.
You might not know this, but dogs are omnivores, so they need a certain amount of plant matter in their diets. As a result, dogs with unbalanced diets can develop an appetite for grass. This behavior of eating non-traditional food is called pica.
However, eating grass isn’t always associated with an imbalanced diet. Read on to learn all the reasons why your dog is indulging in greenery, when you should be concerned, and how to curb the behavior.
Why Dogs Eat Grass
Eating grass is common for all breeds of dogs. A study found that 79% of dogs have eaten plants at one time or another. This should help set your mind at ease.
As omnivores, dogs need to maintain a balanced diet. They crave fiber, which is commonly found in plants, and grass is a readily available way to get it easily. If you find your dog munching on your landscaping, you may need to reconsider the kind of food you feed it.
Fiber helps dogs digest food and allows their gastrointestinal (GI) tract to function normally. Like in humans, fiber is an important part of a dog’s balanced diet.
Additionally, dogs are hard-wired in the biological sense to eat plants. Even wild dogs have been reported eating grass, so there’s evidence of this behavior occurring in nature as well.
A domesticated dog eating grass is an example of an instinctual behavior leftover from their wild, hunting days. A wild dog would get its fill of plant nutrients indirectly from consuming animals that ate plants. So, when your dog eats grass, it’s likely acting on an age-old instinct.
Of course, nutrition and instinct are only a few of the reasons a dog would want to eat grass. Others seemingly just like the taste and texture, and some, especially puppies, do so out of boredom. Other dogs eat grass as a way to cope with anxiety.
Simply put, dogs eat grass for a variety of reasons and it’s difficult to make a determination of the true cause of this behavior. In fact, it’s very likely that an individual dog has its own reason for eating grass.
Do Dogs Eat Grass to Settle Their Stomachs?
One common myth surrounding the phenomenon of dogs eating grass is that dogs do so in order to settle their stomachs and relieve distress.
An upset stomach can be caused by a build-up of stomach acid, and grass could help relieve the uncomfortable feeling. While some veterinarians find this claim suspect, others believe eating grass could act as a sort of antacid.
Anecdotal evidence is mixed regarding this. Many dogs that eat grass vomit afterward. So, it’s unclear if the grass caused the stomach ache and eventual vomiting or if the stomach ache caused the dog to seek out and eat grass.
However, the scientific evidence doesn’t really support the notion that dogs will eat grass to calm their stomach. One study actually found that healthy dogs were more likely to eat grass than those showing signs of distress.
Should You Let Your Dog Eat Grass?
Many dog owners are hesitant to let their dogs eat grass. After all, cleaning up dog throw-up isn’t exactly a fun way to spend an afternoon.
However, eating grass is usually safe for dogs. You need to be sure the grass hasn’t been treated with fertilizer or pesticide. Those can pose serious health issues and require a trip to the vet.
You should also make sure that your dog is up-to-date on its anti-parasite medication. Hookworm lives in soil, and your dog can get it by eating the grass around it. However, hookworm is easily treated with medication.
All in all, it might not be the best idea to let your dog eat grass, but it’s typically pretty safe if you take some precautions.
When It’s Cause for Concern
While letting a dog eat grass is incredibly common and is likely safe to do, it can be a sign of a larger issue.
If your dog demonstrates signs of an upset stomach, it may have an issue regarding its GI tract. You should take your dog to the vet to get a proper diagnosis, as something like pancreatitis could be plaguing your little friend.
You should also take your dog to the vet if you suspect it’s ingested any harmful chemicals that may have been used to treat the grass. Professional landscapers at places like parks sometimes use pesticides that could be incredibly harmful to your dog’s health.
Additionally, some common household plants can be toxic to dogs if they ingest them. Tomato plants are one, and you may even have a few of your own if you like to garden. Other incredibly common plants that are toxic to dogs include ivy, daffodils, and aloe vera.
Your vet will be able to recommend the ideal course of treatment should your dog get into anything toxic.
Can You Get Your Dog to Stop Eating Grass?
Despite its relative safety, there are many reasons you’d want to train your dog to stop grazing on your lawn. Fortunately, you can train your dog to abstain from grass, but doing so requires you to get to the heart of the issue.
If you suspect your dog is simply eating grass out of boredom, then you may need to focus on providing it more stimulation or playtime. Instead of letting your dog wander about on its own, bring a ball or other toy outside and engage your dog in play.
Also, you’ll want to examine the ingredients of your dog’s food to make sure it’s getting the appropriate nutrients. As compulsive grazing could be a sign of a nutrient deficiency, you might need to spring for a dog food blend with higher fiber content.
However, some dogs just seem to enjoy the taste of grass. If that sounds like your pup, you can invest in a container of high-quality wheatgrass. It’s available at most pet stores and you can be sure that it’s totally safe for your dog to eat.
You don’t need to freak out of your spot your dog eating grass in the backyard. It’s an incredibly common behavior exhibited by all breeds of dogs, and it’s usually safe.
Eating grass could be a sign of many things, from gastrointestinal distress to boredom. Some dogs seem to enjoy the taste and others eat grass as a way to supplement their diets.
You should take your dog to the vet if you suspect it’s ingested a toxic chemical, and there are ways to curb the grass-eating behavior should you desire to do so.