The sight of a pup grazing on grass is quite familiar to canine caretakers. Studies have shown that 79% of dogs eat plants and that grass is the most common plant they eat. But why exactly are they eating grass, and is it something that should worry you?
Some people believe that dogs eat grass when they are feeling nauseated as a way to treat their own symptoms. These dogs might extend their necks, lick at the air, and swallow continuously before they get outside and eat so much grass that they throw up. Dr. Michael Goldberg has found that dogs who exhibit these behaviors often have an inflammatory condition in their stomachs or redness around the lower esophagus, which may indicate gastric reflux or inflammatory bowel disease, both of which are treatable. If your dog is showing signs of this behavior, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with your veterinarian to explore what might be going on.
More commonly, dogs do not vomit after eating grass – studies show less than 25% throw up after grazing. These dogs may be eating grass to improve digestion or fulfill nutritional needs. If you make your dog’s food at home, consult with your veterinarian or professional to make sure your pup is getting the correct nutritional balance. If your dog is on a brand name diet, you can experiment by introducing cooked vegetables (like green beans or carrots) into your dog’s diet to see if the grass eating stops. You might even switch your dog’s main food brand to one that is higher in fiber.
Some dogs choose to eat grass out of sheer boredom. In this case, you might consider increasing your pup’s walk time or throwing around a ball or toy when in your yard.
Other dogs pause to eat grass simply because they like it. But you’ll notice that these dogs choose specific types of grass – namely the thick blades of crabgrass – and just munch a bit here and there. Perhaps it tastes good or serves as a small snack during the day.
Dogs are omnivores; it’s completely normal for them to eat grass and other plants. But be mindful of a dog who habitually binges on grass and then purges. Also, know that certain chemicals used to treat lawns and plants can be extremely toxic to dogs. Look for signs in parks that indicate how or if the grass has been treated, and if you must spray your own yard, consider a non-toxic treatment. You could even buy a tray of grass specifically for your own pup.
No matter your dog’s reasons for partaking in grass-eating, remember the best and most important step you can take as a doggie parent is to remain observant, always ask questions, and of course, give them all the love they deserve.