Ever scratch your head, looking at your pup chowing down on grass and thinking, ‘Huh?’ You’re not the only one. This grass-munching habit has left so many pet parents puzzled that it’s inspired a whole world of canine lore and theories.
First things first: if your pup is acting like a lawnmower, that’s honestly pretty normal. It’s not just your doggo with a penchant for the green stuff; almost 80% of pet parents have caught their pooches grazing on the greenery.
Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just about them being bored or feeling peckish. Our loyal, four-legged doggos have reasons way more complex than we give them credit for when they start nibbling your perfectly manicured lawn.
In this post, we’re going to deep dive into the nitty-gritty of why your canine companion goes all “grass gourmet.” Let’s unlock some of the mysteries behind your dog’s leafy-green obsession and figure out when you should start worrying. Buckle up, it’s going to be an enlightening ride!
I. WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF MY DOG EATS GRASS?
When your dog eats grass, it’s often a harmless behaviour ingrained in both instinctual and nutritional needs. Dogs are natural omnivores, and their wild counterparts (ie. wolves, coyotes) are known to eat plant matter in concert with their primary meat-based diet. Therefore, it’s not out of the ordinary to see your dog chewing on your lovely, manicured lawn.
However, there are differences between occasional and frequent grass eating in dogs. A dog that occasionally eats grass is considered normal behaviour and often doesn’t pose any health concerns. There are dogs that might even enjoy the flavour or texture of green grass, or perhaps they’re just bored or curious.
On the other hand, frequent or obsessive grass eating can be symptomatic of a larger, underlying issue. If your dog is eating grass regularly, it may be attempting to induce vomiting due to stomach upset or trying to replace an unmet dietary need, such as a lack of fibre. It could also indicate a behavioural issue, such as anxiety or compulsive behaviour.
While occasional grass eating is usually harmless, if you notice a sudden increase in frequency, it would be worthwhile to discuss this with our veterinary team to rule out any potential health or behavioral issues.
II. FOUR COMMON REASONS WHY DOGS EAT GRASS
- Nutritional Requirements
If a dog’s diet is lacking certain nutrients, they may turn to grass to account for this deficit – typically it’s a deficiency in fibre. Grass is a source of fibre, and some dogs may instinctively eat it to increase their fibre intake if their current diet is lacking. Like their human counterparts, canine dietary needs require a balanced diet to maintain their optimal health. It’s also believed that grass can help their bodies process food and waste and/or improve digestion.
- Stomach Upset
Another common notion is that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting when they’re not feeling well. This belief suggests that dogs are using grass as a natural intestinal remedy. But does eating grass actually help a dog with an upset stomach?
While this theory is still a matter of debate among veterinary experts, some – not all – dogs do vomit after eating a lot of grass. If your dog is eating vast amounts of grass and vomiting frequently, it’s important to discuss this behaviour with our vets as there could be an underlying health issue.
- Behavioral Causes
As mentioned in the introduction, grass eating could be a sign of boredom or anxiety in dogs. Your dog needs plenty of exercise and mental stimulation – without those two elements, your cherished pup might turn to uncharacteristic behaviours, such as excessive grass eating. Furthermore, it could also be a symptom of a more serious condition like pica, where animals engage in consuming non-food items.
- Canine Instinct
Even after hundreds of years of domestication, dogs will always retain some of their wild ancestors’ instincts, just like humans retain characteristics of our hunter-gatherer descendants. As true omnivores, wolves and other wild canines often eat plant greenery – including natural grasses – which is found frequently in their prey’s stomach. This theory suggests that modern-day canines may have an instinctual drive to consume grass, even if they’re well-nourished and healthy.
III. IS EATING GRASS UNSAFE FOR DOGS?
While intermittent grass-eating alone is usually not harmful to dogs, there remain situations where it can pose health potential risks.
There are 3 primary causes for concern:
- Pesticides and Chemicals: If the grass your dog is eating has been recently treated with fertilizers, pesticides or any other chemicals, it could have toxic effects on your pup. These substances can cause a variety of health issues, from mild stomach upset to more serious conditions.
- Parasites: At any time, grass can harbour a variety of parasites – such as ticks or intestinal worms – which, if ingested, could pose health risks to your dog.
- Choking Risk or Intestinal Blockage: Although rare, eating grass could theoretically lead to choking, especially if your dog tends to swallow without thoroughly chewing. Excessive amounts of grass can also cause intestinal blockage, particularly in smaller dogs.
IV. WHEN SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT MY DOG’S GRASS-EATING HABIT?
- Change in Appetite: If your dog is showing less interest in their regular diet AND eating more grass than usual, it’s time to schedule a veterinary appointment.
- Frequent Vomiting: While some dogs may vomit after eating grass from time to time, repeated vomiting can be a signal of more serious health issues.
- Behavioural Change: Besides eating grass, if your dog is showing other signs of distress – such as fatigue, restlessness, or behavioural changes – it may be cause for concern.
- Increased Grass Ingestion: If grass consumption becomes obsessive – rather than occasional – it could indicate that your pup is trying to address a dietary deficiency or an underlying health issue.
V. TIPS TO PREVENT YOUR DOG FROM EATING GRASS
If your dog’s grass-eating habit is becoming a concern, there are four strategies you can employ to help limit this routine:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet: Your dog’s diet needs to be nutritionally-balanced and high in fibre. Lack of fibre – or certain other nutrients – in the diet can occasionally lead dogs to eat grass. Speak with our vets about the best food options for your dog’s specific dietary needs.
- Offer Alternative Chewing Options: Dogs sometimes eat grass out of boredom or because they enjoy the act of chewing. To distract them from eating grass, provide safe, dog-approved alternatives for them to chew on, such as delicious dog treats or chew toys.
- Increase Physical Activity and Mental Stimulation: Your dog requires lots of exercise and mental stimulation to maintain optimal canine health. Frequent walks, playtime, and training sessions can help reduce boredom and anxiety, which, in turn, can decrease their urge to eat grass.
- Seek Professional Advice: If your dog’s grass-munching behaviour becomes excessive or develops into an obsession – or if you notice any accompanying indications of illness – it’s time to seek guidance from our vets. They can help eliminate any possible underlying health issues and provide advice on how to discourage your dog from eating grass.
One of THE most common questions we get at the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic is “What should I do if my dog eats grass?”
The short answer may simply be nothing because they like it! Your dog could be bored and munching grass gives them something to do to pass the time. Or perhaps your pup just enjoys eating grass. They may find ripping greenery from the ground to be satisfying. The texture and taste of grass offers something different to what they usually eat. Not the worst dietary choice – they could be eating poop instead!
Understanding why your pup eats grass can be an important step towards safeguarding their health and well-being. While usually harmless, repeated grass-eating might indicate underlying issues like nutritional deficiencies or anxiety. Always observe your dog’s behaviour carefully and consult our vets when necessary.
Your favourite furry friend’s health and happiness should always be your highest priority. As a responsible pet parent, keep these insights top-of-mind and continue to give your dog the highest-quality care they deserve.