Have you found your dog eating grass? Are you shaking your head and wondering why? It’s not unusual for dogs to eat grass sometimes. In fact, even healthy dogs with well-balanced diets can be found eating grass regularly.
Many people think that it is related to the dog’s tummy trouble (yes, ingesting grass does make some dogs vomit), but grass does also have necessary nutrients so your dog may just be craving it. In fact, a survey of dog owners revealed that while the vast majority of their dogs ate grass, they usually didn’t appear nauseous before nor did they vomit afterwards.1
There are just so many reasons why your dog may be rushing out to nibble up all of that greenery. Let’s touch on those a little bit here:
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Why do dogs eat grass?
They like it
This may be a too-boring reason for many of us, but the reason why dogs eat grass may be just as simple as because they like to. That’s right, maybe your dog just likes the flavor of grass. Let’s think a little bit, dogs eat lots and lots of things that us humans find disgusting (when was the last time you had to clean up trash that your dog has feasted upon??).
I know that Dylan loves munching on grass. I will often find him sitting outside happily chewing away. And he always insists on stopping at a certain house on our walks because he loves their grass.
According to studies, there are several theories that canine nature may have had a lot to do with why dogs eat grass. Here are a couple of those:
- Dogs are in the Order Carnivora and the family Canidae along with other carnivorous mammals (including wolves, coyotes, and jackals). They are considered scavenging, or facultative carnivores. That means that they mainly eat meat, but can survive on plant material alone if necessary.2
- Wild dogs may eat grass to help purge intestinal parasites.3
- Grass-eating may just be innate and they may be more likely to eat grass if their mother ate grass while nursing.4
To self soothe
Some dogs will vomit after they eat grass, therefore it is thought to potentially be a way for dogs to self-soothe themselves. I have seen lots of people saying that the grass blades tickle the lining of the throat and stomach, which activates the dog’s gag reflex and helps them to empty their stomach. However, I can’t find any scientific research to prove this.
They are hungry
Yes, dogs eating grass can be caused by something as simple as hunger. You may start to notice that your dog eats grass more often right before meal time.
Is eating grass bad for dogs?
Most veterinarians and canine experts agree that dogs eating grass poses no real risk and it in itself is no reason to worry. That said, it is good to keep an eye on it. Most experts agree that you should contact your veterinarian in the event that any of the following things happen:
- If there is a sudden increase in grass eating: as with any behavioral change, if your dog suddenly starts to eat grass, you may want to reach out to the veterinarian. They may have a parasite.
- If your puppy is teething: your puppy can easily ingest too much grass and this could potentially lead to blockages in the intestines or cause bowel issues. So make sure to always monitor your dog and especially your puppy.
- If you see your dog vomiting a lot after eating grass: if you find that your dog is eating excessive grass and vomiting, even if they seem otherwise fine, it is wise to take them to the veterinarian so that they may diagnose any issues with your pet. The veterinarian will run tests such as a fecal exam, a physical, and blood tests to look for any gastrointestinal issues. Chances are they will find nothing, but you want to make sure to stay on top of your dog’s health at all times.
- If your dog starts to behave erratically in any other way: you may want to call your veterinarian. Like we said earlier, any sudden change in behavior is worth looking into.
One of the big concerns about dogs eating grass is that outdoor grass and other types of landscaping can be home to herbicides, pesticides, and chemicals. If your dog accidentally ingests any of these, it could make them very sick. These chemicals can be toxic to animals and people both. That’s why you may be interested in offering your dog an alternative.
Here are two good resources in case your pet eats something potentially poisonous (please note that they may charge an incident fee):
- ASPCA Animal Poison Control: (888) 426-4435
- 24/7 Animal Poison Control: (855) 764-7661
Are there any grass alternatives that dogs like?
If you have noticed that your dog seems to be overly interested in eating grass, you may want to step in and introduce alternatives to your dog. The following are all great options:
- Add pureed or lighted cooked vegetables and/or herbs into your dog’s diet. This is easy if you make your dog’s food. I often use some rosemary and parsley for instance in some of the treats I make for Dylan and Rainey. And I give them pureed vegetable blends that will include yummy things like kale, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
- Invest in a small tray of grass (such as wheatgrass) to keep indoors. If they have a safe selection of grass in a safe location available for them to eat you will find it much less stressful for you!
- Start an herbal garden in your home. An herbal garden can get them the nutritional needs they are lacking from a safe, natural source. Some other herbs that can be beneficial to your dog include: basil, peppermint, oregano.
How can I stop my dog from eating grass?
In addition to the alternatives mentioned above, there are some ways that you can help to stop your dog from eating grass.
Get them moving
Your dog may just be bored. If you are outside with them, play with them, take them for a walk, or do something else that helps to keep them busy and otherwise occupied so they don’t have time to hang out and eat grass.
Additionally, you can work to distract them from eating grass by distracting them. A good way to do this is by playing fetch, playing Frisbee, or even giving them a good, quality chew toy will help.
Change their food
In the event that your dog is eating grass in order to supplement a nutritional deficiency, you may consider changing their food. Switching your dog to a high-quality food may help. There was a study that showed that just switching a dog’s diet to something with more fiber may help to curb grass eating.5
Pay attention to your dog
You know your dog better than anyone else does. It’s a good chance that there is no reason to worry when you see your dog eating grass. And anyway, there’s a good chance that you will recognize if there is something wrong. Simply paying attention to your dog can help calm your fears and ease your worries.
- Sueda K et al. “Characterisation of plant eating in dogs.” Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2008;111(1):120–32.
- Autran L. “11 safe foods for dogs (and 3 bad things).” October 15, 2019. dylanandrainey.com.
- Hart BL and Hart LA. “How mammals stay healthy in nature: the evolution of behaviours to avoid parasites and pathogens.” Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2018; 373(1751): 20170205.
- Bjone SJ et al. “Maternal influence on grass-eating behavior in puppies.” J Vet Behav. 2009;4(2):97–8.
- Kang BT et al. “A high fiber diet responsive case in a poodle dog with long-term plant eating behavior.” J Vet Med Sci. 2007;69(7):779–82.