Is it because of illness, unsated hunger, boredom, fun? Since there is no definite answer, many theories regarding this issue surfaced. In this article, we will try to cover and debunk the possible causes and myths regarding dogs eating grass. A dog eating grass is just one of many annoying and worrying habits that your dog has or may suddenly startup out of the blue.
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Dogs Eating Grass
Herbivores eat plants and grass every day, it is in their nature. There is nothing weird with cows or horses grazing. But why are dogs eating grass? They are not herbivores, nor are they equipped with the organs to properly digest it.
Unlike cows, dogs don’t have four stomachs and the metabolism to properly and efficiently digest grass. Why, then, are dogs eating grass? Is it because of illness, unsated hunger, boredom, fun? This behavior is certainly confusing many people, while at the same time raising important questions about canine nature.
Many people report that their dogs often eat grass, and some dogs even vomit afterward.
Although dogs have been known to eat grass for a long time, there still isn’t a clear answer as to why they do it. If we Google this question, we will find over two and a half million results, yet there are only a few scientific studies regarding this issue.
Pica is the technical term for the disorder which causes animals to eat things that aren’t food. Pica manifests in dogs that eat plants, rocks, dirt, golf balls, etc. Basically, anything that isn’t food and can mess with a dog’s digestive tract. Although pica is a disorder, there are no indications it is caused by health problems in dogs. Even though the grass is technically a type of food, it still counts as a pica in dogs.
In this article, we will try to cover and debunk the possible causes and myths regarding dogs eating grass.
Are Dogs Eating Grass Due To An Illness?
In short, probably not. As we previously said, almost all dogs eat grass at some point. So, if your dog is eating grass, it does not necessarily mean something is wrong.
A study showed that less than 10 percent of the observed dogs exhibited grass-eating behavior during an illness. Such a low number indicates that there is probably no correlation between illness and dogs eating grass.
But, if this weird behavior presents suddenly, you should probably have your dog examined by a vet or refer to the download I hope is now in your possession. Better safe than sorry.
Many diseases can, but don’t necessarily, cause your dog to eat grass, so we should pay attention and make a note of the following things:
- How much grass is your dog eating?
- How often is he eating it?
- Is your dog gulping it down or just nibbling?
- Does your dog vomit after eating grass?
- Is there a pattern to your dogs’ habit?
In most cases, no harm can come out of a little grass here and there.
However, not all grass is safe for dogs to eat. Most importantly, you should pay special attention to the grass in parks, as it is probably being sprayed with chemicals for maintenance. These chemicals can be very toxic if ingested and can lead to health problems. Most parks put out signs warning people that the grass isn’t safe for pets.
Some plant species can also be poisonous to dogs, so it’s best to contact your local authority on plants and ask.
Finally, the best way to indulge your dog’s grass-eating urge while at the same time guarding its health is to grow your own grass. Having a small patch of grass grown especially for your dog can ensure this weird habit doesn’t result in negative effects.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Despite how eating plants might be thought of as weird when dogs do it, it is actually considered to be normal dog behavior by most vets. It is a well-known fact that dogs will try to eat just about anything they come into contact with.
A survey with around 50 owners whose dogs had open access to plants showed that nearly 80 percent of dogs ate plants at some point. Another survey also showed that grass is the most commonly eaten plant.
Most importantly, plant-eating was also detected in other, wild members of the dog family. Wild dogs are not strictly carnivorous and they end up eating both meat and plants to survive.
They also aren’t picky when it comes to what parts of animals they eat. As a result, they often devour the stomachs of their herbivorous prey as well.
Consequently, some people think that plant-eating is just a natural trait that your dog is trying to replicate.
So, why are dogs eating grass? Since there is no definite answer, many theories regarding this issue surfaced. We will go over the most popular theories and myths regarding this weird behavior in the following text.
Are Dogs Eating Grass Due To A Nutritional Deficiency
Dogs might be eating grass because of nutritional deficiencies. Some evidence suggests that dogs eat grass in order to supplement their diet with fibers and minerals.
One published study involved a poodle that ate grass for 7 years. The study claims that the dog in question stopped grazing completely after its owners put it on a high-fiber diet. Therefore, putting your dog on a high-fiber diet might be worth a try.
However, dog diets were also covered in some other surveys. The results indicated that most dogs didn’t have any nutritional deficiencies because their regular diets were well balanced. As a result, the “nutritional causes” theory can’t be completely confirmed.
Although this is a generally accepted concept, there is no real way of proving it. Also, depending on the amount of grass your dog eats, a nutritional deficiency might not be the case at all.
Are Dogs Eating Grass To Induce Vomiting?
vomiting is an evolutionary trait that most animals possess. Its purpose is to push out materials and foods that don’t sit well on your stomach or can cause you harm.
Similarly, dogs also vomit in order to clear their stomachs from contaminated food, non-food materials, etc. As a result, people believe that dogs are eating grass as a way to induce vomiting in case their stomach is upset.
However, not that many dogs actually vomit after eating plants. A generally accepted number of dogs that vomit after eating grass is right about 25 percent. The most likely cause for vomiting after eating grass is probably just a sensitive stomach, mainly due to dogs not being able to digest cellulose, the main ingredient in plants.
Scientists are skeptical regarding this issue because they believe dogs aren’t smart enough to know how to induce vomiting.
Are Dogs Eating Grass To Treat Parasites
Seeing as how they can’t properly digest plants due to their biology, dogs might eat grass as a way of scrubbing their GI tract of parasites and other non-food materials.
Hookworms are one of the parasites that infect dogs most often. They are similar to tapeworms and primarily target the dog’s GI tract. Hookworms feed on a dog’s blood, which can be fatal in younger dogs. Similarly, they can cause anemia, which is also a possible reason for a dog’s desire to munch on grass
However, you shouldn’t be alarmed as hookworms are easily cured with the help of medication.
Are Dogs Eating Grass Because Of Boredom?
Just like humans, dogs can get bored. Being outside in the same backyard having nothing to do for the whole day can be really boring. Hence, dogs maybe eat grass to keep themselves entertained.
In the case of boredom, the grass isn’t an object of any special interest. It probably has something to do with dogs liking to chew on things, random things, all things.
Seeing as how they don’t have hands to fiddle with, they primarily use their mouths for “feeling out” the world. This is especially true with young dogs, who are still learning the secrets of the world around them. Similarly, young dogs have lots of spare energy and it is important to keep them exercising regularly.
The problem with boredom can be avoided if you keep your dog entertained. You can do this by giving it chew toys, taking it for frequent walks or runs, etc.
Are Dogs Eating Grass Because They Like It?
Yes, dogs can just plainly like eating grass. Maybe they like the taste, the texture, who knows. Although it is odd and we don’t fully understand it, as long as your dog isn’t eating massive amounts of grass, it probably just likes it.
Similarly to humans, each dog is a unique mix of DNA and personality. Depending on how they grew up, they can develop unique preferences regarding food, what they like doing, etc.
Seeing as how almost all dogs eat grass, they probably just like eating it. Although it can’t be proven, it makes a lot of sense if we take into account how dogs generally behave.
Are Dogs Eating Grass Because Of Psychological Problems?
Many people believe that eating grass is a result of a psychological issue, mainly because the grass isn’t a dog’s natural food. Psychological problems can cause many types of weird behavior indeed. One likely psychological cause of grass-eating is anxiety.
Despite how dogs just always seem to be happy and cheerful, they can also feel anxious and exhibit all kinds of weird behavior as a result. We can use dogs who suffer from severe anxiety as an example. They can often develop compulsive behavior, one form of which can be excessive grass eating.
Past trauma or some health problems can cause anxiety in dogs. Similar to humans, dogs try to find comfort in food and chewing on random things.
If you believe your dog is suffering from anxiety, a visit to a veterinarian might be in order. They can run tests and see if your dog has any health problems causing the onset of unusual behavior.
Dogs And Their Wild Ancestors
Unlike cats who are strictly carnivorous, wild dogs are somewhat omnivorous. Although they primarily eat meat, they can supplement their diet with plants. Basically, they eat anything they can scavenge in order to survive. As a result, many theories surfaced regarding domestic dogs and their grass-eating habits. Those theories claim domestic dogs just inherited this form of behavior from their wild ancestors and are trying to replicate it.
Wild dogs also eat every part of an animal they kill, including the stomachs of herbivores. As a result, they ingest plant matter.
Upsides And Downsides of Dogs Eating Grass
Is It Good?
Similar to humans, dogs can also recognize when they’re missing certain nutrients. We experience cravings for food when we are missing certain minerals, vitamins, etc. Food cravings manifest through our subconscious mind, which pays more attention to our bodies than we do.
Meanwhile, dogs have a 100,000 times stronger sense of smell, which they can use to sniff out any tasty food around them. Combining a keen sense of smell with their innate scavenger nature can lead to them eating plants. Certain types of grass are rich in potassium and phytonutrients, which are beneficial to dogs. Hence, we can conclude that as long as your dog doesn’t eat grass too often, while it is not necessarily a good thing, it’s normal behavior.
Is It Bad?
Wild dogs explore the vast wilderness, where humans haven’t yet had a chance to lay their chemical signature. They don’t need to worry about poisons and alike.
In contrast, domestic dogs can be exposed to various types of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers. Most parks have their staff use chemical agents on the grass in order to keep it healthy and green which is why it is important for you to keep track of where your dog eats grass. These chemicals can be poisonous to your dog and can cause various medical issues.
Also, if your dog is eating huge amounts of grass quite often, it can mean that there is a health issue involved. In this case, you should check with your vet.
How To Stop Dogs From Eating Grass
Generally speaking, even if dogs act strangely, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong. Seeing as how almost all dogs eat grass at some point, experts consider it natural dog behavior and you shouldn’t worry too much about it.
However, if you notice this behavior occurring often and you’re worried, there are quite a few steps you can take in order to teach your dog not to eat grass and other plants.
Try Changing Your Dog’s Diet
If you suspect your dog is eating grass because of nutritional deficiencies, you can try changing its diet. Maybe your dog is just trying to supplement its fiber intake with grass, and to make its digestion easier.
However, if you plan on making changes, make sure to do so very gradually, mainly because of dogs having sensitive stomachs.
Many commercially available dog foods leave much to be desired in terms of nutrition. The best way of finding out which foods are somewhat worth it in terms of nutrition and price is by using the internet and looking for reviews.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an area in which we should try and “save” money. Keeping your dog healthy begins with feeding it proper food.
Some of the ingredients you should look for in dog food are:
- Soybeans, peanuts, rice
- Corn and corn by-products
Furthermore, you can choose to feed your dog homemade meals. Steamed vegetables are a great alternative to dog food. We recommend trying different types of vegetables over a period of time to determine which one suits your dog the most.
Veggies like broccoli, pepper, carrots, squash, spinach, and celery are all very healthy. Furthermore, your dog will probably love their taste as well.
Most importantly, if you’re changing your dog’s diet, you ought to do it slowly and over a period of time in order to avoid upsetting its stomach too much.
Try To Discourage Your Dog From Eating Grass
If changing your dog’s diet didn’t work, you can try discouraging it from eating grass by planting some strongly scented plants or by spraying spices over your lawn. In this case, we are using their incredible sense of smell against them.
There are some plants dogs don’t like at all, like citrus trees, aloe, lemongrass, and marigold, to name a few. You can discourage your dog from grazing by having these plants in your backyard. The smell of these plants alone should be enough to discourage your dog from even trying to nibble on them.
When it comes to spices, your best bet would be some cayenne pepper or chili powder. Spraying these spices across your lawn, especially at the edges, would teach your dog that grass is not a pleasant thing to smell or eat. However, don’t overdo it. We know that chili can be quite spicy, imagine how much it can hurt dogs with their incredibly strong sense of smell.
Try Giving Your Dog Toys To Play With
If your dog is only chewing on grass because of boredom, giving it fun toys to play with might be your easiest solution.
Younger dogs are known to chew on just about everything, from grass to your favorite shoes. And although this behavior can be annoying, we can use it to our advantage by providing our dogs with their own special toys. Most often, it will work perfectly as your dog will find dental bones and chewy toys far more interesting than plain grass.
Also, we recommend you set a certain playtime each day. Your dog can get the exercise it needs and spend the rest of the day calmly napping.
Train Your Dog That Eating Grass Is Bad
Another logical thing to do would be to train your dog that eating grass is bad. However, training a dog to do anything is a tricky process. It requires you to be strict whenever your dog does anything bad, and to reward it for good behavior.
Also, don’t expect this to be instant. It might take a while before your dog realizes that you will get angry if it eats grass. As with any other method, it requires time and patience.
It is important to know that even though we might train our dogs not to eat grass when we are around, they can still resort to that behavior when no one is looking. It’s just how dogs are.
If Nothing Helps, Make a Special Garden For Your Dog
As we said before, this isn’t something to cause you concern. What we can do now is make sure the grass your dog is eating is home-grown and safe from any harmful chemicals.
Having a special grass box for your dog is your best way of making sure it doesn’t eat any chemically treated or otherwise poisonous plants. Some of the most popular types of grass according to dogs and their owners are rosemary, peppermint, and milk thistle.
So, why are dogs eating grass? We might never know.
Dogs have, are, and will be eating grass for ages. Although we don’t know exactly why this kind of behavior is so common that experts consider it completely normal. Seeing how there is an inherent language barrier between dogs and us, we can’t ask them why they do the things they do.
Despite a somewhat popular opinion that grass-eating suggests an illness, there is absolutely no evidence to confirm such a claim. Dogs probably just like eating plants.
It is important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior, especially if it seems to be compulsive, sudden, erratic. In this case, you should check with your vet and have them examine your dog for any health problems.
For all we know, maybe all of the reasons we stated are true in their own way. Inherited behavior, nutrient deficiencies, boredom, and just plain preference, all probably contribute to this weird occurrence which has confused people for ages.