As a long term dog owner, it is hard to ignore the fact that every dog I have ever owned has at some point eaten grass and my dog now is no exception to this.
I will catch her eating grass on a regular basis, even though I know hunger does not cause this behavior. Undoubtedly concerned that my pet was ingesting a plant, I decided to do some research on the issue to decipher why it is dogs do this.
What makes a dog eat grass?
With my dog, in particular, I find that two types of behaviors accompany the grass eating. Firstly, she will repeatedly swallow and become stressed and agitated and will want to be let outside. This kind of behavior usually leads to her frantically eating the first type of grass she can find; she will then vomit. Though there has been little progress made in discovering why they do this, it is commonly believed by many vets that when dogs vomit after ingesting grass, it is a sign that they already have an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal issues. Eating grass is believed to be your dog’s way of trying to fix the problem, as vomiting relieves them of their discomfort temporarily. However, if this is the type of behavior that follows the grass eating than it is wise that you see your veterinarian to assure yourself that there are no underlying health issues.
However, my dog and many others do not vomit every time they eat grass. I will often see that my dog will exhibit behavior opposite of what I have previously mentioned. She will leisurely eat grass that she has painstakingly searched for. She will be very particular about what grass she eats. She will also not vomit after she ingests it. After much research, this also appears to be normal behavior for a dog. Therefore, dogs that vomit after they eat grass usually already have stomach problems. Eating grass, in general, is not harmful to dogs unless it has been sprayed with fertilizers or pesticides which can be very toxic to animals.
It is also believed that dogs consume grass to make up for a missing nutrient in their diet. Grass is an excellent source of fiber and is also high in vitamins and minerals. If dogs are underfed and hungry, they may also snack on grass to curb their hunger, or they may do so when they are bored. Similar to humans, dogs will eat when they have nothing else to occupy them. Furthermore, dogs are not the only animals to eat grass. Members of the Canidae animal family such as wolves, coyotes, jackals and dingoes also ingest grass. As domestic dogs also belong to this family, this leads to the theory that eating grass may be instinctual.
How can it be prevented?
If your dog eating grass and vomiting than as I have suggested, you should see a vet. However, if your dog seems to enjoy eating grass and does not vomit after ingestion then, you can try to train them out of this behavior. This is a process that I have begun to undertake with my dog. Though it appears to have no adverse effects many public grassy areas are treated with chemicals and as a precaution I would rather attempt to train my dog out of the behavior than risk her health. When training your dog out of any particular habits, you need to give them an incentive. In my case, it’s dog treats. Like any form of training starting from a young age will be easier as they will not have developed many bad habits.
However, in my case, I did not do this as she is now two years old and I have only recently discovered that she is consuming grass. To train her out of this, whenever I see her eating grass I firmly tell her no to make her aware that this behavior is not allowed. When she listens, I reward her with a treat. This process requires vigilance on my behalf as I have to watch what she is doing when she is outside. This is something to be aware of if you are thinking about training your dog as it can be very time-consuming.
In addition to this, you could also try changing your dog’s diet as its need to eat grass may stem from a lack of a particular nutrient. You can add more fiber into their diet as this is what grass has a high percentage of and this may be the nutrient they are lacking. You can do this by adding more fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet or by changing their dog food to a higher quality kind as it will contain all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need for a balanced diet. These suggestions may help if your dog does, in fact, have a nutrient deficiency and may stop them from seeking out grass.
As I have stated earlier dogs also eat grass out of boredom, therefore keeping your dog entertained with an assortment of balls and toys for them to play with may stop their grass eating habit. You should also invest in some long wearing dog bones that will hold their attention for extended periods of time. These distractions will keep them occupied so they will not feel the need to eat out of boredom.
All in all, there is very little known about why most dogs consume grass. It is important to remember that if your dog is vomiting after it eats grass, then you should schedule a vets appointment to rule out any underlying stomach issues. However, if your dog is eating grass and does not vomit after ingestion then there is little cause to worry as it is very common behavior in dogs, and as long as your grass is free from chemicals, you can let them eat away, worry free.