Veterinarians explain that there are many theories on why do dogs eat grass, amongst them are instinct, habit, PICA, nutrient deficiencies and G.I. relief. The truth is that nobody knows for sure, and while grass isn’t bad for your dog, most lawns are treated with chemicals that can make a dog sick.
6 Common reasons why dogs eat grass
Pet parents are all too familiar with the belief that a sick dog eats grass to induce vomiting. However, there is no evidence to support the popular myth that a dog eating grass and vomiting is trying to settle an upset stomach.
Ask any veterinarian why do dogs eat grass and you’ll likely hear that it’s the most commonly asked question in any practice. There are various reasons that dogs choose to graze, amongst the most likely answers your veterinarian will share with you are the following.
- Instinct: It’s well documented that wild dogs and even wolves regularly consume plants and grasses, either found in the stomach contents of the animals they’ve eaten or seeking specific grasses out for roughage. Research has found up to 10% of wolf and cougar poop contains grass. Since your pup is enjoying a balanced diet, his lawn munching may just be down to DNA!
- Habit: Some dogs may simply enjoy the taste and feel of grass in their mouths. You may even notice that your grass-loving pup searches for a specific blade of the green stuff before enjoying it. The reasons on why do dogs eat grass vary from one four-legged friend to the next and it could be as simple as your dog just likes it!
- Nutrients: All plants provide some nutritional value and grass is no different. However, dogs do not have the enzymes to breakdown the fiber in grass and so it offers no nutritional value. However some animal behavioral scientists believe grass is a stomach irritant and dogs have learned to self-medicate when they are not feeling well, associating eating grass with vomiting.
- Hunger: Could snacking close the gap between meals? A small test in Australia determined that dogs chewed on the lush vegetation significantly more regularly before they were fed. The amount of grass ingested was also influenced by how hungry they were.
- GI relief: Findings from a 2008 study on why do dogs eat grass lead researchers to believe that grazing could fulfill an ancestral dietary need that helped dogs in the wild purge intestinal parasites. Dogs today are treated for parasites but the urge to purge may be built-in and a learned behavior passed down genetically that dogs relate to feeling better.
- PICA: Humans and animals can live with PICA – a disease that compels the eating of non-food objects such as grass. PICA is a commonly diagnosed sickness amongst dogs but with a little redirected training, a dog can learn not to swallow non-nutritive sources like toy puzzle that house food or treats.
How to stop a dog eating grass
In most cases, a dog eating grass is nothing to be concerned about. In fact, a University of California Davis study showed that grass is the first choice for most dogs to nibble on, likely because it’s so accessible!
Research revealed that up to 79% of dog parents reported that their pup ate plants and that grass was more frequently chosen over any other greenery. The study also showed that of the dogs surveyed:
- 68% eat plants daily or weekly.
- 32% ate plants once a month.
- 8% of dogs were sick before grazing.
- 22% vomited after consumption.
- A puppy eating grass was more frequently reported than an older dog grazing.
- A puppy eating grass had no signs of being ill before digging in.
- Puppies eating grass were not reportedly vomiting after consumption.
If you are concerned that your pup is spending too much time tucking into the green stuff, you can learn how to stop your dog from chewing through the lawn with some creative and fun activities.
For dogs that seem obsessed with the turf, pet parents may want to consult a veterinarian to ensure that grass-grazing is not a sign of something more serious.