Dogs don’t only eat bones, meat or grains, they also need a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and even blades of grass. Of all greens that a dog could eat, grass frightens most pet owners. Why do dogs eat grass is a question present in dog owner’s heads since always. When a dog eats grass with zest, many dog owners are not sure if that is a normal behavior or a symptom of disease. Moreover, they do not know if it would be better to stop them or let them eat in peace.
Veterinarians say it is normal for a dog to eat grass from time to time. This apparently strange behavior is explained by several theories formulated by researchers, but none of the versions is final.
The omnivorous side of a dog
Dogs love taking walks outdoors and wallowing in the grass. However, some don’t just play with grass, they also eat it. “Why is my dog eating grass?”, you might wonder. Dogs, unlike cats, are not carnivorous, although they are categorized as such, they are rather omnivorous.
More specifically, they can eat both meat and vegetables in order to maintain their health. A dog is willing to consume plants and animals when they are available. Typically, a dog starts eating grass or green plants when it feels some sort of gastrointestinal discomfort, but also because of 3 other different reasons.
4 main reasons for dogs to eat grass
In order to find out what does it mean when a dog eats grass one should be aware of the factors that determine a dog to eat grass. Genetics and palatability, nutritional deficiency, digestive problems and boredom are 4 of the main reasons that determine a dog to eat grass.
The lack of fibers in a canine’s body or the need to vomit because it feels sick are among the discoveries made and published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science and in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior regarding a dog’s urge to eat green plants. Other studies show that every canine specimen manifests this innate behavior at some point in life.
Genetics and palatability
Before dogs were domesticated, they were predators that ran in packs, just like their close relatives, the wolves. When they caught an herbivorous prey, they ate it entirely, including its stomach that was filled with green food. It is said that dogs still associate grass with a prey. Moreover, when dogs couldn’t find or catch an animal, they had to eat green plants, berries and certain roots in order to satisfy their hunger and survive too.
Even in our days, a dog eats something green occasionally. Therefore, it is no longer considered to be carnivorous, but omnivorous. Fresh and clean grass that grows during spring can be very appealing for dogs and its palatability constitutes another reason to be eaten.
A dog might feel the need to eat grass when something is missing from its diet, such as a mineral, a vitamin, a certain percentage of fibers and so on. Grass is rich in minerals and some vitamins and in addition, it contains fibers, which can cover certain deficiencies in a dog’s diet. Grass contains chlorophyll, a substance that can eliminate some diseases and that makes grass look green.
In case your pooch eats grass constantly, it is possible that you are not feeding it the right food. In order to solve this problem, you can ask the vet for recommendations, or you can supplement its diet with fruits and vegetables. Unlike cats, dogs are not pretentious when it comes to adding new foods in their diet.
Most often, dogs might eat large quantities of grass without even chewing on it. Episodes like that are usually followed by regurgitation. This happens because dogs use grass as a medicine for their gastric disturbances. Gastric acidity is the most common problem that dogs treat by eating grass. Their feeling is just the same as it is for humans. Dogs get heartburns too. A dog’s stomach has a number of neurological receptors that react to acid, chemicals and different structures.
Grass has the capacity to activate some of these receptors, which cause vomiting. After regurgitation, a dog feels much better as it eliminates both the ingested grass and the gastric acid. However, if this behavior manifests a lot, it means that your dog has real problems with an increased level of gastric acidity. What you can do at home, before taking your pooch to the vet, is to give it a cracker before bed.That should absorb some of the acidity from its stomach.
Also, consider feeding your dog multiple times per day to avoid having its stomach completely empty. In addition, you could also pay attention to the way your canine pet eats grass. It might chew it slowly or swallow it without even chewing on it. The first option means that your dog likes the taste or it needs to supplement its diet, while the second one is a clear sign of upset stomach.
Out of all restless things a dog can do when it’s bored, eating grass is one of them. Vets consider that dogs that are affected by the Pica Syndrome might eat grass out of boredom. This syndrome refers to an appetite anomaly that could be caused by boredom. It manifests when dogs eat objects that are not included in their diet, such as rubber and wood.
This phenomenon appears in dogs that are left alone at home for extended periods of time. A study made on 49 dogs showed that they eat grass sometimes, if they have access to it, regardless of their level of activity. Moreover, another study shows that grass is the most consumed plant among dogs.
To read more about the why your dog might be eating grass, you can learn more in this article on why does my dog eat grass and learn the steps you can take to curb this habit.
Allowing dogs to eat grass
From the medical point of view, grass has absolutely no negative effect on dogs. On the contrary, it does them well, so there is no point in worrying when your dog reveals its herbivorous side. On the other hand, if you think your pooch eats green plants just because it is bored, then you should try to stop it before it makes a habit out of it.
Most times, this step can be taken easily by replacing its current diet with one that is richer in fibers and by keeping it busy while it is outdoors. The only dangerous aspect about grass is that it could be sprayed with pesticides or diverse poisons.
Safe spots to eat grass from
Finding a safe spot for your dog to eat grass from is essential. You should make sure the grass is clean and it wasn’t sprayed with various fertilizers, herbicides or other toxic chemicals. Industrial areas or green areas found in the vicinity of main roads are not recommended.
Dust and emissions from automobiles could harm your beloved pet. It would be ideal to avoid these areas when you take your dog for a walk, but in case you cannot, then you should forbid it to eat any. Numerous pet shops sell pots with grass that you can buy and safely put at your dog’s disposal. That is the safest way to provide grass for your pooch.
Stopping dogs from eating grass
Since we established that eating grass has generally no negative effects on dogs, you should also know how to stop your dog from eating grass in case of the mentioned exceptions, namely boredom or poisoning danger. Puppies and young dogs, especially those belonging to active breeds, are also prone to eating grass out of boredom, therefore they should not be left alone for too long, or kept in a leash somewhere. If you see a pooch eating grass from a place it is not allowed to or eating too much, then you should try to distract it.
Play with it or offer it toys to play with, keeping its mind off the grass. Another strategy would be to feed your dog before taking it out for a walk. Having its stomach full should limit or eliminate its appetite for grass. Often, taking these simple steps are enough to make your dog stop eating grass when needed.
4 curiosities about dogs and grass
The Journal of Applied Animal Behavior published a study in 2008 that revealed interesting information about dogs, grass and interdependence. It seems that although eating grass doesn’t make dogs vomit every time they consume it, they feel better anyway. Dogs that looked like they had upset stomach showed signs of improvement after eating grass.
Furthermore, dogs that looked like they were feeling just fine didn’t react in any negative or positive way after feasting with a few fresh blades of grass. The dogs that participated in this study were observed closely for as long as this study lasted.
Another similar study has shown that some dogs eat grass just because they simply want to. They are looking for a certain type of grass and when they find it, they eat it slowly like savoring a desert. There is something about that grass’s type of texture and taste that makes dogs consume it quietly after making a small effort to locate it. This process is quite similar to humans who give in their guilty pleasures, satisfying their sweet tooth from time to time on different occasions. This study applies to every dog breed, not just to some of them.
The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science has published a study about fibers and dogs’ diets in 2007. It has shown that typically, dogs take everything they need from their dry or canned food. However, they might need more of one kind and less from the others. For example, foods that are not rich in fibers might determine dogs to eat grass in order to supplement their intake of fibers. The said study showed that a dog that eats enough fibers is not tempted to also taste a few blades of grass as soon as it has access to it. Instead, it ignores the grass.
In 2009, the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior published an interesting study about the connection between a pup’s mother eating grass and the pup’s need to eat some too. Because wolves and other wild canines consume green plants, scientists believe that it is a perfectly normal behavior for a dog and that it is innate as well. They found out that it is more likely for a newborn pup to eat grass throughout its life if its mother has eaten grass during breastfeeding and during the gestation period as well. Studies show there is a close connection between these two factors.
Green conclusions for omnivorous dogs
The conclusion is that the consumption of a moderate amount of grass is not harmful for any dog unless it is a grass sprayed with toxic substances like pesticides. If your dog has a good overall health condition and it eats grass from time to time, then you shouldn’t worry at all. Unless the amount of ingested grass grows suddenly and unexpectedly, your dog can freely feast with a few blades of grass. However, if the eaten quantity grows, that fact might be a sign of disease and it should not be ignored.
Furthermore, your dog could try to send you a message regarding its diet. It might need more fibers, minerals or some vitamins that are not currently included in it diet and which are mandatory for its body to function properly. Observing your dog is the best you can do since your canine pet cannot speak to you. Remember that its nutritional needs change. If it is 3 years old, you cannot continue to feed it the same type of food you did when it was only 1 year old. Stay up to date with special food types made for dogs.
However, you should take care, as there are many dogs you are allergic to grass, and you may not even know it. To learn the signs to look for and how you can help your dog when he’s feeling miserable, check out this article on dog grass allergies.