People think of dogs as carnivores – meat eaters who like nothing better than to chow down on a nice, juicy bone – so pet owners are often understandably confused and concerned when they notice the family canine happily munching away at the lawn. But dogs aren’t carnivores, says WebMd. They’re omnivores, and eating grass is actually a fairly normal behavior that’s seen in wild canines as well as domesticated house pets. In fact, here are a few interesting statistics about dogs and grass.
– Only 10% of dogs appear to have been sick before eating grass
– Only about 25% of dogs vomit after eating grass
Even so, it’s such a common concern among pet owners that Benjamin Hart, an animal behaviourist who has been studying animals for nearly fifty years, counts “Why do dogs eat grass?” as one of the questions he is most commonly asked.
So what’s the scoop on dogs eating grass? Here are a few answers to the most common questions and concerns about dogs who eat grass.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
The simple fact is that no one is really sure, though there are a lot of theories. One common view is that a dog grazes on the lawn for the same reason some people munch on potato chips — he’s bored. Some vets suggest that a dog whose tummy is feeling unsettled may self-medicate by eating some grass to help relieve gassy, bloated feelings. Others believe eating grass may be a way for dogs, especially those on a conventional commercial diet, to add fibre and roughage to their diets.
In 2010, Hart and his colleagues at the University of California – Davis conducted a survey of more than 1,500 dogs who had eaten grass at least 10 times over the previous 12 months. They found that most had not shown any symptoms of being sick beforehand and only about 1 in 4 vomited after eating grass. In addition, the dogs’ regular diets didn’t seem to have any effect on whether or not they munched on grass. Hart’s group concluded that eating grass is probably a trait inherited from their wild canine ancestors, who ate grass to prevent intestinal worms from building up in their intestinal tracts.
Is It Dangerous for My Dog to Eat Grass?
Generally, grass won’t hurt your dog, but chemicals sprayed on the lawn might. If your lawn has been treated with pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizer, keep your dog away from it. If your dog does chow down on a recently treated lawn, consult your vet. Also consult your vet if your pet displays a change in his grass-eating behavior, such as eating grass more frequently or in larger amounts.
How Can I Stop My Dog from Eating Grass?
If your dog’s grass-eating really bothers you, you can try switching him to a high-fibre diet. There’s at least one report of a poodle who completely stopped munching the houseplants and lawn when her owners started feeding her a high-fibre pet food. If you just want to keep your pet away from the lawn, you can try providing him with his own indoor grass patch that’s free of pesticides or other toxins. Aside from that, some dogs respond well to positive conditioning training that’s often used to eliminate other undesirable behaviours.