When playing with your dog on natural grass or just walking through the park, it’s common to see the dog grab some grass and start chewing. But do you ever wonder why they do that?
Most pet parents believe dogs do this to vomit after eating something that causes discomfort in their stomachs. While this may be true, it’s not always the case.
Read on to learn some reasons why dogs eat grass, whether it benefits them, and if you should be worried about it.
Reasons Dogs Eat Grass
It might surprise you to learn that dogs aren’t carnivores, they’re actually 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.
- 79% of dogs have eaten plants or grass at some point
- 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.
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.
The simple fact is that no one is really sure why dogs eat grass, though there are a lot of theories.
Some scientists argue that grass-eating comes instinctively to dogs.
That’s because wolves also tend to eat grass and are the nearest to the dog family in the animal kingdom. Scientists establish that wolf stool usually contains about 11 to 47% of plant-based material to support the claim further.
Originally, dogs hunted animals for food but still ate plants and grass. In fact, wild canids such as wolves, foxes, coyotes, and jackals eat grass to date.
Therefore, if you observe your furry friend eating grass, know it’s an instinctive behavior.
If you’re not feeding your pet with meals containing sufficient nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, they may eat grass from time to time to make up for the lacking nutrients.
However, unfortunately, dogs cannot digest grass and pass it onto the intestinal tract to the outside.
If your dog has inflammatory bowel syndrome or stomach inflammation, it may eat grass and then vomit.
They do this to try and soothe the gastrointestinal upset in their small intestines or stomach.
Often a dog will eat grass out of boredom or anxiety. Just like humans compulsively bite their nails when bored or anxious, the same applies to dogs.
Usually, they do this to try and comfort themselves, especially when you stay away from them for a long time.
One study shows that dogs eat grass more when hungry than after a meal.
Therefore, you may observe your dog eat grass before meals, and later in the evening, you may observe the same behaviour again. That does not mean your dog is sick. They’re probably doing so out of hunger.
Dogs learn pretty fast.
And believe it or not, your pet may have figured out that you pay more attention to them when they eat grass, so they may develop the habit of eating grass anytime they want your attention.
Studies show that younger dogs eat grass more than older ones because they’re exploring with their mouths. Just like young kids will eat dirt, young dogs may eat grass to experiment with the taste.
Does Eating Grass Benefit Your Dog?
Well, some scientists argue that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting and settle their upset stomachs.
In fact, some pet parents have told their vets they observed their dog swallow something and immediately run outdoors to grab some grass. What follows is vomiting, and the dog seems fine.
But according to one study, only 22% of dogs vomit after eating some grass. However, the same study shows that only 9% of dogs show signs of sickness before eating grass. This makes the argument that eating grass relieves tummy discomfort questionable.
However, if your dog’s diet lacks roughage, studies indicate they’re likely to eat grass for the fiber, making the digestion of food and the passing of stool smoother.
Should Dog Owners Be Worried About Their Dog Eating Grass?
If your pet eats grass from time to time, that’s natural. It may be out of boredom or anxiety or due to their natural or instinctive behaviour. And as long as the grass is free of pesticides and spray, you have nothing to worry about.
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.
In addition, a nutritional deficiency may trigger eating grass to try and make up for the nutrients they’re lacking. Here, it may be good to check what food you’re giving them. Maybe you’re feeding your dog on a diet short of essential minerals, vitamins, or other nutrients.
Of course, if a dog shows other signs of illness and eats grass, it’s time to visit your vet for a checkup.
Do Dog Owners Need to Stop Their Dogs 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 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.
That said, a bite from time to time means nothing, just like you maybe chew on your nails now and then. But don’t forget to ensure the grass is harmless (not sprayed).
It’s natural for dogs to take a bite of grass from time to time. However, there are other reasons for the behavior, including diet deficiency, digestive issues, psychological needs, and seeking attention.
People have all manner of explanations as to why dogs eat grass. However, one thing is for sure—dogs naturally like to eat grass. The taste and texture of grass, especially during spring and summer, is appealing to dogs.
So as long as your dog does not do it excessively, you can relax. But if the dog is constantly eating grass, then it’s best to talk to your vet.