When it comes to the animal kingdom, dogs probably rank last when it comes to having a discriminating palate. Let’s face it, we’ve seen dogs ingest some pretty gross things. So when it comes to why dogs eat grass, it’s not the most unusual of entrees your pet may choose to nosh on… but it may raise some questions.
Certainly, there are a multitude of things we don’t want our canine friends to imbibe in, such as toxic plants, lawn and garden chemicals, and medications. But what about regular grass? Is this normal? Is it OK?
Let’s take a closer look!
Why Dogs Eat Grass
A common question we get about chow hounds at our practice is why a pet patient is munching the Kentucky bluegrass. Because there are so many speculative reasons for this behavior, some of the more prominent explanations include:
Hunger – Of course, if your pet has recently been placed on a restrictive diet or has nutritional deficiency, he may just be supping up some extra fiber.
Parasites – Another reason cited as to why dogs eat grass is that they are suffering from intestinal parasites. This theory is based on the fact that plant material can help to move parasites through the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have shown that there seems to be no strong correlation in this reason versus other hypothetical reasons.
Tummy ache – One of the most popular theories to grass eating is that it helps to alleviate stomach upset by inducing vomiting. But much like the above, there is not enough evidence to make this conclusion. While some dogs do vomit after ingesting grass, many do not. In fact, only less than 25% will vomit after eating grass, and there hasn’t been enough evidence to point to ill health or GI troubles as the sole reason for consumption.
Normal scavenging – As doggie scavengers, canines are known to not only hunt for prey in the wild but also dine on plants, rubbish, and many other edible (and nonedible) things as a part of their diets. It is likely that your dog nibbles on grass because he enjoys it and gets a sense of normal doggie behavior.
One of the stranger theories behind grass eating (although not as readily believed) is ancestry. Some propose that because a dog’s earliest ancestor, Canis lupis, dined on the flesh of herbivores that there is some link to the taste of grass via these prey animals.
Should You Worry?
If your dog views your yard as his salad bar, it may be cause for concern, especially if the behavior has increased or suddenly appeared in your dog. It’s always a good idea to consult with the Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital team should you notice any sudden change in your pet’s diet, or out of the ordinary behavior, to ensure there is no underlying health concern.
Sometimes, too, dogs with anxiety or other types of behavioral difficulties will eat grass compulsively. These should also be checked out to determine the root cause of this preference for grass.
The good news is that most dogs occasional nibble on the turf isn’t a problem. For whatever reason, your pet may get some satisfaction out of it without causing any harm. We do want to caution you, however, to keep your dogs grass eating to your own lawn, and to avoid using any chemicals and fertilizers that could pose a risk of toxicity.
While we cannot always understand our dogs, we certainly love them – strange appetites and all! For more information on grass eating or to schedule an appointment, please call us.