You’ve got coordinated bowls, a great kitchen setup and plenty of treats on hand
Yet, your beloved pooch has started dining at a new restaurant lately: the backyard!
He’s a canine, not a cow, so why are there clumps of dirt everywhere and grass sticking out of his mischievous grin?
When you first encounter your dog chowing down on the lawn, it can be concerning. Why do dogs eat grass? Is he sick, hungry or in pain?
Today, we’re sharing a quick guide that can help put your nerves at ease. Read on as we address the main reasons why Fido might suddenly prefer the green stuff outdoors over any other option on the menu!
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? Is It a Nutrient Deficiency?
First, let’s address one of the most common concerns centered on this topic. Most of the time, your dog isn’t eating grass because he or she is missing a key element from their diet. This is linked to a condition called pica, that affects both humans and their furry best friends.
Those who suffer from pica have an unnatural desire to consume substances that are non-nutritive. For humans, this might include ice, paper, hair, drywall, or paint. When dogs have pica, they tend to dig into cloth, dirt, garbage or even feces, which can lead to digestive and nutritional issues. In both cases, pica is linked to a diet that’s deficient in core nutrients, vitamins, or minerals.
While some experts are quick to identify pica as the primary cause of grass-eating in dogs, the reality is that even those on well-balanced, commercial diets have been known to pick up the habit. Thus, while pica might be the culprit in some cases, it’s far from the only explanation.
However, while grass does contain some key nutrients that your dog might naturally crave, it’s unlikely that they’re chowing down in your flower bed for that reason.
So, why are they doing it? There are two main types of behavior linked to eating grass: instinct and grazing. Let’s take a look at each of those in greater detail!
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that dogs are intelligent creatures! They’re also highly instinctive, which can play a role in their new routine.
An Ancient, Omnivorous Diet
Undomesticated dogs are omnivores by nature, meaning they eat both meat and plants. That means when your well-behaved, domesticated dog suddenly starts making a salad out of weeds, it could be that he’s simply reverting back to that primal instincts.
Along the same lines, others explain that for thousands of years, undomesticated dogs have preyed on just about anything they can get their paws on, making them less than discerning when it comes to fine dining. In fact, they’re used to ingesting plant material when they tear apart their prey.
Over time, this action has made this species predisposed to crave the taste of plants, even if their diet isn’t quite as carnal anymore!
Natural Belly Soother
Another instinct that your four-legged pal can tap into? The natural need to relieve an upset belly.
If Spot suddenly eating grass, some veterinary pros claim he’s trying to make himself vomit after eating something that didn’t sit well with him. While no species, human or canine included, enjoys the act of vomiting, it can help rid our bodies of what’s hurting them. This is a common reason for why dogs eat grass and vomit.
If he’s feeling extra gassy or nauseous, your dog might turn to your yard as a source of natural relief. As he ingests the grass blades, they tickle the inside of his throat and the lining of his stomach. This movement can sometimes incite vomiting, especially if your dog swallows the grass down in one big gulp rather than chewing it into a pulp, first!
While this explanation might apply to some dogs, other experts point to research that states only 25% of dogs throw up after eating grass and only 10% appear ill engaging in the act. Thus, it could simply be that ingesting the grass makes them vomit, not the other way around.
A more plausible cause is that your dog could be experiencing difficulty digesting his food and passing his stool due to a lack of roughage or fiber in his diet. Thus, he turns to the grass as a natural way to ease this discomfort and move things along more smoothly!
Apart from instinctive eating, some dogs will simply graze on grass as part of their normal, outdoor day.
In many ways, this isn’t unlike humans who mindlessly open the fridge for a mid-afternoon snack, grabbing anything sweet or savory in sight that can satisfy their craving.
Especially if he’s used to eating grass without suffering any ill effects, your dog might simply graze out of boredom, or because he just likes the taste.
In addition, there are a few other ways you can increase his stimulation and relieve boredom, including:
- More frequent walks
- More strenuous playtime
- Food-containing puzzle toys
- Doggie daycare
Over time, grazing behavior should decrease as interaction and exertion increase, though the opposite can also hold true.
Should I Be Concerned?
While there is conflicting scientific evidence on why your dog might be eating grass, the underlying synopsis is that the act alone doesn’t pose a real risk. Still, that doesn’t mean you should send your pup outside to chow down every day, unmonitored.
Make sure any grass that they come into contact with is untreated. That means the blades shouldn’t have residue from fertilizer, pesticide, insecticide or similar chemicals. If you routinely apply lawn care products to your grass, check to see if they’re safe for pets to ingest.
Want to keep a pristine yard? Try growing an herbal garden right at home. This way, you can monitor the exact types of plants that he’s eating, as well as administer quantity control. You can also start incorporating those natural herbs into his diet, along with cooked veggies! This can be an ideal alternative to raw grass that’s easier on his belly, to boot!
One more tip?
Take special care to ensure your teething puppy doesn’t ingest too much grass, as it could lead to a painful blockage, especially if he’s adding sticks and leaves into the mix! When they’re growing new teeth, it’s natural for them to seek out thick, crunchy items to gnaw on to relieve the pressure, but swallowing such foilage can scratch their throat and belly, as well as back them up.
Testing for Gastrointestinal Disease
Eating grass on occasion to induce vomiting is one thing. However, if your dog’s grass-eating habit becomes incessant, it could be a sign of an underlying gastrointestinal disease, such as gastric reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, or pancreatitis. There are also key symptoms that could point to these issues, including:
- Weight loss
If your dog experiences any of these at the same time as grass-induced vomiting, it’s time to take action.
Rather than trying to self-diagnose the issue yourself, it’s best to let a veterinarian take a look. Your vet can administer various tests to check your dog’s gut health, including a:
- Physical exam
- Fecal exam
- Blood test
The blood test will consist of both a cell count and a chemistry panel. The cell count can reveal any instances of blood loss or inflammation, both of which could indicate bleeding in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
The chemistry panel is more comprehensive and far-reaching, providing an in-depth look at the health and performance of your dog’s bodily systems, including his pancreas and liver. If there’s an issue in either of those two organs, it could cause GI concerns, as well.
If you get a positive diagnosis for GI disease, take heart. In most cases, your vet can prescribe a treatment plan to help reverse any adverse symptoms.