Dogs eating grass is a common observation made by many dog owners. Depending on who you ask, it can be viewed as normal, a sign of disease, a self-remedy, or just a bad habit. So, which is it? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer, and the reasons can vary from dog to dog. Here are the popular theories among vets:
1) Loneliness, anxiety, or boredom: When a dog is left alone, they can turn to eating grass as a comfort mechanism, or just something to do to fill the time. In some animals, less time spent with an owner means more grass is being eaten. To combat this, leaving a toy or blanket with a familiar, calming scent can help, as does getting some puzzle toy, treat ball, or something else to fill their time and provide much needed mental stimulation.
2) Gastric upset: Whether eating grass helps keep food down, or induces vomiting is another hot debate topic, but most agree that in some dogs, it makes them feel better when they have an upset tummy. Most dogs who eat grass do it for reasons other than their gut, which may surprise a lot of dog owners. However, it is a good idea to see a vet if your dog is eating grass when he or she normally doesn’t, or is eating a lot more than normal.
3) Filling a dietary need: In today’s world, the majority of dog foods are nutritionally complete and have all the vitamins and minerals they need. However, they are not always well balanced, and may not have enough fibre for your particular pet. This could be the reason they eat grass, to gain this roughage and balance out some of their nutrition. A diet change to a different type of food, or one of higher quality, may be needed.
4) They just like it: Some dogs may like the texture, taste and act of eating grass. Some dog owners remark that their dog eats more grass at certain times of the year, like in the spring, when it is newer and sweeter, or like a particular type of grass over another.
While the act of eating grass may be seen as non-harmful and an innocent pastime, it can be a sign of other issues and carries some risks of its own. Grass, especially in urban areas, are often treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals that you don’t want your dog ingesting. Also, eating grass can infect your dog with parasites or bacteria from the urine or feces of other animals, both domestic and wild, that have been in the area. It is best to train your dog not to eat grass by giving small treats or other distractions instead, as well as using positive reinforcement training techniques. Talk to your vet if you are concerned or would like to know more.
Written by Liz Moulton, RVT