Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? Is It Bad For Them?

Many dog owners are familiar with the sight of their dog eating grass. Your pooch will do their business in one area of the backyard, then wander around before sniffing out a nice patch of grass and tearing off a few blades to munch.

What gives?

Whenever my dog eats grass, she inevitably throws up within minutes. Then she promptly goes back to being her chipper self. I always figured that she ate grass to purposely make herself throw up because her tummy was upset. She doesn’t do it often, and it seems to have no lasting negative effects.

She’s not the only dog who seems to eat grass because of an upset stomach. But there are some other possible reasons why dogs do this, too.

First Of All, It’s A Common Behavior

Photo: Unsplash/Gio Bartlett

Nibbling on grass is pretty normal behavior for a dog. Most animal experts agree it’s a common quirk, and anecdotal evidence from dog owners also points to its prevalence.

A small study of 49 dog owners who regularly took their dogs around grass found that 79% of the dogs had eaten plants at some point. Even wild dogs have been seen eating grass.

Unless your dog is eating excessive amounts of the stuff or gets very sick afterwards, there’s probably nothing to worry about.

Why do dogs eat grass?

Photo: Unsplash/Neerav Khare

There are several theories and wives tales about the impetus behind a dog’s urge to graze. One possibility is the aforementioned upset stomach. A pup may munch on grass to ease his nausea or make himself throw up. However, less than 10% of dogs seem unwell or sick before they eat grass. (This doesn’t mean they aren’t unwell beforehand, just that they appear to be fine.) One study found that less than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit regularly after eating it.

Another reason could be that your pup is bored. If there’s not enough going on to entertain him and/or he has excess energy to burn, settling down for some grass chomping may seem like a perfectly acceptable idea.

Your dog could also be hungry. Dogs are naturally omnivores (meaning they eat both meat and plants), after all. Their ancestors would eat prey that had plant material in their stomachs, so they may have a taste for it.

Fido could also need more nutrients in his diet, and is seeking out plant life to get it.

Is grass bad for dogs?

Photo: Flickr/smerikal

Dogs do not have the right enzymes in their stomach to be able to break down grass fibers, so they can’t digest grass or glean much (if any) nutritional value from it. It’s not “bad” for them — but it’s not particularly helpful, either.

Most vets agree that munching on grass sometimes isn’t harmful and it’s not something to worry about. However, it’s important to know if the grass has been treated by herbicides, insecticides, or pesticides. Most are toxic to dogs and can cause symptoms like drooling, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. They aren’t a huge concern unless your pet ingests a large amount of it or gets into the bag of treatment itself.

But, some pesticides are mixed with other dangerous chemicals, like organophosphates or carbamates. These can be life-threatening. If you think your dog may have come into contact with these chemicals, contact your vet.

Should I stop my dog from eating grass?

Photo: Unsplash/Samuel Toh

If it’s due to boredom, it’s possible you could curb the behavior by making sure he gets more exercise and play time. And if it’s due to a nutritional deficiency or hunger, you could try switching to a different brand or type of dog food that is high in fiber or has additional nutrients. But if the grass hasn’t been treated by any chemicals and your dog isn’t eating a lot of it, there’s no need to stop them.

Are Plants Besides Grass Safe For Dogs To Eat?

Photo: Unsplash/Conrad de Wet

If it looks like your dog is trying to eat a plant that isn’t grass, check out ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center website. It lists hundreds of plants that have been found to be either toxic or non-toxic to dogs.

C. Dixon

C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.

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