Does this sound familiar? You turn around for one second and your dog is dining on a fresh patch of grass in your yard even though there is a full bowl of food inside.
PetMD says that this form of pica, the term for when your dog eats objects that aren’t food, is fairly common. Many vets consider grass-eating normal dog behavior since it’s so common and usually not dangerous. Just make sure your dog stays away from poisonous plants.
But to satisfy the curious, let’s talk about why your dog might be eating grass. Plus, a couple of tips on how to prevent all this grass-eating.
1. Upset Tummy
The common notion is that dogs eat grass when they are unwell and know they need a good purge. So if your dog is uncomfortable, they eat grass to force themselves to throw up and subsequently feel better.
However, according to a study conducted at the University of California–Davis, there’s little evidence to suggest this is based in scientific fact. When 25 veterinary students with dogs were asked to complete a survey about their dog’s abnormal eating tendencies, all of them admitted that their dogs ate grass.
But no one ever observed their dog displaying signs of illness before they ate the grass, so they never seemed to be unwell. Even more surprising, only 8% reported that their dogs vomited after eating the grass.
When the sample size of dogs was broadened to include survey responses from 1,571 dog owners, researchers discovered that:
- 68% of dogs ate plants and grass daily or weekly
- 8% reported frequent signs of illness before eating grass
- 22% of the dogs vomited after eating grass
- Dogs displaying signs of sickness were usually the ones to vomit afterwards
As you can see, these numbers don’t necessarily validate this widely-held belief.
We all know dogs love to chew and munch on objects they’re not supposed to when they’re bored. Your dog might just like the taste or texture of chewing grass, just like people chew gum.
If this is the case, try giving your dog extra play time or different toys to gnaw on instead of the grass.
3. Lack of Nutrients
Wolves in the wild hunt grass-eating animals and devour most parts of their grass-filled stomachs. As dogs evolved from the wilderness, they stopped eating this roughage, but their bodies never stopped craving it.
Fiber from grasses helps to cleanse the digestive tract of intestinal parasites that may want to hang around. Grass also contains chlorophyll, the green pigment that helps plants capture sunlight. Chlorophyll has super healthy benefits and has even been touted as a cancer inhibitor.
Try switching to a dog food with more vegetables and fiber, or add green fruits and veggies to your playtime routine for extra chlorophyll (think: green beans, broccoli, green apples, asparagus, etc.).
If you don’t see negative side effects after your dog eats grass, then it’s probably not a big deal. But if your dog vomits after ingesting grass, try distracting them with something else or increasing greens in their diet. In cases where your dog gets really obsessed with grass eating, it might be time to see a vet for help and advice.