4 Reasons Why Your Dog Eats Grass
Most dogs eat grass on occasion, and some regularly chomp down when the opportunity arises. Does it mean something may be wrong or is it just one of those oddball canine behaviors? While your pup may do it simply out of boredom, there are also health-related reasons for eating grass.
- Most dogs eat grass from time to time; the question is, why?
- Dogs who graze on grass may be trying to relieve digestive upset; they may also be seeking certain nutrients or plant compounds that offer health benefits
- If your dog regularly eats large amounts of grass, make an appointment with your veterinarian, and consider upgrading her diet to help provide all the nourishment her body needs
Most dogs eat grass from time to time, and some make it a regular habit. Grass eating falls into the category of oddball canine behaviors that seem harmless enough, but many pet parents are concerned there may be an underlying problem with their dog’s health.
Why Dogs Eat Grass
The fact is that grass-eating, a behavior some classify as "pica" — the ingestion of non-food items — is quite common among not only domestic dogs, but wild canines as well. And while grass is not a primary food source for dogs, it is for other species, so while I don’t classify nibbling grass as pica, I do recommend owners evaluate their dogs’ intestinal health and nutritional status, if the behavior becomes obsessive.
The activity can be a sign of boredom or a way to pass the time for some dogs; for others, it’s a fun and rewarding behavior. However, there are also certain health-related reasons dogs eat grass.
- To balance the microbiome — Many types of grass contain beneficial prebiotic fiber that may help keep your dog’s intestinal flora balanced and resilient.
- To relieve gastrointestinal (GI) upset — Many dogs with an upset tummy consume certain types of grass because they instinctively know it will make them throw up. There seems to be something about the texture of some types of grass that triggers vomiting or a bowel movement in many dogs, which relieves their discomfort.
If this is the situation with your dog, he’ll probably seem almost frantic to get outside to start gobbling up the nearest patch of grass. The intensity of grass consumption for the purpose of vomiting is usually strong and the grass chosen appears to be less important. If the “cure” works, at some point he’ll quit chewing, lick his lips (a sign of nausea in dogs), and throw up.
This is normal behavior for canines (who are, by design, scavenging carnivores and indiscriminate eaters) and nothing to be concerned about unless it happens more than once or twice a year. It’s nature’s way of helping dogs get rid of toxins from their bodies and bring their GI tracts back into balance.
Dogs who ingest grass to throw up are usually not selective about what grass they consume; they just want to induce vomiting and feel better. However, many healthy dogs with healthy guts will seek out specific grasses and are quite selective about what species they’re looking for.
- To eliminate intestinal parasites — Chimpanzees consume plant material to increase intestinal motility to rid their bodies of intestinal parasites. It’s possible dogs eat grass for a similar reason.
- To fulfill specific nutrient requirements — In a 2008 study, researchers found that grass eating in domestic dogs is a normal tendency. This might be an inherited behavior, since wild canines eat entire prey animals, including the entrails (guts), which typically contain digested plant matter.
It’s possible the grasses your dog likes to munch contain nutrients her body lacks. Grass is an abundant source of fiber. As a living green food, it contains phytonutrients, is high in potassium and chlorophyll, and is also a pretty good source of digestive enzymes. Your dog could be seeking out selective grasses to make up one or more deficient nutrients or to gain bioactive substances she’s not currently getting in her diet.
When to Worry
If your dog’s grass eating is chronic and especially if it causes her to vomit frequently, it's time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.
In the meantime, I recommend upgrading her diet if she's still eating kibble or any non-human grade commercial dog food. Most healthy dogs fed a nutritionally optimal, species-specific diet don't routinely consume an abundance of grass because they receive all the nourishment their bodies need from their food, and they rarely suffer from digestive issues. Adding probiotics and digestive enzymes can also benefit dogs with "sensitive stomachs."
If you're sure your dog is receiving optimal nutrition from her diet and her microbiome is healthy, but she still eats a significant amount of grass, consider growing your own sunflower sprouts. Sprouts can provide an easy, inexpensive source of fresh, live, organic vegetation and are much more nutritious than grass.
If your dog is selective about the grass she eats, choosing tall, broad grasses to nibble (the kind that typically grow along a fence line or between cracks in the sidewalk) and then moves on, she’s most likely eating grass because she wants to or because she’s seeking the nutritional or digestive benefits it provides. There’s no cause for concern if you’re sure the grass she’s sampling is free of pesticides, herbicides, and other contaminants.
Sources & References
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