Why Your Dogs Eat Grass and What to Do about It

Dogs eating grass may have problems.
Dogs eat grass, even when they shouldn't.

Most dog owners have dealt with the cleanup of green dog vomit at some point. You know…that slimy, goopy mess that erupted from Rover an hour after he grabbed a clump of grass on his walk. Is he ill? Is it normal? Dogs eat grass but it isn’t always good for them.

My bulldog, Maggie, got into a patch of grass at a dog park when I wasn’t watching her closely. Later, she barfed up pieces of green grass all around the living room floor.

Next day, we noticed her trying to poop in the back yard with no success. Maggie’s efforts continued throughout the afternoon until we took a closer look. There is no polite way to describe what was going on except to say we held plastic grocery bags to her rear end and pulled out the remaining results of her grazing the day before.

Along with grass, Maggie had consumed pieces of dried straw-like material that didn’t want to pass. Who knows why she chose that plant material for a snack.

Experts have argued the “why” of this canine behavior for years, but no one really understands it. Numerous theories abound and all seem viable. What we do know for sure is that most dogs experience some need to eat grass.

Dogs Indulge in 2 Types of Grass-Eating

The proper name for eating things that aren’t classified as food is pica, and the grass-eating kind of pica happens two ways.

Most dogs graze their way through the grass that attracts them. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what they do. It’s more like they are enjoying a quick snack.

The other kind of pica that dogs demonstrate is where they deliberately eat grass in order to vomit. At the University of California Veterinary School, a study was conducted for 1600 pet owners. Results showed that only 22% of dogs vomited after eating plants.

That study would indicate that most dogs who eat grass have other reasons for doing so than a need to purge their stomachs.

Reasons Why Rover Eats Grass

Some speculate that dogs eat grass to fill some nutritional need in their diets. Others believe it’s a natural process…that dogs in the wild consumed plant material from the prey they killed, along with the meat. The theory is that domestic dogs will eat both meat and plant material, just as their ancestors did.

Another belief is that dogs sense some grasses will help their digestion. Who knows? Maybe that grass is Tums® for Rover.

One source brought up the idea of dogs eating grass because they have intestinal worms. Given that most pet owners de-worm their dogs,that seems a bit far-fetched.

Younger dogs seem to eat more grass than older dogs, so maybe the process is just simple fun. Perhaps, there isn’t anything more to it than pups having a good time and a tasty snack.

Other Reasons Dogs Eat Grass

Writer Katie Finlay suggests in her article that some dogs eat grass because they are excessively hungry or lacking in nutrition. She suggests adding freshly steamed, green beans to the dog’s diet to provide extra fiber without adding extra pounds.

And there is the previously mentioned 22% whose dogs vomited after eating grass or plant materials. It begs the question: Did the dog eat grass because he was ill or did the grass make him ill?

Vets at the University of California-Davis Vet School created surveys to find answers to why dogs eat grass. Results showed that 80% of  healthy dogs with access to plants ate grass and other plants. Only 8% of dogs tested exhibited signs of illness before ingesting grass.

Is Grass Safe for Your Dog to Eat?

The short answer is it depends on the grass. Many veterinarians agree that dogs that eat grass without suffering any stomach upsets can probably continue to occasionally snack on it. You may want to ask your own vet if he believes your dog can safely eat grass.

Problems come when the dog has access to someone else’s grass. How can you be sure your pet isn’t eating grass treated with chemicals? Glyphosate acid in weed killers could kill your pet.

Keep your dog confined away from potential dangers. Never allow him to access grass from another yard, because you can’t be certain it hasn’t been sprayed with poisons.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Dog So You Can Prevent Trouble

Does your pet eat grass? Are you certain the grass he can access is safe and chemical-free? Know before he chews if that is so, and it’s possible your furry friend can enjoy his daily green snack without harm. Or you could offer Rover a food snack to distract him from grass he shouldn’t eat.

Maggie suffered no ill effects from her yard-grazing, but it certainly left her with an upset and uncomfortable tummy for a day or two. You never know what plant material will attract an animal and often, as in Maggie’s case, it isn’t healthy for them.

Keep a close eye on your dog and keep him away from unknown grasses, whether at home in your own yard or somewhere else. The two of you can play together, and you won’t have to worry about your furry best buddy eating something he shouldn’t.

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