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As soon as the fresh spring grass starts to emerge, my Golden Retriever Ellie likes to munch away on it, selecting only the finest blades of grass for her chewing pleasure.
Her grass eating really slows us down on our daily walks, but she doesn’t care, she just munches away. I know I’m not the only dog owner who encounters this every spring, but I have often wondered, is eating grass bad for dogs?
Grass eating among dogs is a very common behaviour, one that has many dog owners concerned. Dog owners worry that their dog is sick or missing something in their diet. Or they wonder if they are feeding their dog enough food.
There are many theories out there as to why dogs eat grass. Some people believe that dogs eat grass as a way to make themselves throw up because they are feeling sick, or they are lacking certain nutrients in their diet.
While those theories might have a certain truth to them, there are dogs who eat grass on a regular basis, who are fed a completely balanced diet, and grass-eating does not make them throw up.
So what makes dogs eat the green stuff? and is eating grass bad for dogs? Let’s find out the answers below.
Reasons For Dogs Eating Grass
We’ve already established that grass eating is a common behaviour in normal dogs who are fed a balanced diet, and who are not feeling sick. So, let’s look at some reasons why they eat grass.
1. Dogs Often Eat Non-Food Items
It is a common behaviour for many dogs to consume non-food items, such as dirt, rocks, fabric, paper, cardboard, feces, and grass. The medical term for it is called Pica. Pica is often a compulsive behaviour, due to a sign of boredom, but sometimes it can be brought on by a medical condition, such as a nutritional deficiency.
Many experts agree that grass eating in dogs is normal behaviour, and this form of Pica is not usually a cause for concern.
2. Attention Seeking/Boredom
Sometimes dogs will eat grass as a way to get your attention. If you happen to try to stop your dog from eating grass by pulling him away from it, or by yelling at him to stop, your dog may just like that extra attention. He’ll eat grass just to get a reaction out of you.
Younger dogs and puppies will often eat grass simply because they are bored, and need to have something to chew on. They also eat it as a form of playful behaviour.
3. Fresh Grass Might Have Nutrients/Fiber Their Body Needs
Even healthy dogs who are fed a well-balanced diet will eat grass. This doesn’t mean that their diet is missing nutrients, it just means that they are seeking out certain grasses for their nutrient and fibre benefits.
Grass does offer your dog nutritional value. It is a living green food which contains phytonutrients and is high in potassium and chlorophyll, as well as fibre. Grass is also a good source of digestive enzymes.
4. Your Dog Is Feeling Unwell
Many people believe that dogs eat grass when they are feeling sick, and will eat it to make themselves throw up. Studies show that less than 10% of dogs feel sick before eating grass, and less than 25% of dogs throw up after eating it. So, it’s unlikely that dogs turn to grass eating as a form of self-medication.
There are two different types of grass eating dogs, dogs who like to graze and carefully select the perfect blade of grass to slowly chew on, and then there are dogs who will frantically gulp down any blade of grass, barely chewing it.
Dogs who enjoy grazing usually don’t suffer from any ill effects. Dogs who eat grass as quickly as possible, usually end up throwing up. This type of grass eating is usually instinctive behaviour. Dogs will eat grass as an attempt to make themselves throw up after they have eaten something that made them sick.
So what is it about grass that makes a dog throw up? The grass blades when ingested, tickle the throat and stomach lining, and this sensation may cause the dog to throw up, especially if the grass is gulped instead of chewed.
5. They Just Like The Taste
Many dogs just simply like the taste of grass. They enjoy the texture and the taste of it in their mouths. Many dogs prefer to eat grass in the Springtime when it has freshly emerged. Spring grass is more moist and tender, and the grass eating dog connoisseurs seem to favour it.
Is Eating Grass Bad For Dogs?
Grass eating is a normal behaviour in dogs, and you don’t need to go out of your way to prevent your dog from eating it. Grass eating is generally safe, but you do need to be aware of the following:
Ingesting Toxic Chemicals
You obviously don’t want your dog to ingest any harmful chemicals and toxins, so you need to make sure that the area that your dog is eating grass in or around is free from pesticides, herbicides and other dangerous chemicals.
Lawn fertilizers are also toxic to dogs. When using anything to treat your lawn make sure to read the label, most lawn care products will indicate whether they are safe for pets or not.
When lawns or public parks have been treated with chemicals, a sign is displayed warning people of the chemicals used and to keep off, but this is not always the case when people treat their lawns themselves.
Always keep your dog off any treated lawn, and if you are unsure of the area it is best to not let your dog eat grass. Even if no grass was consumed, there is still a risk of chemicals on your dog’s paws, and him ingesting them when he licks his paws.
Common Toxic Garden Plants
There are many common garden plants that are toxic, so you need to be careful that your dog doesn’t accidentally ingest them while munching on the grass. To be sure that the plants aren’t poisonous to your dog, you can check out the ASPCA’s poison control website for a list of toxic and non-toxic plants.
Sudden Increase In Grass Eating
If you notice that your dog is suddenly eating way more grass than usual, it is best to talk or visit with your vet to determine any underlying illness.
Dogs who are feeling sick will often indulge on grass, eating a lot of it in order to make themselves throw up. Most often it is nothing to be alarmed about, whatever was making your dog feel sick is out of his system now. However, if your dog is continually eating grass, and throwing up frequently it is a sign that something is wrong.
Tips To Prevent Grass Eating
Rest assured that the occasional grass eating is completely normal, and harmless (when the grass is free of chemicals and toxins), but if you want to prevent grass eating, you can try the following tips.
1. Change Your Dog’s Diet
The food you are feeding your dog might not be satisfying his nutritional needs. Your dog may be eating grass as a way to get more fibre. Try switching to a high fibre food. The additional fibre will help aid your dog’s digestion and keep him regular, and might just reduce his desire to eat grass.
Just remember that any new food should be introduced slowly to your dog to avoid any diarrhea and stomach upset.
2. Try Steamed Veggies
Another way to add more fibre to your dog’s diet is by giving him some steamed veggies. Steamed veggies are a great alternative to commercial dog treats. You can give the veggies as treats or add them to your dog’s meal.
Here are some great veggies to steam:
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
3. Give Your Dog An Herb Garden
If your dog just loves to munch on grass because of the taste, you could give your dog an herb garden. An herb garden will help to fulfill your dog’s desire to munch on greenery. The following herbs are safe for your dog to eat, and they also offer health/healing benefits.
- Milk Thistle
- Lemon Balm
4. Provide Chew Toys
Many dogs will eat grass because they are bored and just need something to chew on. This is especially true if your dog is left outside for long periods. By making sure your dog has plenty of chew appropriate toys to satisfy his urge to chew, your dog will be less likely to chew on grass.
5. Schedule Daily Playtime
When dogs get bored they tend to develop some bad habits such as digging, barking excessively, becoming destructive, and chewing on everything in sight, even grass.
By scheduling some playtime with your dog every day, you will keep him stimulated and focused on play instead of nibbling on grass.
6. Grow Your Own Indoor Wheatgrass
Providing your dog with a safe alternative to eating grass outdoors that may have been treated with chemicals is a great idea. For dogs who just love to munch on grass, you can grow your own organic wheat grass indoors.
By growing your own wheatgrass inside, you’ll know that it is safe for your dog to eat. It will satisfy your dog’s desire to eat grass so that he’ll no longer feel the urge to munch on the grass outside.
Wheatgrass offers your dog many health benefits, including:
- Improved Digestion
- Eliminates Bad Breath, because of the high chlorophyll content
- Boosts Energy
- Organ Cleansing
- Blood Cleansing
There are many wheatgrass kits available, for you to easily grow it indoors. Not only is it great for dogs, but cats love it too. If by chance your dog does not enjoy eating wheat grass, it makes a wonderful centrepiece.
I hope this article was able to answer the question that every dog owner has had at some point, is eating grass bad for dogs? We’ve learned that it is a very common behaviour, and there is no need to be alarmed about it when your dog occasionally munches away. Some dogs just enjoy the taste of grass.
Just remember to monitor your dog’s grass eating, if you notice your dog gulping it down or eating more than usual, you may want to visit your vet to rule out any medical issues.
If you want to curb your dog’s grass eating, try adding more fibre to his diet, or try growing an herb garden or some healthy wheat grass.
What About You?
Does your dog eat grass? Has your dog ever thrown up after eating grass? Share your thoughts and comments below.