The list of things our dogs do that confuse us is long and high on the list of the most confusing behaviors is grass eating. Everyone likes to speculate about why dogs eat grass. We humans like to think we know everything, but the truth is that even in this day and age we don’t know for sure why dogs exhibit this behavior. Fortunately, the experts have some pretty good theories to explain why our supposedly carnivorous canines are hitting the back yard salad bar.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Let’s start by backing up to that last sentence. While many of us assume our dogs are carnivorous descendants of vicious wolves, the truth remains that all canines are omnivorous. Yes, even those big scary wolves you see terrifying people in the movies are actually eating veggies just like we do. There are several reasons why dogs might eat grass. Which of those fit your dog’s grass-eating behavior?
Grass is Food
Canines are opportunistic eaters by nature, which means that they rarely pass up food if they come across it. When is the last time you dropped something from the dinner table and your dog wasn’t immediately at your feet helping you clean it up? The same rule applies in the wild, if they can eat it, they likely will.
Dog Food Can be Lacking
While we all like to provide our dogs with the best nutrition available, canine dietary requirements are complex and your dog’s food may not be meeting all of their needs. This is especially true when you consider that (just like us) your dog’s body will need different things from their food based on their age, activity level, environmental exposures, and so on. A recent study concluded that most dogs would require a food with over 50 ingredients in order to deliver the appropriate nutrients all the time.
Grass Helps Settle Their Stomach
Nature’s drugstore is found in its plant life. Countless medicines are derived from plants and dogs may instinctively know how to help settle their stomachs by eating the right type of grass. There are at least 30 types of grass in the average park and you may notice that your dog prefers to eat just a single type. The digestive enzymes found in the grass may help them to process their food more efficiently or even to relieve excessive gas. In this case, a high-fiber dog food may be just what they need to keep their stomach at ease.
Grass Helps Them Vomit
Certain grasses can also irritate the throat and stomach to the point of vomiting. You probably know a dog or two who will eat anything and everything it comes across. If one of the items it ingests is definitely not food and starts to make the dog sick, they may eat grass voraciously until they vomit in order to eliminate the nasty item from their system. After all, your dog can’t exactly use its paw to gag itself. Note, however, that if your dog vomits on a regular basis it could indicate something more serious and you should talk to your vet.
Dogs get bored just like people do, especially when they’re just hanging out in the back yard all by themselves. Grass eating has been observed as a behavior related to boredom and can easily become a habit. You love your dog and the last thing you want is for them to be bored, so make sure they have ample physical and mental stimulation, even when you aren’t home. Make sure they get out for regular walks and give them something to chew on, and you may see the grass eating disappear.
Can Dogs Eat Grass?
The long and the short of it is yes, but be careful. While it seems there are several benefits to eating grass, there are also some hidden risks. We tend to use heavy fertilizers on our grass to help it grow and grass near a garden or flower bed may be coated in nasty chemical pesticide residue.
If you find your dog eating grass in the public park or out of a neighbor’s yard while out on your walk, you may want to have them wait to nibble the grasses in your own yard where you know they aren’t ingesting anything toxic. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and the tummy aches your dog gets from these nasty chemicals will be far worse than anything they are trying to alleviate themselves.
What Does It Mean When a Dog Eats Grass?
Now that you know the reasons dogs might be eating grass, let’s talk about why your dog is doing what it’s doing. Your dog’s behavior while eating grass can tell you more about what they’re after and help you determine whether or not there is something you need to do to help.
You may find your dog seeking out only the young grass shoots with soft and bright leaves. When a dog is more selective about the grass they are ingesting it usually means they are after the nutrients in the grass. If they lazily pick through the grass they are probably just after a snack.
If they are actively seeking more and more of a particular grass it may mean that they are instinctively looking for nutrients they are lacking. Consider starting your dog on a food that contains more fruits and veggies and see if their grass-eating habit changes. Dogs will eat a surprisingly diverse selection of plants if they are given the opportunity and their current food may just not have what they need.
The opposite behavior may mean your dog is experiencing a completely different issue. If you find your dog is eager to get outside and scarfs up any grass it can get its jaws around, you’ll want to pay attention to the impending vomit, especially if your dog seems ill before hand. Again, the occasional vomiting may be normal but if your dog is vomiting frequently you’ll want to visit your vet to check for other signs of gastrointestinal distress.
While grass eating can be a confusing behavior, knowing why your dog is eating grass may help you to adjust their diet or lifestyle accordingly. Be sure to use only natural products in your own lawn and maybe even try growing your dog their own special grass to nibble on. A designated garden box with a buffet of wheat or barley grass may make your dog the happiest pooch on the block.