“Why does my dog eat grass?”
It might seem like an odd question, but it’s also a pretty common one among pooch parents. Countless pet owners see their canine friends chewing on grass and wonder whether it’s healthy to consume all of that greenery. After all, grass isn’t exactly clean.
Although grass-eating behaviour can represent various things, from digestive issues to stomach upset, it often won’t be as problematic as you think.
Provided your dog isn’t eating anything sprayed with dangerous chemicals, they might just like the taste of fresh grass.
Here’s what you need to know.
Is grass eating a normal behaviour for dogs?
Dogs eating grass is a pretty common thing – and it’s not just evident in domesticated dogs either. Wild dogs and wolves occasionally chew on grass too.
Although a dog eating grass can cause concerns about intestinal parasites and medical issues, the reality is that most of the time, grass-eating isn’t a sign of anything. Remember, dogs haven’t always had people like us to supply them with kibble and cans of meaty food.
In the wild, dogs often ate whatever they hunted – including the stomach contents of those smaller animals (which often contained grass). While dogs aren’t true carnivores, meaning they can eat more than just meat, they’re not exactly “plant-eaters” either. Sometimes, consuming a little extra plant life to go alongside their regular diet can be a great way for dogs to stay healthy.
Generally, if you only notice grass-eating behaviour in dogs from time to time, you won’t need to be concerned. Remember, grass and plants are a great source of fibre – ideal for various bodily functions. If your dog is eating dirt, grass, and other substances on a regular basis, that might be when you need to take your canine companion to the vet for peace of mind.
Will Eating Grass Cause Medical Issues?
Outside of normal dog behaviour, eating a bit of grass could be a sign that your dog has some issues they’re trying to alleviate with their stomach. Similar to a cat eating grass to help them vomit, a dog may eat grass to clear out their digestion system. The pieces of grass tickle the inside of the stomach and helps to get rid of anything they don’t want in their tummy.
The biggest problem with a dog eating grass, is you can’t always be sure what’s on that greenery. Some grass is covered in toxic chemicals, used to remove weeds, others might be the wrong sort of grass for your dog’s needs. If you’ve got special canine grass in your garden that’s easy to clean – it may not be grass at all, but rather a fake alternative.
If you’re worried that your dog is showing signs of stomach discomfort, or another health issue alongside their grass-eating habits, the best thing you can do is seek guidance from a vet.
What can happen if a dog eats grass?
A dog eating grass isn’t always a sign of underlying issues. However, some experts do think that impulsive consumption of less common foods might be a sign of a mental health issue. If your dog is straying away from its regular diet, this could be a sign they’re feeling anxious or overwhelm. If a dog shows signs of emotional stress like chewing on furniture, barking a lot, or being more destructive, this could indicate an emerging behavioral issue. Grass eating can even be a form of Pica, which is a medical condition that pushes your dog to eat things they wouldn’t normally be
Other psychological reasons for a dog to eat grass (besides anxiety), can include a desire for attention. Some pooches will do anything to force you to pay attention to them more often. Engaging in boisterous or unusual behaviour is a great way for dogs to get our attention, so it may be a sign that you need to invest in some training tips, rather than seek help for a medical condition.
There are also cases when a dog eating grass might be an instinctive behaviour, triggered by the desire for a food upgrade. If your dog isn’t currently getting a high-fibre diet, they may be looking for more greenery to add to their meals. Physical reasons for eating grass can include your dog not getting enough of the ingredients they need in their standard food.
Speaking to a vet will allow them to check on your dog’s health and determine whether there are any issues with diet which need to be addressed.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Grass
If you’re concerned about any of your dog’s behaviour, from loss of appetite, to eating grass, the best thing you can do is speak to your vet. These experts will be able to conduct a full examination to determine whether the cause is something medical, like intestinal worms or gastric reflux, or it’s a behavioral issue. If there’s no underlying problem,
- Keep an eye on your dog
The first step in addressing any negative behaviour is watching your dog and finding out what leads to activities like eating grass. Always monitor your dog when you have plants nearby around the house or when you’re out in the great outdoors. When you notice your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t be, gently guide their attention away and to something else.
- Consult your vet
As mentioned above, it’s always helpful to have some guidance from your vet about what might be prompting a behavioral issue. Even if your dog doesn’t have any underlying problems causing them to chew on things like grass, your vet can determine whether there are other issues leading to their behaviour, like anxiety. A vet can also put you in contact with a training expert who can teach you how to use things like positive reinforcement correctly.
- Use distraction
When eating grass from the ground, your dog is exposed to a lot of unhealthy stuff, including residue from other dogs, parasites, and chemicals. Dogs that tend to response to positive reinforcement in the form of treats can sometimes be trained to stop eating grass in exchange for a better option. This means you might need to keep some treats on hand if you’re going for a walk with your dog to distract them from grass.
Sometimes, treats aren’t the answer. Simply petting your dog and giving them affection can be a wonderful way to encourage better behaviour. Verbal reinforcement and cuddles are excellent rewards for a lot of dogs. You can even use specific words and phrases to prevent your dog from eating grass and other things that you want them to avoid. Whenever your dog follows your instruction, make sure you give them plenty of recognition.
- More dietary fibre
Dogs may sometimes chew on grass and other greenery because they need a little extra fibre in their diet. If you notice your dog having problems with their bowel movements, or that they’re constantly seeking out sources of plant life to help with their digestion, this could be a sign that something is wrong with the diet you’re offering.
- Try dog-friendly grass
If you know your dog enjoys eating grass, create a safe space in your garden where they can chew freely. Clean up anything that might be dangerous to your dog in that part of the garden, including any pests and slugs. It might also be worth looking into the kinds of grasses that are least likely to cause problems for your dogs. Some will be better for their fibre needs than others.
- Try keeping them entertained
As mentioned above, sometimes your dog will start eating grass just because they’re bored and looking for attention. If your dog is always looking for ways to entertain themselves, maybe it’s time you give them some more mental and physical stimulation. You could try investing in new toys, or just spend more time running around the garden. If your dog loves chewing, then maybe a new set of chew toys could be in order.
Is a Dog Chewing Grass a Big Deal?
Dogs eating grass doesn’t necessarily have to be a sign of something terrible. Our pooches can be unusual creatures, which means they engage in a lot of activities we don’t always understand. Keep an eye on your dog’s behaviour and remember to talk to a vet if you’re feeling anxious.