We’ve all witnessed our dog eating some questionable things – trash, spoiled food, things that aren’t even edible. So, why does it come as such a surprise when we see them grazing for turds on the lawn? Perhaps it’s because we’re so used to canines craving meat, not buckwheat. Maybe it’s because the thought of ingesting feces strikes most of us as awful. What matters most is that we, as dog owners, understand why our pet is doing that and know whether it’s safe.
Watching your dog eat grass may have you worried, especially if you see the little furball vomit shortly afterwards. Rest assured, however, that grass eating is perfectly harmless in most cases. In fact, veterinarians often suggest that pet owners allow their dogs to freely graze (as long as its on chemical-free grass and under close supervision). Some pet owners even keep a reserved “plot” of grass indoors for their dog’s digestive convenience.
The 5 Most Common Reasons Your Dog Eats Grass
There are a variety of reasons for your pup’s newfound love of the green stuff. While some folks think dogs eat grass to treat an upset stomach, others argue that the average canine isn’t smart enough for such well-thought-out self-medication. The facts, however, may surprise everybody.
As it turns out, evidence suggests that only about 10% of dogs seem sick or nauseous before swallowing a mouthful of grass. Furthermore, less than a quarter of all grass-eating pups throw up afterwards. So, why is Lassie suddenly so lawn-friendly? Well, it has more to do with her personality and less to do with her digestive system.
According to pet experts and veterinarians worldwide, a common disorder known as “pica” may be responsible for some dogs’ urges to eat lawn clippings. Pica is simply a technical term for a relatively common condition which compels people and animals to eat items that aren’t actually food. In some cases, pica indicates a nutritional deficiency. Most of the time, however, it’s just a byproduct of boredom or curiosity.
Furthermore, pica has an interesting history, having compelled thousands of human beings to ingest things like paper, glass, cotton and even mattress material. In terms of canine pica, dogs have been caught chewing up and/or swallowing things like shoes, pillows, garbage and sofas. While there may be a simple psychological explanation for most cases of pica, many pet owners and veterinarians don’t always agree that grass eating qualifies because it is, in many ways, a source of nutrition.
Disorders and disagreements aside, some pet owners suggest that their dog eats grass to accomplish one or more of the following 4 things. However, it’s important to note that there is little to no evidence to support their beliefs.
- To relieve constipation
- To soothe an upset stomach (particularly after eating something that didn’t settle well)
- To self-treat an intestinal worm infestation
- To enhance fiber intake
And don’t forget about number five. While numerous studies have been published on the subject, the fact of the matter may be less complicated than we all realize: Fluffy and his four-legged cousins could simply enjoy the taste of the pasture. Grazing may also fulfill some unknown primal desire in canines to hunt and forage.
Did you know that there’s a common misconception about the canine diet? It turns out that dogs are not just carnivores (meat eaters). They’re actually omnivores, which means they’ll munch on just about anything. Because of that fact, grass may simply be an easy to obtain snack for a hungry puppy.
So, Is Grass Eating a Common Behavior in Dogs?
Here’s another fun fact about man’s best friend: Domesticated dogs and wild dogs have some of the same compulsions and habits in common. While your fenced-in Fido may have been spotted chomping on chard, even wild dogs can be observed eating things like grass, berries, nuts and leaves on a regular basis. Apparently, it’s less of a compulsion and more of a shared behavior that we’re still learning about.
Albeit strange for the first-time witness and a matter of concern for the diligent dog owner, the habit of feasting on foliage is quite a common behavior among all canine breeds. Although questionable, grassing eating has been officially categorized as a harmless form of pica. Furthermore, a majority of veterinarians consider moderate grazing a relatively normal and innocuous dog behavior that should not only be allowed but perhaps even encouraged.
Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows that domesticated canines are known to ingest a variety of plants on a seeming whim. Things like lawn grass and house plants tend to be their favorites. So yes, it’s perfectly normal for your dog to be eating grass from the lawn because it could have something to do with their unique digestive tract or mysterious personality traits.
Why Does My Dog Vomit After Eating Grass If It’s Harmless and Natural?
From a strictly physiological point-of-view, your dog could realistically be seeking a natural remedy for his or her upset stomach. While dogs are obviously not medical geniuses, there may be a natural instinct which drives canines to seek refuge in ruffage. Although there is a lack of evidence to support that theory, one could safely assume that ingesting leafy greens provides numerous physical benefits to all omnivorous land animals.
Many dog owners have reported seeing their pup puke shortly after eating grass, though. And while it’s a commonplace occurrence, it is not usually a sign of trouble. In fact, our dogs throw up for a variety of peculiar reasons and they don’t all pertain to a sickness, disease or bad food.
Just like humans, canines can gag on things that become lodged in their throats or stuck to the tops of their mouths. When eating heaps of grass and lawn clippings, your dog is thereby ingesting mouthfuls of moist, prickly leaves that clump together and/or become attached to their teeth and gums. In essence, eating grass is a lot like eating peanut butter for your dog. It’s just as difficult to maneuver, only it’s eaten in dozens of parts instead of in one big lump.
When ingested for whatever reason, the blades of grass can tickle the dog’s throat and irritate his or her stomach lining. In turn, that unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable sensation may make your dog vomit. Typically, the subsequent throw-up is a foamy substance that’s comprised of grass leaves, saliva and stomach acid. It is not, in most cases, anything that will dehydrate or malnourish your pet.
Vomiting is especially common when your dog eats big mouthfuls without chewing properly. The reason for that is not entirely clear, although some pet owners and canine experts suppose it’s due to an unfavorable textural issue. Usually, blades of grass are rather long, making them get trapped in your dog’s throat easily. Either way, the average pup doesn’t gulp down huge mouthfuls of grass like a dairy cow, but they still might throw up after eating it regardless of their obvious fondness for it.
What Can I Do to Stop It?
Regardless of whether it’s perfectly natural and harmless, most dog owners don’t want to be constantly cleaning up canine puke (especially if they can help it). However, while it may seem strange to watch your dog eat grass from the lawn and then puke everything back up, you might not want to stop it just yet.
You see, today’s dog is not like the dog of the past. Because of domestication and the societal norms that govern it, modern-day canines are much healthier, smarter and more sophisticated than their senior counterparts. Your pup’s ancestors used to eat wild prey whole, including the stomach contents which often contained plant matter. This is how many olden-day canines got their daily serving of veggies.
Now, your new-age animal derives most of his or her dietary fiber from alternative food sources such as grass, house plants and yard weeds. Fortunately, those are the same basic stuff that used to be found in the stomach contents of the animals your grandfather’s dogs hunted down. It seems as though nature has found a way to balance things out, but how do you stop it from happening in the first place?
Well, stopping the behavior entirely may be impossible, if not detrimental to the health of your dog. Regardless of its reasons for eating grass and house plants, most experts agree that there’s no significant danger to your pet involved. In fact, leafy green plants have essential vitamins and minerals in them, some of which your dog might actually be craving.
Therefore, allowing your furry friend to freely graze on the grass when the mood strikes serves as an inexpensive and effective way to support his or her overall health and mental wellbeing. Plus, all of that can be accomplished without changing dog foods or administering any form of prescription or over-the-counter medication.
Keep in mind that your dog will likely vomit occasionally regardless of what he or she ingests. However, if you’re dead-set on getting your dog to stop eating grass, consider this: It may be a side effect of their commercial diet. Many dog foods (dry and canned both) are void of certain nutrients that are essential to your dog’s health. After a while of not getting what it needs, your dog may seek supplementation by chewing the cud, so-to-speak.
So, instead of restricting your pup from outdoor playtime or inflicting punishment for grazing, try introducing organic veggies and herbs at mealtime. You can keep the same dog food, just enhance it with plant-based goodness. Keep in mind, however, that most dogs don’t like the taste or texture of raw vegetables. Be sure to cook them until they’re soft before offering them to your finicky Fido.
The 5 Signs of Trouble
Although intermittent grass eating is a completely normal canine mannerism, be on the lookout for bizarre behaviors in the hours following. This is especially true if you think your dog got into contaminated foliage. Furthermore, strange behavior may be a sign that your dog is munching mulch to self-soothe a much bigger problem – one that may require immediate veterinary help instead of a disinfectant wipe.
Watch for the following 5 things:
- A sudden, drastic increase in the amount of grass or plants your dog eats
- Any spastic or violent vomiting after ingestion
- Generalized lethargy or uncommon laziness
- A loss of appetite, even for dog food and treats
- Any persistent diarrhea
Since grass eating is so common and is to be expected with most dog breeds regardless of their diet, it may be a good idea to designate a small dish near your dog’s regular food bowl for grass, leaves and other foliage. This gives your pooch an alternative to lawn clippings and houseplants and stop them from grazing on harmful herbicides, pesticides and other potentially harmful substances.
If your dog exhibits any of the behaviors or signs of trouble mentioned above, consult your veterinarian immediately. Although most sudden health problems can be treated or cured by a professional, some can turn deadly within a few short hours or days. Early detection is often key to saving your dog’s life.
NOTE: Lawns can sometimes carry latent or dormant parvovirus, or CPV. Parvo is a deadly viral infection that affects both wild and domesticated dogs. Found primarily on fecal matter that’s been expelled by an infected canine, CPV can live for up to a year while withstanding extreme weather conditions and harsh chemicals. The two types of parvovirus, CPV-1 and CPV-2, affect a dog’s intestines or cardiovascular system respectively.
Allowing your furry friend to freely graze on grass is perfectly fine as long as it’s in moderation and under close supervision at all times. Never let your dog eat plants that have been treated with chemicals and always keep your eye on them afterwards for the 5 signs of trouble. Remember that vomiting it relatively normal, especially after eating something with the texture and consistency of grass.
Also, keep in mind that parvovirus is a prevalent and dangerous infectious disease that claims the lives of thousands of canines each year and is often found lying dormant on lawns. As such, be sure to keep your pup away from lawns that have been exposed to parvo in the last year. Don’t allow them to graze at public dog parks or greet unfamiliar canine companions. To further cut back on parvo transmissions and make grazing safer for your dog, have them vaccinated by your vet and always keep their common areas cleaned and sanitized.