Veterinarians, animal experts, and behaviorists give various reasons as to why your dog may be eating grass, weeds, and other plants. Common ones include an instinctive behavior, pica, to induce vomiting or self-treating mechanism, purge internal parasites, dietary deficiencies, stress, and anxiety, or they love the taste, and so on. However, no one knows why.
While most dogs will only eat a small amount of grass once in a while, others may keep eating grass regularly, such as every day or every morning. Some even lick plants but don’t eat them.
All dogs and puppy breeds eat grass, including your Chihuahuas, Siberian huskies, Yorkshire terrier, Pit bulls, Labradors, Retrievers, German shepherds, retrievers, pugs, beagles, Jack Russell terrier, greyhounds, and so on. No studies have shown this behavior is breed specific.
What do studies say?
It is an undeniable fact that dogs eat grass and other plants. You must have seen it too. One study on ‘Characterization of Plant Eating in Dogs’ notes that 68% of dogs eat plants on a daily or weekly while the remainder eats once or lesser times in a month with 79% going for grass. Only 9% appeared ill, and 28% vomit afterward.
Younger dogs had a higher frequency of eating plants as well as non-grass plants. However, they showed lower instances of vomiting or signs of illness before munching plants.
Finally, the chances of your canine friend vomiting after ingesting plants were higher for those that had signs of illness than those that didn’t show any signs of sickness.
Why do dogs or puppies eat grass and plants?
While no one knows with certainty why dogs, including puppies, eat plants, many theories are trying to explain this somewhat astounding phenomenon. Let us critically examine them.
1. Do they have a dietary deficiency?
Grass eating may be a way to meet a missing dietary part like fiber, greens, and so on. For instance, like humans, dogs require fiber to help things flowing efficiently in their tummies, and its deficiency does diminish their ability to pass stool. So they are only eating plants rich in roughages to support and aid digestion.
One study on a miniature poodle which ate grass and vomited for seven years stop the habit of increasing fiber content in his diet.
While they evolved as carnivores, with domestication, these pets have adapted to omnivorous (eat meats and some plant foods) diets. Therefore, they may instinctively be including plants as a part of their diet, to get roughages to promote healthy digestion and get extra nutrients.
Mark Derr does mention the fact that dogs are generalist eaters that have adapted to living to various habitats, including with humans, thanks to the “genetic, dietary, physiological, behavioral and social flexibility of canids, combined with a relatively unspecialized dental.”
From a dietary perspective, a possible explanation as to why puppies and younger dogs have a higher tendency of eating plants is due to higher nutritional demands than adults.
However, critics of this theory observe that canines on the perfectly balanced commercial diets do eat plants too. Perhaps, our next will provide an answer.
2. Is it their instinctive nature
A study on wild canids and felids shows that plant materials especially leaves and grasses to be present in up 74% of their stomach content and feces of cougars and wolves.
This finding opens the idea that perhaps, plant-eating is part of the dog’s and cat’s natural behaviors passed down from their ancestors. Maybe they do graze grass and plants. Furthermore, some canids like foxes do eat berries and some plant materials.
Whether they got the plant material from eating stomach content of their herbivorous prey (eat plant materials) or not, it doesn’t refute that plants belong in their digestive system and are essential.
Just because you provide all foods to your Fidos doesn’t mean they have lost some of their instincts to hunt or ancestral practices. It is part of their heritage, an answer as to why healthy dogs that eat a balanced diet may still eat grass.
3. Do dogs eat grass to throw up?
One supposition plant-eating in canines is to induce vomiting (act as an emetic) if they have ingested something inedible or something that causes discomfort or makes them feel ill. Many people indeed have reported their dogs eating grass and vomiting.
Proponents argue that these animals will go for where there are tall grass tufts, quickly and ravenously eat and swallow them without chewing it. The narrow, long grass leaves they ingest will irritate their throats and gut. This irritation is what makes them retch and upchuck or cough out the grass they ate that may have fur and other things.
If you ask around, many canine owners believe this theory and will tell you that theirs eats grass when they feel nausea to vomit. The vomiting is correct, and most with signs of illness end up vomiting.
However, from our reference study, only 10% of all dogs that ate plants showed signs that they were unwell. Furthermore, only a small number, 28% vomited afterward while a majority didn’t. Opponents use this a reason to refute that plant-eating is a means to induce vomiting.
Furthermore, is the vomiting a result of grass eating or reason (incident)? Do dogs eat grass to throw up, or does the munching make them puke? There are chances that these animals at plants for other reasons. However, it makes them vomit.
4. Do dogs eat grass having stomach troubles?
Another theory as to why dogs eat greeneries may be due help using them as a natural remedy settle or calm any subclinical stomach or gastrointestinal issues or other subclinical conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, gastric reflux, pancreatitis, and so on.
If the conditions are subclinical (not showing symptoms), it is possible to argue out that besides the 10% of dogs that ate plants having shown preexisting signs of illness, there may be more with gastric issues but didn’t have symptoms.
Furthermore, grass, being high in fiber, it may help settle stomach issues and gassiness, a reason why some canine foods for stomach issues are higher in fiber.
However, one question to think of is if grass cause stomach troubles, or did he eat it to help resolve already existing stomach troubles? Secondly, another study shows that dogs on healthy diets and stool spend time eating grass, but when given fructooligosaccharide (FOS), they ended up with loose stool but ate less grass.
Researchers attributed the reduced intake to satiety (feeling of fullness that the FOS ate, and concludes that grass wasn’t a means of self-medicating against diarrhea, a gastrointestinal disturbance.
Finally, canines aren’t smart enough to the extent of taking grass to help resolve a stomach issue, i.e., self-medicate. Do they know when they are sick and try to treat themselves?
5. Are they trying to purge gastrointestinal parasites?
Studies on wild carnivores observe that animals always have a load of parasites in their digestive system. To help purge some parasites, they eat plants, including grass, which wrap around these worms and help expel them.
Researchers note that since younger dogs and puppies are more susceptible to worms and other internal parasites, it could be the reason why they feed on plants more.
Assuming that is the case, healthy dogs without internal parasites do eat plants. Again, the issue of these pets being able to self-medicate comes to question. Are they that intelligent?
6. Is it that dogs like grass?
While battling with many theories, the simple answer may be dogs like the taste and texture of grass and other plants, a reason why they eat them. Vomiting and other issues may just be a result and not the intent. What if they have developed a taste for it?
7. Are your puppies experimenting
Puppies may be experimenting and trying various plants to know they taste. Therefore, it is normal for them to chew some plant leaves.
8. Are they just bored?
Lack of physical and mental stimulation may make your dogs bored. When it happens, among many things they may resort to, munching greens may be one of them.
9. Are they stressed or anxious
As part of pica, these pets may end up chewing grass if they are anxious or stressed. They will tend to eat grass frantically when anxious or stressed.
You should suspect anxiety or stress is this behavior happens after relocation, seeing strange people, other pets, or hearing loud noises such as during a thunderstorm. Also, being left alone, abused, and neglected, or and so on may cause frustration or trigger anxiety.
10. Is it part of pica in dogs?
Pica is a disorder characterized by dogs, cats, or other animals ingestion of non-food material due to boredom, stress, anxiety, depression, frustration, learned behavior, attention-seeking, fear of punishment, nutritional deficiency, among other reasons.
For instance, your dog will obsessively, desperately or aggressively eat grass, mud, metal, cloth, plastic, dirt, garbage, paper, rocks, even feces, or any other non-food material. Pica may be a possible explanation as to why canines eat plants.
Pica is often noted in but not restricted to young dogs and puppies. It could be a possible explanation as to why your puppies or dogs eat plants, garbage, dirt, and other things that are not their typical foods.
If you see your dog eating plants or other non-food items, try to find out what causes it. Your vet and animal behaviorist will be handy when it comes to finding out reasons for pica. If not dealt with, it may cause gastrointestinal issues and nutritional deficiencies.
Is grass bad or good for dogs to eat grass?
It depends. If you see your dog munching a little grass or other house plants once in a while and doesn’t show any signs of illness, you need not worry. Many vets consider it normal behavior. However, ensure:
- He doesn’t overeat or eat regularly. Your canine friend risks suffering from gastrointestinal and dietary deficiency issues.
- The grass or plants must be safe to dogs since plants like aloe, azalea, ivies, amaryllis, daffodil, milkweed, begonia, chrysanthemum, asparagus ferns, jade, lilies, sago palms, among many others are toxic.
- Ensure they are free of any harmful pesticides, herbicides like roundup, or fertilizers. Allow them to eat those treated with pet-friendly fertilizers and other chemicals.
- Monitor teething puppies as they may eat lots of leaves, sticks, grass, or other plants to the extent of these ingested materials causing blockages.
- To reduce the chances of getting or transmitting worms from another, ensure you clean your dog poop and properly discharge it. Invest Doggie Dooley 3000 Septic-Tank-Style Pet-Waste Disposal System or any other sound system. As they eat grass, they may end up ingesting internal parasites like tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, from feces of infected canines.
How to stop your dog from eating grass and plants
Ways to stop your dogs from eating plants lies in training and dealing with potential underlying causes. Some of these ways include:
1. Medical checkup
Take your dog for a medical checkup to see if they have any underlying health conditions, especially gastrointestinal ones like gastric reflux, pancreatitis, or inflammatory bowel disease. Some of these conditions may not show any symptoms.
Your vet may conduct physically examine your pet, conduct fecal, urine, and blood tests like complete blood count, chemistry panel, and so to confirm any GI, liver, or pancreas problem.
2. Mange anxiety, stress, and depression
Whether it is separation anxiety, loud noises, new people, fear, and so on, find ways to reassure and calm your pet. Exercise him, have physical contact, consider calming t-shirts or coats like Thundershirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket, try relaxant or calming supplements like PremiumCare Calming Treats, and so on.
If they are suffering from separation anxiety, keep an old t-shirt or blanket since the scent will be reassuring and may help calm him.
3. Deworm regularly
Frequently deworm your dogs to ensure they don’t have any internal parasites. They may indeed be the reason for these pets munching plants.
4. Break boredom
Spend time with your Fido and stimulate them mentally and physically. There are many dog toys, including chew toys, to break boredom or mentally stimulate them, such as puzzle games or toys.
You can also go for walks, play with this pet, and so on as you monitor if they will reduce instances of plant-eating.
5. Switch to better dog foods
Since it may be difficult to tell why your pet eats grass, consider switching to better canine foods, including some of the best raw and frozen as well as freeze-dried dog foods.
Also, try brands that support digestive health, high fiber formulas, for sensitive stomachs, and so on. Whether you have puppies, toy, small, medium, or large dogs, you will get perfect dog food brands.
Your vet should guide you on which canine foods to buy. Also, ensure you introduce them gradually over about two weeks.
Finally, consider including cooked vegetables and herbs in their diets. They may help stop this excessive munching of plants.
Another way is training your dog to stop eating grass by incorporating rewards such as treats or petting or verbal corrections to disrupt your pooch with it begins munching greeneries.
7. Seek help
See a vet or animal behaviorists if you suspect that the grass munching is a compulsive obsessive behavior for further advice
When to see a vet?
Although veterinarians agree that it is normal for dogs, there are instances when you need to worry and seek help that includes:
1. Your dog begins eating grass all of a sudden
See your vet if your dog starts eating grass all over a sudden and grazes excessively. This behavior is an indication something happened in the recent past that triggered the response. It could be stress, illness, and nutritional deficiencies, and so on.
2. Your dog keeps eating so much grass all the time
If your dog keeps eating grass and weeds constantly or always and won’t stop, you need to see your vet for diagnosis. As noted, excessive amounts may be detrimental to their health since it can lead to blockages and nutritional deficiencies.
3. Shows some symptoms
If your canine eats plants and shows abnormal or any of the below signs of illness, you need to see your vet for diagnosis. It may be having an underlying disease on condition. Signs to look for include:
- Excessive vomiting
- Anorexia or reduced appetite
- Coughing and swallowing difficulties
- Gurgling stomach after eating grass, diarrhea (loose stool) and GI upsets
- Weight loss
- Excessive drooling
- Change in coat or fur
- Not passing stool (constipated)
- Any other abnormal behavior
However, if your Fido eats grass and vomits once but doesn’t have any other issues, you don’t have to go to the vet.
Best dog grass
Since it isn’t clear why pooches eat plants, instead of struggling to stop them, you should consider having a safe area where they can graze once in a while that may have safe grass, plants, and herbs.
Such an area will eliminate the risk of them eating landscaping and other lawn plants that may be harmful or have harmful chemicals like herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides.
Some of the best dog grass you may consider having include indoors include rye, wheat, oats, and barley.
However, if you have a yard, plant dog friendly yet hardy and tolerant like grasses Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, Bermuda, Fescue, Zoysia, centipede or Augustine since these pets will run, dig, pee, and poop on the grass.
Finally, don’t confuse grass for dogs with artificial brands like the Downtown Pet Supply Dog Pee Potty Pad or MTBRO Artificial Grass.