Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Many dogs love to eat grass, but why? In this blog post, we’re giving you the 411 on this bizarre behavior.
Do you ever find yourself wondering, “why do dogs eat grass?” As pet parents, it can be confusing when we see our four-legged companions indulging in an activity that looks so unappetizing. After all, if your pup is getting enough nutrition from their food, then why the sudden need for a green snack?
Maybe your dog has been exhibiting signs of an upset tummy or is refusing to eat his regular food – could there be something more sinister at play? In this blog post, we will provide insight into the common phenomenon of grass-eating - what it means, why dogs do it, and how to prevent it from home.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
There are many unproven theories out there about why dogs eat grass. While some view this unusual action as an attempt to soothe an upset tummy, others believe this behavior is instinctual or done to obtain more attention from the owner.
The truth is that no one really knows why dogs eat grass - or if there’s a reason at all! And unfortunately, because this is a topic with limited research, we may never know - but that won’t stop us from searching for answers! Below are some of the most popular, well-founded theories on why dogs eat grass.
This theory is founded on the belief that eating grass is an instinctual behavior based on thousands of years of evolution. Dogs are omnivores, meaning that their diet should consist of a healthy balance of both plants and meat. And we know that throughout history, dogs would scavenge for small pieces of vegetation (like grass) to supplement their diet - something that wolves and other species of “wild dog” still do to this day.
Most pet owners nowadays feed their dogs a balanced, nutritional diet that doesn’t require supplementation, leading many to believe that this scavenging behavior is purely instinctual. With this theory, dogs eat grass simply because they feel like they’re supposed to!
Another reasonable theory for why dogs eat grass is to supplement nutrition (or lack thereof). Not only does grazing fulfill a dog’s need for roughage, but grass can also be an excellent source of fiber! If a dog’s diet is not appropriately balanced or missing key nutritional elements, he may consume grass in response to his body’s need for more nutrients.
Additionally, a dog may consume grass in-between meal times to satisfy an empty stomach.
Another popular theory is that dogs eat grass purely out of curiosity. This theory is especially relevant for puppies or adolescent dogs who are still in the early stages of exploring their environment. As any puppy owner will attest, young dogs will put anything in their mouth - including grass. In this scenario, the grass is not ingested for a real purpose but rather to satisfy a nosy pup’s curiosity!
Soothing an Upset Tummy
Perhaps the most commonly-believed theory for why dogs eat grass is to soothe an upset tummy or to induce vomiting. In this situation, a dog with an upset tummy will eat excessive amounts of grass and then vomit shortly after. Whether this is done intentionally or instinctually is difficult to say, but this exact scenario has been described by pet owners over and over again.
However, not every dog who eats grass will vomit, making this cause-and-effect scenario more rare than you might think. In fact, studies show that less than 25% of dogs vomit after eating grass.
Another popular belief is that dogs eat grass as an act of self-soothing when they’re feeling stressed out or anxious or to get attention from their owners. The behaviors associated with self-soothing will look different for every dog - some dogs will lick their paws obsessively, while others chew aggressively on a favorite toy, and some eat grass!
Pro Tip: If you’ve got a dog who is stressed out or anxious, check out Melatonin for Dogs - an all-natural supplement designed to relieve stress and promote maximum relaxation.
Pica is a medical condition that causes dogs to crave (and eat) non-food items such as grass, dirt, garbage, rocks, underwear, socks, and more. This condition can be caused by a variety of physical conditions, such as poor nutrition or systemic illness, but it can also be caused by emotional stress or trauma. Though pica can be difficult to diagnose because it won’t show up on bloodwork or x-rays, it can often be treated with specific nutritional supplements, such as enzyme supplements or probiotics.
Is It OK for Dogs to Eat Grass?
Though the idea of eating grass may seem distasteful to humans, it is not an inherently dangerous behavior. However, there are some potential risks that owners ought to be aware of. To appropriately answer the question, “should I let my dog eat grass?” two main factors should be considered: the location of the grass and the amount eaten.
Location and Environment
When deciding whether or not to allow your dog to graze, one of the most important factors to consider is your location - or, more specifically, the location of the grass your pet is trying to eat. Why is this important? Because grass can be a platform for a wide variety of potential hazards, such as pesticides or fecal-transmitted diseases like Giardia. For this reason, it may be wise to avoid grassy areas in the dog park (where other dogs may do their business) or in public areas (where pesticides or weed killers are used routinely).
Amount of Grass Eaten
It’s easy to understand why the location of the grass your pet eats is important, but why does it matter how much grass a dog eats? The answer is plain and simple - because some dogs can’t process large amounts of roughage. If this is the case for your own dog, the grass he ingests can quickly form into a large clump within the body. And if your dog is not able to process this clump, it will lead to an obstruction that cannot be removed without surgical intervention.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Grass?
Discouraging your dog from eating grass can be tricky, but there are many different ways to do so. If you find yourself asking, “what should I do if my dog eats grass?” this next section is for you!
For starters, ensure that your pet’s diet is well-balanced and appropriate for their age, size, and breed. One of the best ways to do this is by consulting your veterinarian, who can help you determine an appropriate amount of food based on your dog’s daily calorie needs. Now let’s get down to the practical stuff.
One of the simplest ways to stop your dog from eating grass is to simply avoid grassy areas altogether! Instead of letting your dog out in the backyard to go potty, start taking him on walks so that you can easily control where he stops to potty and for how long. Additionally, try to schedule your dog’s walks for after a meal when the stomach is full.
Another great way to stop your dog from eating grass is to use positive reinforcement training to interrupt the undesirable behavior. How can you do this? By distracting your dog with a favorite toy or treat every time he tries to eat grass, thereby redirecting his attention. Doing this repetitively will teach your dog that he can expect a reward by NOT eating grass but by instead paying attention to you.
FAQs About Why Dogs Eat Grass
“Why do dogs eat grass when sick?”
While most veterinary professionals believe that grass-eating is an instinctual behavior, there are some instances where a dog will eat grass in response to an upset tummy. Though less than 25% of dogs who eat grass will actually vomit as a result, this action could be your best friend’s way of letting you know that something is wrong.
If, in addition to eating grass, your pet is experiencing other symptoms of digestive distress (vomiting or diarrhea, inappetence, or lethargy), it’s important to consult your veterinarian immediately.
“Why is my dog eating grass and not his food?”
As we’ve learned, there are many different reasons that a dog may eat grass, from satisfying his instincts to soothing an upset tummy. But if your dog feels compelled to eat grass or other non-food items instead of his actual dog food, he may be experiencing a real medical issue. To rule out anything sinister, we recommend giving your veterinarian a call so that you can get your pup back on track quickly.
Eating grass is a common canine behavior whose purpose remains somewhat of a mystery, though we do know that it has both dietary and physiological causes. While it is generally safe for dogs to consume grass in moderation, there are a few important risks that pet owners should be aware of so that preventative measures can be taken when necessary - helping keep your pup happy and healthy for years to come.
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