You’re relaxing in the park with a good book and your canine companion, and then something catches your attention—your dog is eating something. You throw down your book and weasel your fingers into your puppy’s mouth. You’re in a public park—it could be anything in there—and your fist comes out slimy green and flecked with blades of grass. Your dog wasn’t about to choke on a week-old, moldering chicken bone, he was just participating in a habit performed by many dogs, munching on some grass.
Is your dog sick? Is he confused? There are many theories behind why dogs eat grass. Here’s what you need to know if one of your dog’s favorite pastimes is mowing your lawn with his mouth.
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Pica: When Dogs Eat Something That’s Not Food
Pica is when a dog is compelled to eat and ingest objects that are not food. This includes grass among a slew of other things like metal, cloth, garbage, dirt, rocks, etc. Pica is not something to ignore in your dog. Of course, the risk factors vary greatly depending on what they’re ingesting. But complications can include blockages, diarrhea, ulcers, vomiting, burping, drooling, sneezing, coughing, infection, poisoning, and in worst cases, death.
However, most veterinarians agree that grass-specific Pica is usually no cause for concern. And eating grass is also much more common than your dog trying to swallow your toaster or other household items. In fact, a survey found that 79% of dogs that had regular access to grass and plants had eaten plants at some point.
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But Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
There are no concrete answers as to why dogs eat grass, only speculation, but here are some of the best theories:
To Help an Upset Stomach
Many believe that a dog with an upset stomach will eat grass or plants as a natural remedy. When ingested, plants or grass tickles the lining of the dog’s stomach and throat, which may cause the dog to throw up.
A little nibble here or there is no cause for concern, but if your dog is uncharacteristically gulping down tufts of grass and throwing it back up, it may be a sign that they are unwell and need to be taken to the vet.
An Acquired Taste
Eating grass may be a dog’s natural instinct. Andrea Rediger, writing for the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine explains a theory that: “undomesticated dogs are naturally omnivores, therefore domesticated dogs instinctively include plant material in their diet,” and she also adds— “Alternatively, some speculate that undomesticated dogs would ingest plant material in the stomachs of their prey, and therefore the species developed a taste for it.”
When you think about it, eating grass may come more naturally to your dog than eating kibble—although, they’re probably more enthusiastic about the latter.
Further reading: How Were Dogs Domesticated?
Another theory behind grass being on the menu is that a dog could be missing something essential in his diet, like fiber. As a result, a dog’s solution to lacking basic nutrition could be trying to recover it by eating grass.
If you’ve noticed your dog is paying special attention to your lawn or houseplants, you might want to try introducing cooked vegetables into their diet.
Dogs might even eat grass out of plain boredom. If you’ve noticed your dog eating grass but he doesn’t seem sick or undernourished, make sure he gets enough exercise. Instead of sticking your dog in the backyard with all those munchable pieces of grass, try taking him on a long walk or engaging with him for some play time. If you’re busy, you could toss him a sturdy new chew toy to help him pass the hours.
Keeping Your Pup Safe
Although we’ve established eating grass is mostly harmless, the same cannot be said for the ingestion of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. If your dog has a hankering for greenery, make sure to keep an eye out that your neighbors or local parks haven’t recently used pesticides.
There you have it: a little grass nibbling could represent a leftover trace of your dog’s evolution from a wild hunting beast to a beloved bug-eyed French bulldog. But, you never know, he probably just likes the taste.
Do you hate being away from your pup? Here’s an article about Take Your Dog to Work Day.