Is your four-legged friend more sheep than a dog? Do they munch their way around the park or stop on the verge for a quick nibble of the green stuff? Have you ever wondered why do dogs eat grass?
Many owners are puzzled or concerned by their dog’s desire to eat grass. Especially when it can result in vomiting; what’s more, not all dogs are partial to the green stuff, which makes it even more baffling!
So why do certain dogs like to eat grass while others don’t? The truth is, no one really knows for sure, although there are various theories. The dog community can only speculate about why some dogs do, and some dogs don’t like to eat grass. Although it may seem strange to us, experts agree that grass eating is harmless and normal behavior for our canine friends, and as such, we shouldn’t be too concerned.
So why might your dog eat grass? Here’s an overview of the current and most popular theories;
Dogs eat grass because it tastes good!
Despite what we may think, our dogs are not true carnivores. Of course, they prefer a diet consisting mostly of meat, but they are actually omnivores.
As scavengers, our dogs eat almost anything. Certainly, meat if they can find it, but also vegetables, fruits, berries, and grass. While some dogs are not fussy eaters and will munch on any grass, others choose their greenery with great care.
No one seems to know why some dogs are selective about eating grass and others are not. But it appears that not all grass is created equal for some of our dogs.
Eating grass is medicinal
There is a prevailing view that our dogs eat grass to self-medicate. As dogs lack the necessary enzymes to digest grass, it is thought that they eat it to induce vomiting and purge the contents of their stomachs.
As a result, it’s speculated that this purging reduces bloating and any dog’s discomfort. Despite this widespread theory, there is little evidence to support it. Although many owners are familiar with their dogs eating grass and vomiting, it’s estimated that less than 25% of dogs are sick after ingesting grass.
What’s more, only 10% of dogs showed any indication of illness beforehand. However, if your dog is under the weather and has recently started to eat grass, do take them to your veterinarian for a check-up.
It’s about boredom – it’s just something to do
Bored dogs can find any number of ways to entertain themselves. It’s thought that dogs eat grass just as something to do.
When a dog is left alone for extended periods of time without mental or physical stimulation, they will find ways to alleviate their boredom.
Since eating grass appears to be harmless, it often goes unnoticed as a ‘problem’ behavior. In contrast, other behaviors like digging or chewing are more obviously problematic.
However, dogs can also suffer a form of OCD. Dogs with OCD perform normal behaviors but do it excessively or in a disturbingly recurrent way. So, if your dog eats grass when left alone, engage them in another activity instead, i.e., games, walks, or offer them toys.
If this stops or reduces the amount of time your dog spends eating grass, boredom is the likely culprit. Providing additional entertainment like a toy or interactive feeder when left alone is an easy fix.
But if you are unsure if your dog’s grass eating is a problem behavior, or you think your dog eating grass is obsessive. Do visit your Vet, who can put you in touch with a behaviorist that can work with you to minimize the behavior.
Dogs may not gain any real nutritional advantage from eating grass as they can’t digest it. However, the nutritional deficiency theory suggests that grass may provide the much-needed fiber that dogs are not getting enough in their current diet.
One study of a miniature poodle showed that when a high-fiber diet was substituted for the Poodles normal food, the dog stopped grass-eating completely. Although this study was small, it shows that diet plays a significant role in your dog’s overall health and behavior.
It’s thought that our dog’s ancestors ate grass and dirt to help purge intestinal parasites. What’s more, our dogs are not the only animals to do this. Chimpanzees are known to eat leaves and plants of little nutritional value to do the same. Research seems to support this view as grass has been found in eleven to forty-seven percent of droppings left by wolves.
Since our dogs can not digest the grass, it passes wholly through the intestinal tract. This increases intestinal contractions and traps worms and nematodes, and removes them from the body because of its fibrous nature.
Why do dogs eat grass?
We can only guess. There is no definitive answer to what is one of the most puzzling and frequently asked aspects of our dog’s behavior.
Even though they may not get much nutritional value when they eat grass, a survey shows that it is the most commonly eaten plant by our dogs. So should we worry about it?
Although grass is harmless to dogs and is part of normal dog behavior, do be careful. Even though you may know what you put on your lawn, there may be herbicides and pesticides used in public places that are harmful to your dog.
If you’re unsure whether the grass has been sprayed or not, attract your dog’s attention (toys and treats can come in handy!) and move them on. But unless you have a particular concern or your dog is eating grass excessively, there isn’t any need to stop them from having a nibble.
Whatever the reason, our dogs seem to get a lot of enjoyment from eating grass. So on your next walk, why not see if you help your dog find their favorite flavor of grass blade.