Have you ever wondered why your dog eats grass? Many people think it happens when a dog’s stomach is upset. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure why dogs sometimes chow down on grass! But read on to learn more about theories, potential risks and dangers, and how to deal with your pup’s tummy troubles.
Theories about why dogs eat grass
There isn’t a scientifically definitive answer to the question of why dogs eat grass. And there aren’t a lot of research dollars being spent on this question, so we may never know for certain!
Some sources claim that dogs eat grass when they need to vomit, but not many dogs—in fact, fewer than a quarter—actually vomit from eating grass. Other theories posit that grass-eating may improve digestion, help with intestinal worms, or fulfill an unmet nutritional need for fiber. Grass does contain some essential nutrients, but even dogs that already have a balanced, nutritious diet will sometimes eat grass. Yet another theory is that eating grass is a compulsive behavior signaling psychological distress.
Scientists point out that wild dogs aren’t strictly carnivores—they’re omnivores that scavenge, hunt, and include plants in their diet. Wild dogs may also ingest plants secondarily, by consuming whatever is in the stomachs of their herbivorous prey. So there’s a good possibility that eating grass is your domesticated pup’s way of making up for the plants that are missing in his kibble.
Is Eating Grass Dangerous for Dogs?
No. In and of itself, eating grass does not pose a real risk to your dog, but be aware of what might be on the grass your dog eats. Pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals can endanger your dog’s health. Furthermore, if your dog isn’t limiting his intake of greenery to simple grass or clover, make sure he’s not nibbling on plants that are poisonous for dogs.
Pay attention if your dog, or more significantly your puppy, is eating a lot of grass. In rare cases, it could lead to an intestinal blockage.
In and of itself, eating grass does not pose a real risk to your dog, but be aware of what might be on the grass your dog eats.
How can I stop my dog from eating grass?
If your dog is eating grass because she’s bored, more exercise and engagement might help. Spend more time with her outside playing interactive games. Once indoors, a good chew toy could do the trick.
If you’re worried that your frequent grass-gobbler isn’t getting enough fiber, switch her to food with a higher fiber content. (A note on this: if you change your dog’s diet, do so gradually. Your dog will thank you.) On the other hand, if eating grass is only an occasional acute craving, try feeding your dog a few leaves of spinach or basil to see if that satisfies him. You may feel more comfortable giving your pup leaves that you put in your own salad bowl, rather than risk having him eat random greenery outdoors.
Alternatively, you can just let your dog eat grass occasionally. It’s not a big deal.
How do you settle a dog’s upset stomach?
If you’re worried that your dog is eating grass in an attempt to cure an upset stomach, it makes sense to think about what you can do to help.
There are a lot of home remedies that pet owners use for settling their dogs’ upset stomachs: plain yogurt, a daily probiotic, pumpkin, oatmeal, and bananas. Some try human medicines such as Imodium (though you should avoid this if you have a Collie or related breed) and Pepto-Bismol. However, to avoid possible complications, ALWAYS check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any OTC “human” medications.
Upset stomachs are unpleasant, for both you and your dog, but usually there’s no reason to panic. However, here are a few symptoms that justify a call to the veterinarian:
- Dehydration. Does your dog have dry, tacky, or pale gums, or low skin-elasticity?
- Painful, distended, or hard belly.
- Retching, vomiting, trying to vomit, or difficulty defecating.
- Blood in vomit, urine, or feces.
- Suspected ingestion of chemicals, poisons, medications, toxic foods, or a foreign object.
If your dog doesn’t have any of these symptoms, keep her hydrated, give her plenty of potty breaks, and have her fast for 12 to 24 hours. Afterward, reintroduce food gradually. If your dog is still not well after 24 hours, check in with your veterinarian.
Ultimately, there may never be a satisfying solution to The Case of the Grass-Eating Dog. But the good news is that, in most cases, it’s nothing to worry about!