Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? Digging Deeper Into Dog Behavior

Ever wondered why your dog eats grass? Well, it turns out that eating grass isn’t an uncommon behavior among dogs.

In fact, it’s actually a natural instinct for them to do so! Let’s take a closer look at what leads some of our furry friends to eat grass and other greens.

Dogs eating grass is a behavior that has puzzled dog owners for years. People believe that dogs eat grass because they are sick and want to vomit. And still, others think that dogs eat grass to get fiber in their diet. So, what is the real reason why dogs eat grass? Dogs eat grass either because it’s genetic or instinctive. Lack of fiber is also a cited reason. Research has established that dogs don’t eat grass to vomit or when they are sick. Dogs tend to eat grass more when their stomach is empty or they want to seek attention. Stimulation of the brain is also a factor.

What Exactly Is Grass?

What is grass? You may have heard the word before, but what does it really mean? Grass is a type of plant that can be found all over the world. It belongs to the Poaceae or Gramineae family.

It grows in many different climates and biomes, from deserts to rain forests. The blades of grass are typically green or brown in color and grow in a vertical direction on either side of a stem called the midvein.

Not all types of grass have flowers. Grass contains a lot of nutrition ranging from water-soluble carbohydrates, fiber, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and proteins too.

What Is Dog Eating Grass Classified As?

Dogs eating grass is a common behavior that many dog owners are familiar with. This is termed pica, a case where an animal eats something that is not a part of its normal diet. In other words, eating something that is not its food.

This can even mean eating multiple things and not being restricted to a particular thing. Pica is possible in humans too. A common misconception about pica is that it’s caused by a certain deficiency.

However, whether dogs can digest grass is still being debated. Also, if your dog is getting a balanced diet, a deficiency cannot be the likely reason.

Reasons Why Dogs May Eat Grass

Dogs eating grass is a behavior that has been observed in dogs for centuries. This question continues to be investigated even today. However, there are certain commonly stated reasons. Let’s go through them one by one.

It’s in the Gene:

Dogs are not born with a natural aversion to grass. They are genetically programmed to eat it, which is why they will sometimes chow down on blades of grass in your backyard.

 Dogs have a genetic predisposition to eat grass. It’s not just because they’re hungry or want something different to chew on.

Even wolves, who are the ancestor of the domestic dog, have been found to eat grass. A fecal examination of samples collected from wolf droppings has shown the presence of grass.

Boredom:

Dogs love to eat grass. This is because of boredom! Dogs get bored when they are overstimulated and don’t get enough mental stimulation.

They get bored when there isn’t anything for them to do, or they can’t find a toy that’s interesting enough.

This has been proven by many studies on the subject, which have shown that dogs who are given more space in their cages or kennels will chew on cardboard boxes in order to stimulate themselves.

Pro Tip: Dogs need exercise just like people do, but unfortunately a lot of dog owners don’t take the time to walk their furry friends. Dogs also need new toys to play with, and if you can’t provide that then a trip to the park is a great alternative.

Seeking Attention:

Dogs eat grass because they want the attention of their owners. They know that when we see them grazing on the lawn, we will come over and check on them.

This provides an opportunity for us to give them some love and affection, which dogs crave just as much as humans do. So next time your dog nibbles on some green leaves, don’t be alarmed – he’s just trying to get your attention!

Pro tip: Spend more time with your dog, look at him, and reassure him. Even if it’s a quick five minutes, it is well worth it.

Supplement A Missing Nutrient:

Dogs eating grass isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s still one that puzzles many. After all, why would an animal that has access to food indoors want to snack on grass?

There are a few different theories out there as to why dogs eat grass, such as they’re supplementing their nutrient intake.

Dogs typically don’t graze enough, so by eating some grass, they’re not going to get the nutrients their bodies need. Plus, grass cannot provide all the nutrients a dog needs. So it does not seem a possible reason.

Digestive:

Dogs are largely considered omnivorous animals, meaning that they have the ability to digest both animal-based and plant-based foods.

However, it has been explained that dogs cannot digest grass. This has been confirmed by the FDA by comparing the stomach of a cow and a dog.

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/how-cows-eat-grass

As of now, in the absence of further literature, it becomes difficult to accept that grass acts as a digestive in dogs. So, grass acting as a digestive in dogs will have to be established in times to come.

Taste & Texture:

Dogs have been known to eat grass for centuries. While the reasons why they do so are still largely a mystery, there are several theories about why dogs might consume this type of vegetation.

Some believe that they eat it because they like the taste, while others think that they consume grass because of its texture. When it comes to taste, dogs’ taste buds are designed to enjoy meat, so their enjoying the taste of grass is hard to believe.

But as far as the texture is concerned there is no authentic literature affirming or contradicting it. However, the texture seems to be a better answer over taste.

Dogs need Fiber:

Dogs are carnivores, which means they eat meat. But why do dogs eat grass? It turns out that this is normal behavior for them. Dogs need fiber just like humans.

They need the extra fiber in order to keep their digestive system healthy -especially after eating meat. The grass is said to add roughage to the stomach and intestines for dogs.

Whether dogs do get fiber from grass? Whether partial digestion of grass occurs in dogs or only the fiber is absorbed are all questions that remain to be established with proper evidence.

Instinctive Behavior:

Dogs eating grass is instinctive behavior that has no one specific reason. As it turns out, scientists still aren’t entirely sure why dogs eat grass, but the behavior seems to be instinctive rather than a response to any specific need.

This seems to be an acceptable answer because dogs have been eating grass from times immemorial and so have wolves. It just looks like dogs know that they should be chewing grass.

Do Dogs Eat Grass Because They Are Sick Or Do They Vomit Afterward?

This is a question that has been asked very frequently and by many. There is a direct answer to this question after research that was conducted by Sueda, Hart, and Cliff. This paper focused on two parts.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248336232_Characterisation_of_plant_eating_in_dogs

Part A

Looking at dogs who ate grass and whether they were sick before eating grass.

Part B

Looking at dogs who have eaten grass and whether they vomited afterward.

The final conclusion that was arrived at was that not many dogs were sick before they ate grass, and not many dogs vomited after the consumption of grass.

According to their data, only 9% of dogs were sick before consumption of grass and only 22% of dogs vomited after consuming grass. So, they concluded that

a. It is not necessary that a dog has to be sick to consume grass

b. All dogs do not vomit after eating grass.

c. Eating grass is just a normal characteristic in dogs.

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? – The S.J. Bjone, W.Y. Brown and I.R. Price Perspective

S.J. Bjone, W.Y. Brown, and I.R. Price wrote a paper titled Grass eating patterns in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris.

https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/32446/bjone-brown-price-grass-eating20patterns-raan-2007.pdf

In simple words, three questions were answered through this paper.

The first question was whether dogs eat grass when they are more hungry. This was answered positive and it was observed that dogs tend to eat grass when they are more hungry and if their stomach is full the chances of their eating grass are lesser.

The second question that was answered, was with reference to whether dogs have a preference for a type of grass over another. It was found that dogs did not care about the type of grass when it came to eating grass.

The third question that was answered was with reference to whether the time of the day influences the dogs eating grass.

It was found that dogs eating grass was more probable in the early hours(morning) than as the day went by, which is afternoon and evening.

Is It Safe For Dogs To Eat Grass? What Are The Dangers Of Dogs Eating Grass?

Dogs eating grass is a common occurrence. Many people believe that it is beneficial for their dogs and that it helps them with digestion.

However, this may not the case. Turns out, there are several reasons why it’s not safe for dogs to chow down on the green stuff. Let’s look at why?

Risk Of Infection:

Dogs eating grass is a common behavior, but did you know that it could put your dog at risk for infection?

Grass can contain germs and dirt, which may cause an upset stomach or other illness in your pet.

What many people don’t know is that there can be risks associated with letting your dog eat grass – including the risk of infection from bacteria, viruses, and other germs found in the dirt. 

So the grass found outside is not safe.

Pro Tip: If you are one of those who believe that your dog should be given grass at regular intervals make sure you wash the grass thoroughly and then allow your dog to have the grass. Note: this is not a recommendation.

Risk of Contracting Worms:

Dogs can eat grass for various reasons. This can lead to them contracting roundworms or hookworms. These parasites can cause serious health problems in dogs.

Yes, both roundworms and hookworms can be spread through grass, so if you’re out walking your dog and he or she decides to munch on some blades, there’s a chance those pesky critters will make their way into your pup’s system.

If this goes undetected, it can be fatal.

Pro Tip: If you believe that your dog has ingested worms, take them to the veterinarian for treatment.

Risk Of Contracting Parvovirus:

Dogs are susceptible to contracting parvovirus if they are not vaccinated. This virus is typically contracted from eating infected feces, but can also be transmitted through contact with an infected dog or animal, or by ingesting grass or soil that has been contaminated with the virus.

Symptoms of parvo include severe vomiting and diarrhea, which can quickly lead to dehydration, shock, and even death.

If you suspect your dog might have contracted parvo, it is important to get them treatment as soon as possible.

Note: Remember that the parvovirus vaccination does not protect dogs 100%.

Toxicity From Herbicides & Pesticides:

Grass treated with herbicides and pesticides can be fatal for dogs, so it’s crucial to take precautions when letting them roam free. While these chemicals are meant to kill weeds and pests, they can also be harmful or even deadly to dogs if they come into contact with them. 

While you can’t prevent the grass from being sprayed with herbicides and pesticides it is possible for you to prevent the dog from ingesting the harmful grass.

Gastrointestinal Problems From Fecal Remnants:

If you’re a dog owner, you may have noticed that your pup enjoys munching on some grass every now and then.

But what you may not know is that eating grass can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal problems – especially if there are fecal remnants of another animal on the blades.

Any infection from the animal may go into the dog’s system. This can be pretty dangerous. So, what can you do? The next part answers this for you.

What Can You Do To Stop Dogs From Eating Grass?

Training:

Dogs have been known to eat grass. Whatever the reason may be, there are some things you can do to make your dog stop eating grass.

One thing you can try in the case of trained and obedient dogs is commanding your dog to “sit,” “heel,” or “come” when they are about to nibble on the green stuff. Try saying ‘No’ sternly. Reward your dog with a ‘good dog’ or ‘love you’.

Treats:

If your dog likes to eat grass, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to stop your dog. One trick is to offer a treat to your dog when it tries to eat grass.

This will usually lure them away from the lawn and onto a path where they can enjoy their snack in peace. Carry some treats with you when you take your dog for a walk.

Examine The Diet Of The Dog:

Dogs eating grass is a common behavior, and while there are many theories out there as to why they do it, the most likely explanation is that they’re seeking fiber in their diet.

If your dog is eating grass, take a closer look at its diet to make sure it’s getting enough fiber. Some dogs may need more fiber than others, so you may have to tweak their diet slightly to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need.

By keeping an eye on your dog’s dietary habits and making necessary adjustments, you can help ensure that its grass-eating habit doesn’t cause any problems.

When Should You Take Your Dog To The Veterinarian If Your Dog Eats Grass?

If you’re a dog owner, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of illness so that you can take your dog to the vet as soon as possible if necessary.

If your dog has eaten grass and is exhibiting any symptoms of illness like vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, excessive salivation, or other symptoms of illness, please take your dog to the vet right away.

Pro Tip: If your dog has not been vaccinated or has not been dewormed, then it is always better to take your dog for a routine checkup even if no symptoms are exhibited.

Wrapping Up:

Dogs eat grass for a variety of reasons. Some dogs may do it out of boredom, others to get mental stimulation. Some will even seek attention from their owners by eating something that is not meant for them.

Genetic and instinctive reasons are also one of them. However, it is not good for dogs to eat grass. Lure them away from the grass with treats. If you notice symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, etc it is time to take your dog to the vet.

The grass is definitely green and lush to the human eye but not a healthy option for your dog.

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