Many dog owners will have seen their pets eating grass at some point. But why do they do it, and should we be worried?
There is a common misconception that dogs are carnivores (will only eat meat).
This is wrong!
They are, in fact, omnivores (and eat both meat and plants).
So while grass itself may not be dangerous, you should still keep a watchful eye on your pet. Eating small amounts of grass forms part of a dog’s natural diet.
However, excessive amounts can irritate the stomach, causing your dog to be sick.
Is it instinctual for a dog to eat grass?
Eating grass may not be caused by a lack of anything.
The digestive system, nutritional requirements, and tastes of a dog have changed and developed over the years of domesticity.
Dogs descended from their wild canine predecessors. While grass would not have been the primary source of nutrition for dogs in the wild, plants and berries would have been included in their diet, along with any prey that they had caught and killed.
They would have eaten the whole dead animal, which included the meat, bones and vital organs. The stomach contents would have grass and plants in it, so this too would have been ingested.
Do dogs eat grass because of a lack of fibre?
Another reason for eating grass could be dietary deficiencies caused by a lack of vitamins, nutrients, or minerals. It may be your dog’s method of obtaining extra fibre, which they need to help digest their food and aid the passage of gas and faeces.
A way to spot this is if you see your dog chewing grass immediately after eating their meal.
Could it be boredom?
Some dogs may eat grass due to boredom, agitation, stress or being sad.
This reason would be easy to spot if your dog was left alone for an extended period of time in a garden or a confined space.
Eating grass could be their way of coping with this situation. To prevent any serious harm to your dog, it is essential to ensure that no weed killers or chemicals are used in the garden to avoid poisoning.
Knowing the possible reasons for this behaviour can allow you to change routines at home. This may stop your dog from eating grass altogether.
Is your dog hungry?
Could your dog just be hungry and is eating grass to make themselves feel full?
It is essential to check that your dog is getting the correct quantity of food for its size, breed and age. It may also be worth changing the meal times or splitting meals to try and ensure that your dog feels full.
Does your dog like the taste, texture and flavour of grass?
Many dogs like the taste and feel of grass during certain seasons, particularly when the early spring grass emerges and in the summer.
At this time, the grass is sweet and fragrant, which makes it appealing to a dog.
Is your dog trying to get your attention?
Does your dog just want your attention? Your dog may be eating grass just to get you to interact with them.
Even if they are instructed to stop doing it and are scolded for bad behaviour, they interpret this as attention, which ultimately is all they want.
Is your dog self medicating?
There is a theory that dogs deliberately eat grass to make themselves sick when they feel nauseous, under the weather, or ill (such as if they have worms).
There is evidence of various wild animals self-medicating in this way, so there might be some evolutionary basis for this behaviour in dogs too.
When should you get help?
If you see your dog chewing grass more often or excessively, this may indicate underlying diseases they are trying to cure themselves.
It is worth remembering that typically dogs are not sick after eating grass. Look for repeated vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, appetite loss, blood in the stool, tiredness, or lip licking.
Dogs are prone to several potentially fatal stomach and digestive diseases. However, these issues can usually be sorted out by your veterinarian.
Summary – Why do dogs eat grass?
There are many reasons why your dog is eating grass, and there are many myths and theories about where this behaviour comes from.
However, vets and experts can agree that a dog eating grass is perfectly normal behaviour, as long as it’s only in small amounts.