Why dogs eat grass — and how to prevent it
By Juliana Weiss-Roessler
Your dog begs to be let outside, immediately downs several mouthfuls of grass… and then promptly vomits it all up. Or maybe your dog is more of connoisseur, hunting for just the right blade to nosh on, with no side effects afterwards.
It’s a common behavior that baffles many dog owners. In fact, one survey found that grass is the most commonly eaten plant by dogs. But why do they do it?
Here’s the truth: we’re not 100% sure. It’s likely there’s not one simple answer. Different dogs may eat grass for different reasons. But understanding why your dog does can help you address the behavior.
Your dog eats every last morsel he can find under your dinner table after a meal, so why stop there? As natural scavengers, canines are programmed to search for nutrition anywhere they can find it. It’s possible that your dog finds the flavor or texture of grass yummy. Or it could be filling a nutritional need that his normal food isn’t, especially fiber.
Prevention: Some people find that the behavior stops after they switch to a high-fiber dog food. If you think this might be the case for your pup, consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.
In some cases, eating grass is just something to do to pass the time. He’s got the backyard to himself, but not much to do there. Are you providing regular exercise and mental challenges for your pup? Do you notice your dog eating more grass during times when you aren’t walking or playing with them as often?
Prevention: Sometimes the solution can be as simple as providing a chew toy as an alternative or dedicating yourself to providing a consistent exercise routine.
Some experts believe that grass is a form of self-medication. When your dog has tummy troubles, he turns to grass for relief. This is more likely if the behavior starts suddenly or if your dog is very anxious about needing to eat the grass, often extending his neck and making swallowing motions, and then vomiting afterwards. But most studies have found that this is actually quite rare — less than 25% of dogs vomit after eating grass and only 10% showed signs of illness beforehand.
Prevention: In some cases, the stomach distress can be a sign of something more serious, like gastric reflux or inflammatory bowel disease, so it’s worth calling your veterinarian for advice.
Still Not Sure?
Relax. Many veterinarians consider grass eating a normal dog behavior. While dogs don’t gain anything of real nutritional value from grass, it also may not hurt them — as long as there are no dangerous fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides used on the grass itself.
You can help protect your grass eater by using only non-toxic products on your own lawn. When you’re out in public areas, keep an eye out for signs warning that chemicals have been used on the grass. You can also provide a safe alternative by growing a grass or herb garden specifically for him to snack on.
If you’re afraid that your dog may be suffering from poisoning caused by lawn treatments, call the ASPCA’s 24/7 Animal Poison Control hotline at (888) 426-4435.