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Why do dogs eat grass?

Dogs often eat grass, but many pet owners aren't sure why. Today, our Statesboro vets discuss why your dog may be eating grass.

Why Your Dog May Eat Grass

Concerned pet parents are often left scratching their heads wondering why their dogs seem to love eating grass. In fact, many dogs will eat grass, vomit, and then go right back to eating grass again.

Does the dog's behavior suggest that something needs to be brought to their attention in their stomach? Has the dog consumed any poison? Does the dog have an illness that hasn't been properly diagnosed?

While some dogs do in fact vomit after ingesting grass, this isn't true of all dogs. Dogs generally eat grass without displaying any signs or symptoms of stomach upset. It therefore seems unlikely that dogs would consume grass in an effort to make them vomit. Why then do they do it?

Is eating grass an instinctive behavior?

By hunting, a dogs' ancestors ate a well-balanced diet that included meat, bones, internal organs, and stomach contents of their prey. Eating an entire animal provided a reasonably balanced diet, especially when the prey's stomach contained fiber-rich grass and plants.

Dogs are neither carnivores nor omnivores, as they consume anything to meet their basic nutritional needs. 11-47% of wolves consume grass, and modern dogs are not required to hunt for food. Some dogs, even those who eat commercial dog food, eat grass as a relic of their ancestors and the need to be scavengers.

Dogs may not have a problem with grass eating because grazing on occasion does not cause illness. Parasite prevention is consistent, and grass consumption may help prevent intestinal parasites. Behavior modification may disrupt natural instincts and cause more harm than good.

Physical Reasons Why Dogs Eat Grass

Dogs need fiber, just like humans do, to maintain a healthy digestive system. Dogs, after all, are omnivores. Thus, both high-quality plant foods and lean meat are necessary for maintaining good health. For your dog, eating grass could be a simple way to add roughage to their diet and keep things moving through their digestive system.

That said, if your dog is eating grass but also showing signs of stomach upset, there may be a medical problem. Dogs can suffer from a number of stomach and gastrointestinal issues including conditions such as pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. If your dog is eating grass and has other symptoms such as lack of appetite, decreased energy, diarrhea, or constipation, it's a good idea to take your pup to the vet for an examination.

Psychological Reasons Why Dogs Eat Grass

Much like how people bite their nails when they are bored or anxious, dogs frequently eat grass as a result. Consider psychological explanations for your dog's behavior if they are oblivious to any signs of digestive problems but continue to gnaw on the grass.

If your dog could simply be suffering from boredom, increasing the length, distance or intensity of walks could help to reduce grass eating.

Separation anxiety could also be the reason that your dog is eating grass. Try leaving an old blanket or t-shirt with your scent on it with your dog when you leave the house. Your dog may find the familiar scent reassuring and help to curb their grass-eating habit. 

Some dogs show obsessive behaviors. If your dog is obsessively eating grass, your vet will be able to advise you on how to help your pup reduce obsessive behaviors.

Is it safe for dogs to eat grass?

If your dog is otherwise healthy and on regular parasite prevention medication, eating grass is considered to be a safe behavior.

To help keep your grass nibbling pooch healthy, make sure that there are no herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers on the grass your dog enjoys. 

Can I stop my dog from eating grass?

Dogs may eat grass as a snack, but the herbicides and pesticides in it can be toxic. Furthermore, removing grass from the ground can introduce intestinal parasites such as hookworms or roundworms, which can contaminate the grass with fecal residue. To avoid this, you must stop grazing and ensure your dog's safety.

Dogs can be trained to stop eating grass by rewarding them with treats. Bring treats with you on walks and potty breaks to encourage this behavior. Distract the dog by directing them to walk in a different direction or verbally correcting them, and reward them when they comply with a treat.

Positive verbal reinforcement and petting as rewards can be used to train affection-driven dogs. To redirect attention and interrupt grassy snacks, verbal commands may require a simple "heel" command.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned about your dog eating grass or any habits they have? Contact our Statesboro vets to book an appointment for your pup.

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Statesboro Bulloch Regional Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Statesboro companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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