Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
It’s one of the most common questions posed to vets, but unfortunately there’s no simple answer. This article will highlight what we do (and don’t) know, and what you can do to break the habit.
Does it mean my dog is unwell?
Not necessarily. While eating grass can be something dogs do just before they vomit – for example, if they have an unwell stomach – lots of dogs will do it without being unwell at all. In fact, only 10% of dogs show an association between eating grass and vomiting.
We do know that eating grass can be a sign of dietary imbalances. Grass is high in fibre and dogs (like us) need fibre to form normal, firm stools and maintain a healthy gut biome. So dogs fed purely meat, offal or fish diets may eat grass because they are deficient in fibre. Having said this, many dogs fed commercially balanced dog food still eat grass!
Can eating grass make my dog unwell?
Although eating grass can (rarely) be a sign of imminent vomiting, this does not mean it is the cause of vomiting. There is no evidence to suggest that eating grass triggers vomiting. However, eating grass will predispose your dog to intestinal worms (roundworm and hookworm), whose larvae live in faecal residue of other dogs, often in grass and soil. Lots of worms in the bowels can cause weight loss, diarrhoea and lethargy. Additionally, it is not ideal for a dog to be eating grass that has been sprayed with pesticide or covered with fertilizer.
But aren’t dogs carnivores?
Technically, no. Dogs are closer to omnivores than carnivores. In the wild, dogs eat whatever they can to meet their nutritional demands. While this might often be a carcass, dogs also like vegetables and even the stomach contents of their prey, which would be full of grass matter.
Are there any other reasons my dog might eat grass?
Yes! It might be a behavioural pattern:
- While you’re out at work and your dog waits for you to get home, they might eat grass to pass the time.
- Think of chewing grass as a dog’s version of biting their nails. It’s something they do to distract themselves if something is making them nervous.
- Habit or enjoyment. Some dogs do it just because, and possibly because they like the taste. And once they get used to it, it can be hard to get them out of it.
What can I do to stop it?
- Have a consult with your veterinarian. They can chat to you about if your pup’s diet is balanced, and ensure there’s nothing to suggest any possible causes of grass consumption, such as inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatitis.
- Distractions. Consider Lickimats, slow-release food bowls, Kong toys or long bones to keep your dog entertained and preoccupied while you are out. See our article for distractions.
- Training. Many dogs will respond to affection and rewarding positive behaviours. If they stop when you ask them to, give them a treat and a pat.
So, don’t be too alarmed – the majority of dogs are not sick before eating grass and do not vomit after eating grass. Try using the above tools to help break the habit!
Author’s note: Rescue Pets writers select and write about topics we think you’ll like and need to make your choices simpler and easier. Rescue Pets uses affiliate links in our posts, so we can get a small revenue from your purchases.