It is fairly common to hear concerns from dog owners that their dogs are eating grass, especially because some of them will vomit after eating the grass. But what is the reason behind this behavior? While there is still not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, we do have some possible reasons behind the behavior might change from case to case.
The 10 Reasons Why Dogs Eat Grass
1. Learning from their environment
In the case of puppies, they learn about their surroundings by tasting everything, grass is one of the multiple plants a puppy will eat to learn about the different components of the environment they live in.
2. Sensory stimulation
It can be possible, too, that the dogs are attracted to the smell, the feel, and the taste of the grass. The sensory stimulation provided by the grass (and other plants) makes it attractive to dogs.
Dogs are not carnivore animals, and while their diet includes meat, they also consume plants. To maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system, dogs need a certain amount of fiber. One of the possible reasons why a dog might be ingesting grass is that it is trying to add some fiber to its diet. Just as in the case of humans, fiber “keeps the pipes moving”. There is a report of a miniature poodle who stopped a seven-year habit of eating and vomiting grass and other plants only 3 days after the owner changed his diet to a high-fiber diet.
Dogs are classified under the order Carnivora; however, they are not strictly carnivorous, as they do eat some plants here and there to match their nutritional needs. Modern dogs obtain animal-based protein from food; however, their ancestors hunted and, in many cases, hunted herbivorous animals together with their plant-filled bellies. Studies on modern wolves’ fecal matter found that up to 47% of them ingest grass. Grass micronutrient content depends largely on the soil it grows in.
Another hypothesis is that dogs eat grass to help them get rid of intestinal parasites, however, it is contradictory since dogs might get parasite infested after eating parasite eggs from the grass and soil.
6. To induce vomiting
Researchers from The School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California Davis conducted a survey, and it turns out that around 22% of the dogs that eat grass vomit it afterward. According to their results, there seems to be a correlation between subclinical gastrointestinal upset and grassing with the specific intention to vomit.
They also discovered that dogs showing signs of illness before grassing were much more likely to vomit after grassing than healthy-looking dogs. However, they state that grass eating is a normal behavior in dogs, and most dogs do not vomit after ingesting grass.
Your dog may be just trying to pass the time, like any other living creatures. Dogs need mental and physical stimulation. Their ancestors spent time hunting prey, but they have ‘ready prep food delivery” for free every single day. With some spare time in their paws, dogs will find diverse ways to keep themselves busy throughout the day.
Dogs with separation anxiety have a higher tendency to develop pica, the medical term for the aberrant behavior of ingesting non-food objects. In this case, eating grass is not as bad as eating a sock or a shoe.
Just as in the case of anxiety, dogs under stressful conditions, such as when they suffer dominance from other dogs or are hungry, or any of their basic needs are not met, can develop pica.
10. Simply because they like it
As stated by the results of the researchers from The School of Veterinary Medicine at The University of California’s survey, grassing is a normal behavior in dogs, and most dogs with access to grass will eat it.
Whether it is from any of the causes listed previously or simply because they like it, if your dog likes grass, it is important to provide him with grass that is free from harmful chemicals such as insecticides or fertilizers. If the cause is boredom, try to spend more time engaging in play with your dog. If the cause is the stress of anxiety, please consult a dog trainer or behaviorist to go over the specifics of your dog’s case. They will advise you on several ways to help your dog deal with his psychological issues.
Featured Image Credit by B Pet Photography, Shutterstock