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Jul 22 2015

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

This is a question that is asked to veterinarians time and time again – and unfortunately there is not a straight forward answer!  In this blog, we will reveal the possible reasons why your furry, fun-loving companion has taken a liking to ingesting your lawn. 

 

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Is it because they want to relieve an upset stomach? 

  • It is common belief that dogs tend to eat grass when they have gastrointestinal discomfort.  It does seem that some dogs consume grass with urgency and then vomit shortly afterwards – however it is unclear whether they eat grass to soothe an upset stomach or if they develop the upset stomach because they have eaten a lot of grass!

Studies have proven that contrary to popular belief, it is unlikely that dogs are eating grass as a form of self-medication. This is because only less than 25% of dogs actually vomit after eating grass. 

  • Even if dogs don’t eat grass to soothe an upset stomach, grass may still have a positive impact on their gastrointestinal tract.  Grass is a good source of fiber and it is well known that dogs need roughage in their diet to help digest food and pass stool.  Therefore, grass could be a natural remedy for constipation or indigestion!

NOTE:  Grass may be a source of fibre – but we do want to limit how much grass is consumed.  Eating large amounts of anything could cause your dog become bloated, causing discomfort. In the case of larger dogs, this bloat could lead to torsion of the stomach, which is an emergency situation requiring surgery.

Is it because they are bored? 

  • A dog’s day is usually focused around around their best friends – you!  Sometimes they will get bored without you and nibbling grass may help fill the hours. They also crave human interaction, whether it be positive or negative, and may eat grass to get your attention solely on them.  Additionally, dogs have a variety of anxiety conditions and it’s possible that dogs eat grass for comfort or out of habit – just as a human may chew their finger nails.images-4

No matter what the reason, it is noted that as owner contact time decreases, grass eating increases! 

  • For anxious dogs, a new toy or an old piece of clothing with your scent may provide some comfort and prevent them from eating grass. Those dogs who are bored need some mental stimulation such as a food containing puzzle or more frequent walks/strenuous play time – consider doggie daycare to prevent your canine pal from munching grass.

Is it instinct?

  • Dogs in the wild balance their diets by eating whatever they can hunt or scavenge – they are a predatory species and will eat an entire animal, including meat, bones, internal organs and stomach contents. They will basically eat anything that helps fulfill their basic dietary requirements and examining the stool of wolves has shower that 11-47% of wolves eat grass!

Modern dogs don’t hunt for their food, but the natural instinct to scavenge is being reflected in their desire to eat grass. Therefore eating grass may not be a behaviour problem at all, but rather an instinctual action.  Always remember to provide these dogs with parasite prevention! 

Do they like it? 

  • Although there is numerous possible explanations for why dogs eat grass – we cannot forget the most simple explanation –>  THEY LIKE IT !!

Dogs may simply enjoy the texture and taste of grass in their mouths – especially in the spring when grass is newly emerging. 

imgres-1How do I stop my dog from eating grass?

  • It is a good idea to try and stop your dog from eating grass if possible – the grass itself may not be harmful, however the herbicides/pesticides sprayed on the grass can be toxic and they have the potential to ingest intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms that contaminate the grass in fecal residue left from other dogs.
  • You can try to train your dog to stop eating grass by offering a better option such as a treat.  Bring a tempting snack with you on walks and when your dog leans down to nibble grass, distract him by walking him in a different direction and then offer a treat when he complies. You can also substitute the treat with verbal praise or attention if that is more rewarding to your dog than food.

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