One of the top questions that many dog owners ask is why do dogs like to eat grass. Typically, the most talked about reason that we hear is that dogs eat grass when they have an upset stomach. Seeing as our dogs aren’t livestock grazing in a field, it continues to baffle us.
The grass is supposed to help them induce vomiting to help dispel whatever it is that is making them feel sick.
That idea is really just a myth and not quite the whole truth. So what is it that causes them to constantly eat grass. Is it boredom, are they hungry? Should I stop them because it will harm them?
Dogs grazing like livestock.
Watching your dog outside in the backyard, you see them walking about with their nose to the grindstone. Hoovering up grass like they haven’t eaten in days.
I watch my boy Boo in the yard and he is that dog that is constantly eating grass. He eats grass so much, one of his nicknames is “Hoover Vac”. Unlike a lot of dogs, Boo doesn’t typically eat the grass and then throw up. This of course is even more baffling to us.
Finn on the other hand isn’t much of a grazer, so when he is outside eating grass we can pretty much guarantee that he will be throwing up that grass sooner than later.
Many Veterinarians believe that dogs eat grass simply because they like the taste of it. They suggest it can be the fiber in the grass that they are lacking.
Every dog is completely different, so depending on their personality will determine whether they graze and eat grass or not.
What does the research say?
A group of researchers at University of California, Davis in 2007 conducted a study. They used 25 veterinary students who were dog owners and 47 regular people that had brought their dogs to the teaching hospital outpatient medical care.
They found that 79% of those dogs were seen to be eating grass. After they ate that grass only 4 of those dogs showed a sign of illness before or after eating grass. 6 dogs actually vomited after eating the grass.
What that tells us is that 8% of the dog owners used in this study showed illness before eating the grass and that 22% of those dog owners said that their dogs actually vomited after eating the grass.
This is such a small number of dogs that were in the entire study, so this shows that the theory is just a myth. Dogs don’t eat grass to cause them to vomit.
The entire study has shown to debunk this whole myth.
Reasons why your dog maybe eating grass.
We have discussed the mythical reason as to why your dog maybe eating grass, but what about any medical reasons?
Pica, is a psychological disorder characterized as having an appetite for any object that is not food. Just like people, dogs can also have Pica.
A dog with Pica will eat anything from metal, plastic, cloth, garbage, to weeds and grass. Pica is a compulsive disorder that makes it hard for your pet to control. Now although this is a psychological disorder it could be that your dog has a completely different medical condition.
Having another medical condition or suffering from poor nutrition could also be the reason why your dog eats grass. Poor nutrition it could be a lack of fiber, vitamins or mineral deficiencies in their regular diet.
One well thought idea was if we look back at wild dogs, they could often be seen eating plants and animals. Maybe your dog is just following that same wild dog mentality.
Andrea Rediger writing for Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine wrote an article dismissing that dogs eat grass because of a lack of vitamins or minerals and even went as far to say they don’t do it to induce vomiting. She believes that dogs may actually eat it because they like the taste, or texture of it. She also believes it can just be a compulsive type of behavior.
The article goes on to point out that if your dog suddenly starts eating grass vigorously that contacting your Vet maybe a good idea to check for a gastrointestinal issue. Just to be on the safe side.
Is there cause for concern?
Normally when we see our dogs eating grass we instantly panic and feel the need to rush out and stop them.
Generally my main reason for wanting to stop my dogs from eating grass is because I worry about the pesticides that may be toxic on the grass. In your own yard if you fertilize or do any weed control at all, there is a worry that the grass could harm them.
Usually when someone treats their grass there is a period where the dogs are not allowed on the grass. When your products have done their job, you water the crap out of it to ensure there is nothing left on the grass to hurt your dog. This is what we do for our yard. After these steps have happened, then the dogs are allowed back on the grass.
Deep down in my gut, I still worry that the chemicals are somehow still there. For us then our dogs are not left freely to roam alone in the yard.
After a week to 10 days or so after rain or watering they are free to go. Honestly though, we are still those parents watching them like hawks just in case one of them persists on trying to chow down on the grass.
To be perfectly honest out of the 15 years of having our 2 dogs, our yard has only been fertilized 1 or 2 times. We really rather have not the best lawn over being the cause of one of them getting sick. The result is we typically don’t have the best grass in the backyard. Ah well it’s not the worst sacrifice. Our dogs are so worth it.
Eating grass summary.
Through all the research and studies that have been done and reported about why dogs like to eat grass, there just doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer. Nothing is the same for every dog. Like so many things with dogs each scenario is different.
Really the best answer is to watch your dog for sudden changes in how approach to eating grass. Does it appear that they are all of a sudden consuming grass or are they eating more than normal.
Dogs are pretty routine with their behaviors and patterns. If you see something that sends up a red flag, then you should act on it.
Bottom line is, there is no scientific certainty that says without a doubt that this is why a dog eats grass.
Our rule of thumb has always been a little is okay but too much is an issue.
With Boo, we monitor him and try to minimize his hoovering of grass. It is a bit like being the hall monitor when he goes out, but for him it seems to go in stages. Sometimes he is relentless and others times he could care less.
The joys of dog parenting !! My best advice is be aware of what they are up to and if something seems odd as always, contact your Vet.