Is Your Dog Eating Grass?

Does your dog chew grass? I once had a dog that chomped grass like a cow. My dog eating grass never bothered me at all, since it seemed to have no ill-effect on him whatsoever.

Unless your dog’s digestion is suffering unwanted episodes of vomiting from his grass-eating habit, it’s not really a problem. Dogs have been eating grass since the dawn of time (or at least, of the species) with few ill-effects, aside from the odd bout of vomiting - and really, this is one of those things that seems to bother owners a lot more than their dogs; most dogs, will simply re-ingest the vomitus and go about their day unfazed.

Dog Eating Grass Theories

Truthfully, nobody really knows why dogs eat grass. There are a variety of theories as to why animals that are widely regarded as meat eaters would willingly consume moderate quantities of vegetation.

One theory is the fact that dogs are not, actually, carnivores. They’re omnivores, which literally means, “eat anything”.

This theory suggests that a modern-day dog eating grass is a deliberate attempt to supplement his diet with nutrients that are missing from his daily meals. The main crux, thrust, and gist of this argument centers around the idea that dogs, as omnivorous animals, are eating too much meat and need to balance this out with some greenery on the side, much like you or I might crave a nice salad to go with our steak.

I don’t believe this theory. First of all, most of us feed our dogs primarily kibble, which contains the full spectrum of fully-absorbable nutrients that dogs require (or at least, high quality kibble does; I can’t vouch for the quality of supermarket-brand dog food).

If you’re feeding your dog on meat alone, whether canned or fresh, there may be something to this theory – dogs need a wide range of vitamins and minerals for optimum health, most of which are not contained within fresh meat. So your dog eating grass may be filling this need.

It’s true that canned meat has some added nutrients; the main problem with canned food is that it’s too soft and jelly-like to maintain healthy teeth and bowels.

Dogs fed primarily on canned food are far more prone to developing dental disease at a relatively early age (not to mention an increased incidence of constipation and flatulence, from the lack of fiber and roughage).

As far as dog food goes, unless your dog’s on a specific, prescribed diet, kibble should constitute the main part of his diet – you can add a few spoonfuls of canned meat for variety and temptation, if you like.

Another popular theory is that dogs use grass as a sort of natural emetic: that, since a nauseous dog lacks the phalangeal structure necessary for the good old ‘finger down the throat’ move, he’ll resort to nature’s bounty as an alternative.

It’s true that grass does sometimes make dogs vomit – those tickly stems can irritate the stomach lining, and there have been a few occasions when I’ve seen dogs vomit up a chunk of something that’s proved to be indigestible, and along with the offending article, there’s also been a clump of grass in the vomit too.

However – I can’t really say I agree with this one either – I have to say that this is pure conjecture, and somewhat unbelievable as well. Dogs are perfectly capable of vomiting all by themselves, without the assistance of grass; I’ve seen too many dogs enjoying a mouthful of mixed lawn greens, without any vomiting side effects.

Don't Worry

If you’re worried that your dog eating grass is going to hurt them, stop worrying no need for concern here. The one possible downside is that he’ll irritate his throat or stomach lining, but this issue will only cause him irritation for a second or two at most: he’ll either cough the problem away, or will toss his cookies without further ado (which rarely bothers most dogs).

Really, a dog-eating-grass is nothing to worry about – it’s a life-long habit with many dogs, and if yours does decide that it’s no longer in his best interests, he’ll simply stop eating it all by himself.

You may need to keep an eye on him around recently treated lawns, or anywhere where pesticides, snail bait, and rat poison could be around, since most garden chemicals are highly toxic to dogs.

Ideally, you’d be keeping an eye on him anyway if you’re aware your dogs eating grass.

Things You Can Do

If your dog eating grass is really bothering you, presumably this is out of concern for your lawn, rather than your dog, since there’s ample evidence that dogs suffer no adverse effects from frequent grassy snacks.

There are a couple of things you can try doing to reduce his desire to supplement his diet with your lawn – but, because this is one area of dogdom that nobody really knows that much about, the success rate is more hit-and-miss than guaranteed:

  • Try varying his diet slightly. Unlike humans, dogs do not need a widely varied diet to keep them “interested” in food. However, since one of the theories that attempts to explain a dog eating grass is centered around a lack of nutritional variety, try introducing various tasty vegetables into his food: most dogs enjoy tomatoes, carrots (either steamed or raw) and chopped apples. Be sure to stay well away from grapes, raisins, and onions, since these are toxic to dogs.
  • Supervise him whenever he’s around grass. This may not be a particularly user-friendly option, especially for off-lead walks; you’ll have to keep a real eagle-eye on your canine walking buddy to make sure he’s not making a dash for the greenery.
  • Realistically, there’s not really a lot you can do about your dog’s grass-eating habit (aside from deny him access to grass altogether, which wouldn’t be fair to your dog and would make your daily dog-walking more of an exercise in frustration than a relaxing stroll).

    The general consensus from experts seems to be that grass-eating, is just “one of those things” some dogs do. It won’t do him any harm, and you can be sure that if he’s eating it, he’s enjoying it – so there’s really not a lot to be said for depriving him of that simple pleasure.

    For further reading...

    For more information on dog psychology and general canine behavioral traits, with a particular focus on problematic behaviors, you’ll probably want to take a look at Secrets To Dog Training. It’s a complete, detailed manual for the intelligent and responsible owner, and covers everything from obedience training through to preventing and handling a huge variety of common problem behaviors like your dog eating grass. Well worth checking out!

    I have gained a lot of helpful information from Secrets To Dog Training. I have been promoting their Dog Training program for several years now, I highly recommend you visit them for help with any Behaviorial Issues.

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