Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? Dogs are known to be man’s best friend because of their lovable and loyal nature. However, these furry friends can be quite mysterious, especially when it comes to their eating habits. One of the most common behaviors that pet owners often observe is their dogs eating grass. While this may seem strange, it is a natural behavior that dogs have been doing for centuries. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this behavior, the potential health risks, and what you can do to stop it.
The Natural Instinct
Dogs are descendants of wolves, and their natural instinct is to hunt and scavenge for food. In the wild, wolves eat the entire prey, including the stomach contents, which often consist of grass and other plant matter. Therefore, dogs may eat grass as a reflection of their ancestry and the need to be scavengers. This behavior may not necessarily be a problem, but it is essential to ensure that your dog is not consuming any toxic plants or chemicals.
Pica is a condition characterized by eating non-food items. While it may indicate a nutritional deficiency, dogs on a well-balanced commercial diet should not be nutritionally deficient. However, some dogs may eat grass to fulfill their need for fiber and roughage. In such cases, switching to a high-fiber diet could help alleviate this behavior.
Dogs are social animals and crave human interaction. If they feel neglected or bored, they may resort to inappropriate actions like eating grass. In addition, anxious dogs may eat grass as a comfort mechanism, much like nervous people chew their fingernails. In such cases, toys with familiar scents, food-containing puzzle toys, frequent walks, and doggie daycare can help relieve boredom and anxiety.
Some pet owners believe that dogs eat grass to relieve stomach discomfort. However, studies show that less than 25% of dogs vomit after eating grass, making it unlikely that they turn to grass as a form of self-medication. In fact, only 10% of dogs show signs of illness before eating grass. Therefore, eating grass may not necessarily be a sign of illness.
The Taste of Grass
Despite the numerous well-thought-out explanations for why dogs eat grass, the simplest explanation remains that dogs may just enjoy the texture and taste of grass in their mouths. In fact, many dogs are grass connoisseurs and prefer to eat grass in the spring when it is newly emerging.
While the grass itself may not be harmful, the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on it can be toxic to dogs. Additionally, consuming grass contaminated with fecal residue from other dogs can lead to intestinal parasites, including hookworms or roundworms. Therefore, it is essential to keep your dog away from toxic plants and ensure that they receive regular parasite prevention.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Grass
Dogs that respond to food treats can be trained to stop eating grass by offering a better option. Bring treats along when taking your dog for a walk and accompany them on potty breaks. Any time your dog leans down to nibble grass, distract them by directing them to walk in another direction or offer a verbal correction and offer a treat when they comply. Dogs that are driven by affection can be trained using positive verbal reinforcement and petting as rewards. Dogs that respond to verbal commands may require a simple “heel” command to interrupt the grassy snack and re-direct their attention.
Dogs eating grass is a common behavior that can be attributed to their natural instinct, nutritional deficiencies, psychological needs, upset stomach, or simply the taste of grass. While it may not necessarily be a problem, it is crucial to keep your dog away from toxic plants and ensure that they receive regular parasite prevention. If you are concerned about your dog’s behavior, consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health conditions.