All veterinarians would agree that the case of a dog eating grass is one of their most common pet mysteries. What makes this incident even more baffling is that it has no cut-and-dried scientific explanation. That is until a 2008 study gave a clearer picture to the mysterious canine habit.
Before we get into the heart of the matter, let us have a look at the usual explanations that vets give. Although these reasons do not have a scientific basis, they can help you understand your dog’s behaviour better.
Dogs Like the Taste of Grass
Canine animals are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and plants. As such, if your dog chews on a blade of grass, he may be merely adding greens to his diet. Not only that, but he also may find the texture and flavour of grass delicious.
Further, being a natural at scavenging, dogs will look for food wherever it can be found. Since grass is found abundantly everywhere, your dog will be likely to take advantage of the availability of grass.
Eating Grass Is a Form of Canine Medication
This is of the most often offered explanations for the dog-eating-grass phenomenon. If your dog has an upset stomach, he may graze on grass as a reaction to the discomfort. Some have said that eating grass can induce vomiting, allowing the pooch to expel what was upsetting his tummy. It could be your furry friend’s way of minimising the effect of nausea or bloating.
However, as observed by some owners, there are dogs that never vomit after eating grass. Those who do vomit after chewing grass are the pooches that were already sick when they ate the leaves.
Some vets have reassured that occasional vomiting (around 1–2 times in a year) is normal amongst dogs. You can trust your canine companion to find suitable ways to rid himself of the stomach discomfort.
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Further, it may be because your dog has been missing an important nutrient in his diet. Some pet owners have observed that the leaf-eating ceases after the dog is given a high-fibre diet. As such, if your pet takes to grass-eating quite often, you may need to assess his current nutrition. You can consult a veterinarian on whether your dog’s diet sufficiently fulfils his nutritional needs.
Your Dog Thinks Grass Eating Is Fun
If your pooch eats grass to pass the time, he is probably not receiving enough mental and physical stimulation. Observe when he usually munches on leaves. Does he typically chew greens when you are not spending much time with him?
Try to walk him consistently on a daily basis or set aside time for playtime. You can also provide him with chew toys to stimulate his interest. Is there any change to his grass-eating behaviour after making these adjustments? Let the answer to this question be your guide.
The Big Answer to the Dog-Eating-Grass Mystery
A series of surveys done by researchers from the University of California revealed compelling information on why dogs eat grass. Majority of the results showed that grass eating is actually common amongst dogs. However, this behaviour is not due to canine health issues or nutritional deficiencies. Based on the results, researchers linked the habit to the ‘innate predisposition inherited from dogs’ wild ancestors.’
This means that dogs have retained their ancestors’ (wolves) habit of eating grass to get rid of intestinal parasites. There has been evidence that wild canines of old have been eating grass based on the samples of their droppings. The fibrous plant material boosts intestine contractions and envelops the parasites affecting the said animals. The worms are then purged from the animal through defaecation.
Whilst modern-day canine pets are usually not infected by such parasites, they still have that predisposition to chew on grass.
What to Look Out For
Overall, dog owners like you should not worry much about grass eating as it is an entirely normal canine behaviour. All dog breeds are likely to eat grass. However, there are some things that you should take note of when your pooch starts munching on grass:
- If your dog is ill prior to eating grass, try to narrow down the cause of his distress. What did he eat before he became sick? Where had he been and what was he doing? It is possible that your dog is ill from some bowel disease or gastric reflux. Take your pet to the vet to identify the main cause before the symptoms take a turn for the worse.
- Does your furry buddy habitually chew on grass without problems? Protect him from potential stomach upsets by ensuring that your garden or yard is not laced with toxic chemicals. Use safer product alternatives for your garden. In cases where chemicals have been used in your yard, keep your dog away from the affected area. You can also prevent problems by growing greens specifically for your dog’s gastronomic enjoyment.
Lettuce, fresh carrots, and peeled celery are some of the recommended alternatives for grass-munching dogs.