Most dog owners have seen their dog treat a neighbor’s yard like an all-you-can-eat salad bar. It’s such a common canine behavior that we almost take it as a given. But have you ever stopped to wonder why your dog eats grass? As a loving pet owner, here’s what you should know about your dog mowing the lawn with their mouth.
Why do dogs eat grass?
We’ve all heard that dogs eat grass to make themselves vomit when their stomach is upset, but a 2008 study conducted by Karen Sueda, Benjamin Hart, and Kelly Cliff at the University of California, Davis challenged that assumption. The study, which analyzed over 1,500 data sets, found that only 8% of dogs showed signs of illness prior to grass eating, and only 22% of dogs vomited after grass eating. That data suggests that a high percentage of dogs eat grass for reasons other than to relieve an upset stomach.
The UC Davis study also debunked the belief that dogs eat grass in order to compensate for a nutritional deficiency in their diet. The researchers compared a group of dogs with a fiber-heavy diet to another group with a low-fiber diet and found that they were equally as likely to eat grass.
Having disproved two common explanations for dogs’ grass-eating behavior, the study suggested an alternative theory that dogs are predisposed to eating grass because their ancestors, wolves, ate grass. They hypothesize that wild dogs used to consume grass in order to fend off intestinal parasites. The fiber from the grass increases contractions in the intestinal tract which suffocates the worms or parasites that may be in the dog’s stomach.
Interestingly, the results of the study showed that younger dogs are more likely to eat grass than older dogs. Researchers suppose this is because the digestive systems of younger wild dogs were more susceptible to parasites, so the predisposition to eat grass is more pronounced in young dogs.
The study also suggests that dogs may eat grass simply because they like the taste of grass.
Ultimately, researchers concluded that grass eating is a normal dog behavior that shouldn’t be cause for serious alarm. However, if your dog is excessively eating grass, you may want to consider some of the interventions below.
How to stop your dog from eating grass
You might consider adding some raw or lightly steamed fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet. Adding plant material to your dog’s diet may help calm your dog’s cravings for grass.
Dog-friendly fruits and veggies:
- Sweet potato
- Snap peas
- Green beans
- Apples (hold the seeds, please)
- Lettuce and cabbage ends
Your dog may also be eating grass out of boredom, in which case you should make sure they’re getting plenty of exercise and interaction during the day.
Is it safe for dogs to eat grass?
Eating grass is not dangerous or harmful in and of itself. However, the products people apply to their grass, including weed killers, pesticides, or fertilizers can be harmful to dogs. You may not add these toxins to your own lawn, but you never know what potentially poisonous materials your neighbors are pouring on their grass, so be extra vigilant when your dog starts sniffing around in another person’s yard.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on all of your dog’s plant-eating behaviors because weeds or flowers growing in a garden can be toxic to your pup.
What to watch out for
While eating grass is a common behavior amongst dogs, there are warning signs to look out for when they’re consuming the green stuff. Most concerning is a sudden increase in grass eating or vomiting post grass eating.
If you notice any of these changes, take your dog to the vet for a physical exam to test for gastrointestinal diseases.
More fun dog facts: 7 Dog Myths Debunked
Featured image: © Amonthep Inseesungwon | Dreamstime.com – Golden retriever dog