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What are Eating Grass?

It is not unusual to see your dog eat grass and wonder why he is consuming it. When it comes to eating grass, there are several reasons. Eating small quantities of grass seems harmless, though ingesting large amounts can lead to vomiting. Reasons that your dog may choose to eat grass include:

  • Behavioral drives
  • Cravings for nutritional purposes 
  • Idiopathic causes

Your dog eating grass is typically not serious, though it will depend upon the reason your dog is eating grass. Your veterinarian will help you figure out why your dog is eating grass and whether it is due to an underlying issue that requires treatment.

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Why Eating Grass Occurs in Dogs

Why your dog is eating grass will depend on the reason it is occurring. For example:

Behavioral Drives

Eating things that don’t have a biologic or nutritional purpose is known as “pica”. This behavior can occur because it feels good to your dog, however it can occur when your dog has a medical issue like a neurologic condition, immune mediated hemolytic anemia, an iron deficiency, inflammatory bowel disease, hookworms, intestinal parasites, stomach tumor, hyperthyroidism or diabetes. Pica may also result from medications that cause an increase in appetite like prednisone or phenobarbital.

Nutritional Cravings

While you may be feeding your dog a diet that meets his nutritional needs, he still may crave things outside of his usual food, to include grass.

Idiopathic Causes

Your veterinarian may not be able to determine exactly why your dog is eating grass. It is a good idea to keep an eye on your dog and communicate with your veterinarian regarding any additional observations.

What to do if your Dog is Eating Grass

When you notice your dog eating grass, there is no need to panic, however it is a good idea to gather information about the grass eating. You should consider the following:

  • How much grass is he eating? 
  • How quickly is he eating?
  • Is he gulping it down or just nibbling?
  • After eating the grass, does he vomit or display signs of discomfort?
  • Does there seem to be a pattern to your dog’s grass eating?
  • Does he seem to eat grass on days when he does not eat all of his food? 

If your dog is not vomiting or appearing ill after eating grass and is not gulping it down, it is likely not a problem. If he is vomiting, appearing ill, and/or gulping down the grass, you will want to consider whether there is a pattern and discuss it with your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will examine your dog and ask questions to learn more about your dog’s grass eating along with any other behaviors or symptoms he is experiencing. After the examination, depending on what he sees, your veterinarian may request some testing to be done in order to determine if there is a minor issue, a more severe one or if your dog is just quirky in regards to his grass eating. A fecal examination may be conducted to check if your dog has any parasites. Your veterinarian will likely order a complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry profile, as well as a urinalysis. Based on the symptoms and these test results, further investigation may involve x-rays, an abdominal ultrasound, barium study, CT scan and endoscopy.

Eating grass may not mean that your dog has a serious issue; in many cases it is okay for them to enjoy their snack; though you will want to be sure that the grass is not treated with chemicals that could be harmful to them.

Prevention of Eating Grass

Consuming grass may or may not need to be prevented. If your dog is not eating excessive amounts of grass and/or vomiting afterward, it is likely not an issue. Should he be consuming a significant amount and your veterinarian determines that it is a behavioral issue, perhaps anxiety, your veterinarian may recommend herbal supplements or medication that can be helpful. Increasing his activity may also be recommended. When you are outdoors with your dog, keeping him on his leash will be important so that you can keep him from ingesting large quantities of grass. A diet that meets all of his nutritional needs will also be valuable so that he is not turning to grass as a result of missing nutrients.

In order to best maintain your dog’s overall health, remember to take him to the veterinarian for an annual examination. This will allow your veterinarian to discover and treat possible issues before they become more serious.

Cost of Eating Grass

The cost of treatment for your dog’s eating grass will depend on what is leading to his consuming it. If your dog is ingesting minimal amounts of grass and is not getting sick from doing so, no or minimal cost will be involved. Should there be an underlying condition leading to him ingesting grass, the cost will vary. For example, should your dog be experiencing diabetes, the average cost of treatment will be around $3,000 and will depend on the cost of living in your area.