What are Eating Leaves?

Some dogs love to eat things that they really are not supposed to, from your child’s homework to grass, dirt and leaves. It is actually very common to see your dog munching on grass or leaves and they do so for many different reasons. Eating leaves can be a completely natural thing for your dog but it can have some negative side effects such as vomiting. It can be caused by:

  • Boredom
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Nausea
  • Gas
  • Intestinal parasites 

If you notice your dog is consistently eating leaves, assess the situation and see if your dog is simply bored or if there is an underlying cause of their munching on leaves. If it is boredom, you may want to change out their toys and also consider some interactive toys that make them work and think.

Why Eating Leaves Occurs in Dogs

Boredom

When a dog is bored, they look for things to occupy their time. This could be in the form of eating leaves or digging holes; anything to occupy their time. To keep your dog from experiencing boredom switch out their toys weekly so they always have “new” to play with. Look for toys that are interactive and will keep them thinking and trying to figure out the puzzles. Ensure they are getting plenty of exercise and tailor their activities to their breed. For example, a Border Collie enjoys herding and patrolling while a hunting dog likes to be scenting and retrieving. 

Nutritional Deficiency

Commercial dog foods range in quality of ingredients. Most commercial dog foods will also contain fillers that have no nutritional value. However, most are nutritionally complete. Issues can arise however, if your dog skips their dog food in favour of human snacks and treats.

If your dog is not getting enough nutrients from their food, they will look for other sources to fulfill that need. By eating leaves, they could be signaling that they are not getting enough fiber or other important nutrients. Speak with your veterinarian about which dog food would best meet your dog’s nutritional needs. 

Nausea

Dogs will munch on grass and leaves as a way to alleviate nausea. Many times you will see your dog chomping on leaves and grass and them vomiting. They will eat the leaves and grass to induce vomiting and hopefully help their nausea. Recurring nausea could be a symptom of something serious and should be checked out by your veterinarian. 

Gas

Gas is a sign of gastrointestinal upset and if your dog is feeling bloated or gassy they will try to alleviate the uncomfortable sensations they are experiencing. They will do so by eating leaves or grasses and making themselves vomit or have a bowel movement. Gas can occur from a change in their diet. Treats or food can give your dog gas and bloating and cause them to feel uncomfortable and lethargic. Excessive gas can cause your dog to be miserable and it is a good idea to see your veterinarian quickly for treatment. 

Intestinal Parasites

It is believed that your dog will eat leaves as a way to help eliminate intestinal parasites. Dogs that are suffering from an infestation of intestinal parasites will, in general, not feel well. They will eat leaves as a way to alleviate any stomach upset and to try and flush the intestinal parasites from the intestinal tract. If you notice worms in your dog’s stool or vomit, you will need to seek medical attention immediately. However, worms aren't always visible. This is why routine dewormer is advised for all pet dogs.

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What to do if your Dog is Eating Leaves

Dogs that are experiencing boredom and are eating leaves because they have nothing better to do are not happy dogs. You will need to address their boredom by playing with them more and giving them more exercise. Fetch is a great way to get your dog moving and give them that one on one attention that they need. Rotate their toys each week so they do not become bored with the same old toys. Look for interactive toys that will challenge their brain and make them think. Consider canine activities such as agility or flyable.

Speak with your veterinarian about the nutritional needs of your dog. Each dog is different and their nutritional needs will vary. If your dog is lacking in nutrients or just simply not getting enough to eat, you may want to change your dog’s diet. Look for a food that has high quality ingredients without fillers or with minimal fillers. 

Excessive gas or nausea can be cause for concern and your veterinarian will want to do a physical examination as well as run routine tests to figure out what is causing the problem. Routine tests will usually include a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam and biochemistry panel. 

Intestinal parasite infestations can be diagnosed usually through a fecal exam. Once your veterinarian has determined which intestinal parasite has invaded your dog’s body, they can start treatment. Be sure to do a follow-up visit about two weeks after the final treatment to ensure that all the intestinal parasites have been eradicated.

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Prevention of Eating Leaves

It is easy for your dog to become bored if they are left to their own devices, especially if your dog is a higher energy breed. Provide plenty of exercise and keep them active. Keep changing their toys so they do not become bored with the same old toys. Spend extra time with your dog, this can be playing a game like fetch or working on their training. Stay upbeat and happy during your time with your dog.

Regular veterinary visits will keep your dog healthy and free of intestinal parasites if a fecal exam is being conducted at each appointment. Feed a high quality commercial dog food and do not give out too many extra treats that can cause stomach upset or gas.

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Cost of Eating Leaves

Depending on the exact cause of why your dog is eating leaves, you could spend between $300 to $2000 for testing and treatments. Intestinal parasites and flatulence for example, may initially cost between $300 and $400 dollars. Boredom can be alleviated by spending money on quality toys that will keep your dog active. It is at your discretion to decide how much you are willing to spend to keep your dog from becoming bored.

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Eating Leaves Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Labrador Retriever

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My lab is having vomiting and also have periods do both are inter related

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Vomiting would not be related to her coming into heat, and if she is still vomiting, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them and see what might be going on, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Fitz

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Cairn Terrier

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15 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Eating Leaves

My 15 year old Cairn Terrier has been eating leaves all day. We are currently camping. He has plenty of toys and food. And our other dog gets along with him just fine. He just got some wet food, he ate it, and is still trying to eat the leaves. We are just worried about the old man. Any advice?

Aug. 20, 2018

Fitz's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

He probably likes how the leaves taste, but you're right, those aren't good for him. If you can keep him away from the leaves, that might be the only way to keep him from eating them, since I don't think you can clean them all up if you're camping.

Aug. 20, 2018

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