It is surprising how little we know about the quirks of our canine companions. Eating grass is a great example: Why do they do it?
In truth, no one is sure, although there are some intriguing suggestions that seem reasonable. There have been very few studies done on the subject and therefore, scientific evidence of why they do so is limited. When you have a canine companion who has a healthy eating regimen with food to suit their needs you may wonder, why does my dog eat grass?
Grass Eating Is Instinctual
One possible explanation as to why dogs eat grass is that they crave fiber, which is lacking in some processed foods. Dogs have evolved to eat kibble but they certainly did not start out that way. Wild dogs used to eat what they hunted and typically their prey had a stomach full of greenery and grasses. The dogs consumed the entire catch, from bones to meat to the stomach contents. So, despite evolution and the fact that most dogs now eat kibble from a bag, the need for fiber is still present in a dog's diet.
Some thoughts have been thrown out there that grass fills a nutritional need but grass does not have a lot of nutrients that serve canines. Your dog may be munching on your lawn simply as a natural way to add a little roughage to their daily intake of food. If eating grass is a once in a while habit, then doing so may be completely harmless. If your pup likes to graze now and then, allow it. Worry about it only if they are consistently eating grass every time they step outside for a walk.
Grass Eating May Point To Illness
Another thought on the subject is that grass acts as a natural purgative, to rid the stomach of undesirable substances and cleanse the system. Again, no scientific evidence points to this theory and not all dogs vomit after eating grass. One of the very few studies done on the topic could not link illness to a dog's desire to eat grass. In fact, it is thought that only around 25% of dogs regularly vomit after dining on the greenery.
Your dog may have learned that if they eat grass, they will solve digestive problems like an upset stomach and help the smooth passing of stool. Again, seeing your dog eat a few servings of grass occasionally is not a cause for concern. But if your companion seems to be looking for grass to eat at every opportunity, a veterinarian check-up with a stool analysis may be in order.
Grass Eating May Be For Attention
Your furry buddy may be digging and biting for grass as a way to get your attention. If your pup does not receive the mental and physical stimulation they need on a daily basis, eating grass may be an attention-getter. If your dog is tearing up the lawn and you notice and respond, then your little buddy is getting attention.
Quell your dog's boredom while you are at work by leaving them with a safe interactive food toy to keep them busy. Once home, head out the door for a long walk or quick jog which will do both you and your dog a favor.
Grass Eating May Be Pica
In the same way that pregnant women may crave unusual foods, some dogs crave strange substances. Pica is a desire to eat non-food items is a well-recognized phenomenon but again, is one of those things we know has little explanation as to why it occurs. Contenders for the best explanation include:
Dietary deficiency - to correct a nutritional deficiency in the diet
Anti-parasite treatment - to purge worms or larvae from the stomach
Exploratory behavior - in a similar way puppies chew anything and everything
Learned behavior - it becomes a habit
Hunger - puppies especially will exhibit pica if they are underfed
Stress - the repetitive action of chewing is soothing to some dogs
Should You Worry If Your Dog Eats Grass?
Probably not. The chances of your dog coming to harm are slim. That said, eating a large quantity of long grass at one sitting can lead to a tangled blockage in the bowel and is best avoided. Since the cause is not known, the urge for your dog to eat grass is difficult to prevent but it is worth eliminating the obvious by:
Deworming - regularly deworm your dog
A good diet - feed a good quality balanced diet that includes some fiber
Portion control - do not under or overfeed your dog
If you are concerned about your dog's desire to consume grass or they show signs such as increased thirst, weight loss, or altered appetite, always consult your vet. Remember, there is an outside chance that eating grass is helping to alleviate stomach ache or nausea, so it could be your dog's way of asking for help!