Q: I feed my dog a nutritious diet, but sometimes I notice her eating grass in the yard. Is it normal and healthy for dogs to eat grass? And why do they do it?
A: Yes, many dogs eat grass with no adverse health effects. The reason is still being explored, but let’s review some current theories.
One of the questions that veterinarians (and vet techs) get asked most often is whether it’s safe for dogs to eat grass. The short answer is yes. Dogs are omnivores, which means their diet includes both plant and animal matter. Even when given a balanced and nutritious diet, many dogs will still seek out grass or other wild greens for a quick nibble. But why? Answering that question requires a little more digging.
A Common Myth Debunked
Some dogs that regularly eat grass vomit afterward, leading many people to believe that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting, perhaps to resolve an upset stomach. But observations showed that fewer than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit afterward. So, while some dogs may use grass as an emetic, that doesn’t explain why over 75% of dogs that regularly eat grass do so with no stomach upset.
Other Potential Causes
Let’s explore some of the other factors that may cause dogs to crave grass…
Roughage provided by wild greens is known to provide a good source of fiber and to aid digestion, much the way a salad augments a human meal.
Boredom or anxiety can also cause dogs to nibble or eat grass as a stress reliever, the way we bite our fingernails or crack our knuckles.
Ancient instinct has made dogs into adept hunter-scavengers that will consume a wide range of foods to fulfill their nutritional needs. So if your pet is eating grass, perhaps the grass contains a beneficial nutrient (or smells like a plant that does). Several species of wild dogs are known to eat grass.
Preference seems to draw some dogs to eating grass—so it’s possible that they simply like it.
Should I Stop My Pet from Eating Grass?
While eating grass itself does not have any harmful effects on dogs, the pesticides and other chemicals we use to control unwanted insects can present a toxicity risk to pets. Do not use chemical pesticides in your yard where your dog is likely to nibble at the grass, and avoid letting your dog eat grass at public parks.
If you suspect your pet’s grass-eating behavior is a response to boredom or anxiety, try providing some entertaining toys and feeders to keep your pet engaged and entertained. A puzzle-solving toy or feeder can provide your pet with a fun mental challenge to stave off boredom or worry.
When to See the Vet
While a little grazing is normal among dogs, excessive consumption of grass or other non-foods (buttons, cloth, paper, etc.) could be a sign of pica, a condition where an animal (or person) feels compelled to eat non-food items. If your dog’s grass consumption seems excessive, or if your pet regularly consumes non-food items, your animal could be at risk for digestive problems. Contact your vet and schedule an exam. Your vet can answer any medical questions and may be able to connect you with an animal behaviorist.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.