Why Do Dogs Eat Grass, And Is It Bad For Them?

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This story originally appeared at LittleThings.

I take my little dog out for a two-mile walk twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Like most (if not all) dogs, he will check out interesting things to eat or chew on as we walk. For some reason, he is especially interested in grass.

As we walk along, there are times he surveys the different types of grasses growing like he’s choosing what looks best at a salad bar before diving in. I pull him away from what looks like wild onions, since I learned that onions are in the allium family, which is toxic for dogs and cats.

Sometimes, however, I let him chew a little grass because he seems to like it. I have seen no harm from it, and I’ve always believed the old wives’ tale that dogs eat grass when they’re sick so they can get better. But is that really why dogs eat grass?

Is Grass Bad For Dogs?

I’ve always watched dogs eat grass and thought, “Aww, how cool; he has a natural instinct that tells him to eat grass when he’s sick.” But apparently, that’s not really the case. We’ve all seen dogs eat grass and then throw up, but the experts say dogs don’t need to eat grass.

“Fewer than 10 percent of dogs seem to be sick before eating grass, according to their owners… and less than 25 percent of dogs that eat grass vomit regularly after grazing,” WebMD Pets states.

This does not mean, however, that only 25 percent of dogs eat grass. Most of them do, apparently. WebMD Pets also cites a small-scale study of 49 dogs in which 79 percent of the dogs with regular access to plants had eaten them.

Grass can be bad for dogs if it has been sprayed or treated with herbicides, pesticides, or even fertilizers. If you’re not sure, then it’s best to not let your dog eat the grass.

Why do dogs eat grass?

There are several theories as to why dogs eat grass, though most veterinarians agree that it is normal dog behavior.

One possibility is that a dog may be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease or acid reflux. Dr. Michael Goldberg told Modern Dog Magazine that he’s occasionally seen dogs lick the air, stretch out their necks and show swallowing behavior before rushing outside to find some grass. They eat it furiously, and then throw up. Following these dogs endoscopically, Dr. Goldberg has found that they often have prevalent conditions in their digestive tracts that might indicate inflammatory bowel disease or acid reflux. This is not to say that inflammatory bowel disease or acid reflux is a common condition in dogs. However, if your dog continues to get sick after eating grass, you may want to take him to the vet to be checked.

Another theory by experts is that dogs may eat grass because their digestion or nutrition is poor or they may have contracted worms. They may be eating grass to attempt to fix what is wrong or to get whatever is lacking in their diet.

Photo: Adobe Stock/vilma3000

Unless she suddenly starts eating grass when she has never done it before, there is no reason to be worried. But the reverse is also true. Dr. Potosky says that if your dog doesn’t normally eat grass but suddenly begins to eat it all the time, then your baby needs a visit with the vet because there may be a gastrointestinal issue going on.

Dogs also may eat grass just because they like the taste of it or feel hungry. She could also be eating grass because she’s bored, just as they may be when it seems like she’s sleeping all the time. Is your dog getting enough exercise? Does she have any balls or chew toys when she’s outside by herself with all that grass? Is she getting enough Mommy/Daddy time with you? Maybe it’s time to remedy the situation.

Should I Let My Dog Eat Grass?

Dogs don’t need to eat grass, but as long as the grass hasn’t been sprayed or treated with pesticides or fertilizers then it shouldn’t be toxic for your dog to eat. But we do need to watch what our dogs eat and look out for red flags that could suggest a problem.

My dog has never vomited after eating grass and seems to just like the taste of it. If he occasionally chews on a blade of ordinary grass or two, I’ll let him and not be concerned. It’s certainly a lot better than some of the things he tries to eat!

A couple of weeks ago, I was worried Mason had eaten some berries from my neighbor’s holly trees. After calling my vet, I learned that holly berries can be extremely dangerous for dogs. Fortunately, Mason never suffered any side effects whatsoever, so he probably wasn’t chewing on one of those little red berries. Still, the experience made me realized the importance of monitoring what our dogs eat.

What If My Dog Is Eating Grass And Vomiting?

If your dogs vomit every time after eating grass and you’re concerned, it’s best to go to a vet. While eating grass can be common in dogs, it’s best to rule out any possibilities of a hidden health problem.

If you have learned things from this article that will help you in understanding and taking care of your dog, please SHARE with your friends and other dog owners so that they can also benefit.

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