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Every dog owner has seen their dog chow down on some grass, though not many know the reason why dogs suddenly get a craving for their lawn. Many pet owners believe that dogs eat grass to relieve upset stomachs, as the grass can cause dogs to vomit, but that may not be the case.
Some studies have shown that the majority of dogs (less than 25%) actually vomit after eating grass. And even fewer dogs (about 10%) only showed signs of illness before eating grass. Combine those two facts together, and there’s a compelling argument that dogs do not eat grass to self-medicate.
But if not to cure an upset stomach, then why does a dog ear grass?
While we will be investigating a lot of different reasons why dogs may want to eat grass, your canine may just like the taste and texture of grass. Many dog owners even report having picky dogs that will only eat grass when it is fresh during the spring.
By itself, no. Grass can actually fulfill a nutritional need that dogs may be lacking in otherwise.
However, most lawns are covered in herbicides and pesticides that can be extremely toxic for your dog. Additionally, your dog may accidentally ingest an intestinal parasite like hookworms. If your dog eats plenty of turf, then make sure that your dog is up to date on their deworming medications and that their veterinarian regularly checks for parasites.
Technically, eating a non-food item (especially bizarre ones like grass) is known as pica.
Pica in dogs often occurs in a variety of different scenarios, like diet deficiencies. However, if you are feeding your dog a well-balanced diet, then it is unlikely that your dog is experiencing any nutritional deficiencies.
If you notice that your dog seems to be experiencing stomach discomfort when they are eating grass, then it may be a sign of a much more severe medical problem, such as pancreatitis, gastric influx, or inflammatory bowel disease. All of these are serious medical conditions that need to receive veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
If you do not have a pet door, then your dog may spend hours at a time stuck outside as they wait for you to come home. Much like how we may raid our fridges to pass the times, our dogs might eat turf in order to have something to do while they wait for you to come home.
If you consistently intervene or are around when your dog eats grass, then your dog might nibble on grass as a means of earning your attention. Turf-munching can become a coping mechanism whenever your dog feels anxious, bored, or lonely, as they know it will summon you to their side.
While grass-eating isn’t harmful, you can still take measures to alleviate this anxiety. Leaving behind a blanket or t-shirt with your scent on it could provide anxious dogs comfort.
If your dog is bored, then getting a pet door that allows them access inside and outside of the house can provide additional mental stimulation. You can also buy them more puzzle toys to keep them entertained.
And if your dog is lonely, then hiring a dog walker to take your dog out while you’re gone is a good move. You can also enroll them in a doggie daycare to meet other mutts.
Your dog’s forefathers– wolves– had to hunt and scavenge for their food. While wolves are famous for being ferocious predators, dogs are not true carnivores. Wild dogs will eat anything that will help them meet their daily nutritional needs, including grass.
So it’s not hard to believe that when you find your dog grazing your lawn, they’re actually fulfilling a scavenging instinct given to them by their ancestors. In cases like these, it’s best to leave your dog alone as denying their basic instincts too much can be harmful.
Whenever your dog starts to eat grass, you can attempt to redirect their attention until they learn to ignore it. You can either do this by using treats or showering your dog with attention (whichever works better for your dog).
When you notice your dog beginning to nibble on grass, direct their attention elsewhere by commanding them to heel, sit, or walk away. Once they do so, reward your dog for listening to your command. Do this enough times, and eventually, your dog will stop attempting to snack on the lawn.