One of the greatest things about dogs is that, despite similarities in certain breeds, every single one of these magnificent animals has a distinct personality to call their own.
There’s one behavior that you’ll find in just about every dog, however; a strange compulsion to munch on grass whenever out for a stroll in a green space. Why is your dog eating grass all of a sudden? Are you not feeding them enough at home? Has somebody planted something irresistibly tasty within the ground? You never met your dog’s biological father – has the breeder pulled a fast one and mated Fido’s mum with a sheep to create a terrifying genetic hybrid?
The answer is usually significantly more sedate than any of the above, but it doesn’t make this any less of a worrying habit for pooch parents. Dogs that eat grass often experience an upset stomach, vomiting or spitting up yellow bile or white foam afterward. Does this stop them? Of course, it doesn’t, the lovably dopey critters – your dog will be frantically eating grass and dried leaves again in no time after purging their stomachs!
Read on, and we’ll shed some light on why your dog is so determined to eat grass, and how you should respond to this behavior.
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My Dog is Eating Grass – Are They Sick?
The urge to eat non-food items is recognized as a medical condition among human beings, known as Pica. Pregnant women are particularly likely to suffer from this ailment, finding themselves compelled to shovel mud, chalk and various other decidedly unappealing items into their mouths and swallow them down.
Does this mean that every dog that insists on chomping down on grass is living with an eating disorder? Is your dog one of the very few to be diagnosed with a canine obsessive-compulsive disorder? Not necessarily.
Should I Let My Dog Eat Grass?
As a rule, there is nothing inherently wrong with your dog eating grass. In many cases, dogs are following their basic instinct to chew and taste everything in their path, as they tend to learn about the world around them using their mouths (especially in the puppy years). In fact, wild dogs and wolves are often observed eating grass, so there is every chance that this behavior is hard-wired into canine DNA.
All the same, just because this behavior is not necessarily dangerous, it doesn’t mean that it should be encouraged. Eating grass can have a wide and varied list of side effects, with vary from absolute no ill effects at all to being violently sick. What’s more, there are potentially all kinds of things in the grass that the naked human eye can’t see but smell appealing to Fido.
Who knows what animals, rodents or birds may have left fecal droppings in that greenery that your dog is now eating? What if a bee or wasp is in the grass at the time, leading to a sting inside your dog’s mouth? What if an ant bites your dog’s paw? Can you be sure that a farmer or other keeper of the green space has not laid down insecticide or something else that is toxic to your dog?
If you don’t like the idea of your dog eating grass, nip it in the bud. However, it won’t do you any harm to gain an understanding as to why they are doing so.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
There are many reasons why your dog is eating grass, including:
- Instinct to Chew
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Easing Digestion
Of course, we shouldn’t neglect the simplest explanation of all – some dogs just like the taste and texture! As much as meat and protein are critical to any doggy diet, canines are natural omnivores and will occasionally enjoy the equivalent of a salad. Try not to take it personally if your dog eats grass or dried leaves; it’s not a critical statement on the food that you lovingly prepare for them.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons your dog is likely to be eating grass.
Boredom, Stress or Anxiety
The primary reasons that dogs to eat, chew or munch on just about anything are boredom or anxiety. Next time your pooch is taking a stroll around your backyard, keep an eye from a safe distance. If you notice that Fido opts to make a meal of the turf, you should take a look around.
Is there enough for your dog to do in your garden? Once your furry friend has wagged his tail at all the butterflies, sniffed at all the flower petals, drank from the pond even though you’ve told them not to a hundred times and rolled around to get some sun on their belly, is there any stimulation left for them?
Try throwing some toys outside into the back garden to give your dog something else to amuse themselves with, or head out yourself and toss a ball around. If it’s an unusually hot day and your dog is a water baby, think about switching on the sprinkler or setting up a paddling pool for them to splash around in. The more fun they’re having, the less they’ll think about eating grass.
Likewise, if you’ve been a little tense in the house lately, your dog will pick up on that and start to feel a little skittish. Encourage them that everything is just fine, and take a nice, sedate walk together. You’ll both feel better for it, and Fido will be less likely to seek comfort from the grass outside.
In some rare cases, your dog may be suffering from a nutrient deficiency as seeking to make up for this by eating grass. Greenery contains fiber, for example, and that may be why your dog is prone to frantically eating grass or dried leaves.
This is unlikely though. Provided you are ensuring that your dog enjoys a balanced diet, nutrition will probably not be at the root of Fido’s tendency to nibble on turf. Just keep an eye on what your dog is eating, and how much.
Another rare and very occasional explanation for why your dog is eating grass may revolve around an existing stomach upset. It is believed in some circles that dogs eat grass to soothe any kind of gastrointestinal distress, but we should stress that this has never been proven. Similarly, some people believe that dogs living with tapeworms and other infestations also eat grass in an attempt to soothe the symptoms of discomfort. Once again, however, this is unproven.
What if your dog is eating grass frantically? This is something to keep an eye on, especially if your dog insists upon eating grass all of a sudden and then vomits afterward. This suggests that your dog may have a more problematic medical condition, and will need the attention of a vet to prevent the issue from getting any worse.
Can Eating Grass Improve My Dog’s Health?
Not really; at best, grass will usually be health-neutral. Having said this, in addition to the fibrous qualities discussed above, it’s possible that your dog will be building up a steady resistance to anything that could potentially do them harm by eating grass. If your dog has mild seasonal allergies, consuming pollen may also enhance their immunity – provided it doesn’t just make them sick!
Grass and Plants That are Poisonous to Dogs
Grass tends to lead to plants, and it’s very important we understand what particular plants are poisonous to dogs. Obviously, we all know that our tail-wagging chums shouldn’t attempt to eat a stinging nettle or a thorny rosebush, but what about innocuous-looking flora that could prove to be deadly? Thankfully, the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) has a list of flowers and plants that are poisonous to dogs. It goes without saying that these must be avoided at all costs!
It’s not just these particular plants and flowers that could be dangerous to your dog’s health, though. We have already mentioned that pesticides, insecticides or fertilizers may cover the grass in a communal green area, and even your own backyard could be dangerous. Have you sprinkled slug repellent or something else that will deter common garden pests, which may inadvertently hurt your dog’s digestion if they were to swallow it? Can you be certain that your neighbors have not done so, and that it won’t seep into your own garden?
Finally, also bear in mind that foraging in the wild comes with certain inherent risks. Do you know the difference between a safe or toxic wild mushroom? Do you know how much garlic is safe before it crosses the line from immunity-boosting to poisonous? How about berries – they all look colorful and delicious, but are they safe? It’s pivotal that you know all of this, or that you take steps to ensure your dog doesn’t have to learn the hard way.
What Are the Side Effects of Dogs Eating Grass?
As discussed, it isn’t usually a concern if your dog is eating grass. However, once they have done so, they may start to behave strangely. If you are worried about the health of your dog after they have eaten grass, you should always seek the advice of a vet straight away.
There is every chance that they will be fine, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. None of us know what is found in the greenery that our dogs are feasting upon, and some kind of medication may be necessary.
It may seem that every time your dog eats grass, they end up vomiting, but it’s actually comparatively rare as a condition. Less than 10% of dogs are believed to be sick after a light graze of greenery.
If your pooch finds himself or herself being sick, it may be because your dog is allergic to grass, but it’s more likely that something has aggravated their stomach lining. There are all kinds of things that are found within turf, remember, and there is no way of knowing what else your dog has swallowed. If it was a sports field that provided the snack, there might be pitchside markings, or a public green space could be hosting all kinds of insects or animal droppings.
Finally, there is one more possibility – it may be that your dog has overeaten! If Fido has already enjoyed a meal, then chowed down on a vast quantity of grass, some of that excess has to be released. If your dog throws up a substantial amount of grass and then goes about his or her business, seemingly no worse off than before, it’s usually a sign that they have purged themselves of anything untoward. You should seek the help of a vet if you are worried, however.
Some dogs take to spitting after they have eaten grass, releasing a kind of white foam or yellow bile. This can be quite frightening if you do not understand the origin of these discharges, especially if they are accompanied by retching sounds.
Try not to worry too much – this is another example of vomiting, and a dog purging an irritant from their body. White foam, in particular, is common when dogs eat something that their bodies are not designed to digest – including grass or dirt. If a dog has eaten grass frantically, swallowing faster than their digestive tract can cope with, this is an almost inevitable consequence.
On the other hand, this is something that needs to be observed. Consult a vet if your dog continually spits up white foam or yellow bile, as these could be signals of an internal injury. These are also symptoms of a stomach inflammation that may need medical intervention.
It won’t be comfortable for your tail-wagging chum and can be scary for you, so seek the help that your dog needs and deter from them munching on grass again in the future!
The sound of a dog coughing can be a little unnerving. The noise can come out of nowhere, and it seems to last forever. Watching your furry friend appearing to struggle for breath can be a horrible experience, especially when they seem to stop in their tracks and start to wheeze.
Not all dog coughs stem from cold or flu symptoms, though. Many times a cough stems from eating something that has lodged in their throat, with grass being a common culprit. Grass or dirt may refuse to go all the way down your hound’s throat, and the result of this is a dog desperately trying to clear their airways and breathe normally once more. Sometimes grass also contains seeds, which will have a similar impact.
If your dog is coughing due to eating grass, the moment should pass relatively quickly. Once Fido manages to clear his throat, he’ll be back to his old self, and you can stop worrying (at least until he insists on eating grass again). If the symptoms continue more than a few minutes after the initial incident, however, consult a vet – your dog may need help disposing of what is causing the cough.
Refusing Food or Water
One of the most worrying impacts of a dog eating grass is when they refuse to eat or drink water afterward, especially if your dog has also been sick. A dog declining their dinner or any favored treats is a rarity indeed, after all!
The reason for this behavior is that your dog may have a sore throat, and the act of swallowing is extremely painful. This is most often a result of your dog eating a sharp blade of grass that has caused a very small cut to the back of their throat. Ever tried to eat or drink something when you have tonsillitis and found the sensation to be akin to swallowing razorblades? That’s how this feels for Fido.
This will usually pass and run its course fairly shortly if you are prepared to be patient. However, if you understandably can’t bear the thought of your dog being in such discomfort, a vet will be able to administer an on-the-spot painkiller that immediately eases the symptoms.
How Do I Stop My Dog Eating Grass?
As we said in the opening of this guide, every dog is different and has their own temperament. This means that each hound will react differently to the idea of a walk, and have varying levels of energy and stimulation requirements. Some dogs will want nothing more than to be allowed off their leash and race around a park or playing field for hours. Others prefer a more sedate pace of life, strolling and sniffing their way to contentment.
What won’t change is that eventually your dog will grow bored, or exhausted. When this happens, Fido is likely to enjoy a lie-down and bask in the sun for a little while – and that means placing his nose and muzzle close to all that tempting, delicious turf. If instinct kicks in and your dog starts to feast on grass, you may need to take action to put a stop to their meal.
Obviously, this technique will only work if your dog is play-motivated, but pulling Fido’s favorite ball or Frisbee should be effective most of the time. Dogs love to engage in an interactive game with their owners, and they’re hard-wired to chase a moving object, so it will take a very stubborn beast indeed to resist the siren song of a game of catch. This distraction will soon capture your dog’s attention, and they will forget all about that all-you-can-eat buffet of greenery that stretched ahead of them.
Reward Your Dog
If your particular dog is not fussed about the idea of playtime, food is almost certain to do the trick. When your dog starts showing interest in the greenery – or indeed, actually begins such a feast – issuing a command for them to stop, such as “leave it!”, is usually quite effective).
Once you have their attention, show your dog that you have a treat for them, allow a few moments to pass, and then hand it over – ideally after distracting them into doing something else, even if it’s just sitting. Just ensure that you don’t provide a treat the moment your dog looks up. They’ll assume that they are being rewarded for eating the grass in the first place, and do it more and more!
It may not be anybody’s first choice, but sometimes it becomes necessary to place a muzzle on your dog to stop him or her from eating grass. This should only be considered if your dog is placing themselves in danger through their compulsive habit of chewing turf, though. Examples could include an inability to trust your pooch not to tuck into a poisonous plant the moment you turn your back, or if they are also hoovering up stones and rocks alongside grass and this is leading to blood in their urine or stools.
If you are going to place a muzzle over your dog’s mouth, ensure that your canine companion is well aware that they are not being punished. Pop their favorite treat inside the muzzle to make the idea more palatable, or go one better and smear a little peanut butter inside so your dog can enjoy a regular snack throughout their walk.
If you’re concerned about the fact that your dog is eating grass and would like a professional opinion, you could speak to a vet. Just be aware that most vets will shrug this off as relatively normal behavior, only taking action if your pooch is showing any signs of upset or distress as a result of their snack.