If your dog eats grass, there could be several reasons. First, it may be to help with digestion and cleanse himself or herself. Second, he or she might be instinctively attracted to certain plants (like his distant ancestors the wolves who also fed on grass and berries). Or the dog may also simply enjoy the taste of weeds. Last but not least, your dog eating grass may also be a sign of some deficiencies including a diet low in fiber or even a disease like pica.
Is normal for dogs to eat grass?
It is important to know that the vast majority of dogs eat grass without it being linked to a health problem. When this phenomenon remains occasional, there is often no need to worry. Most of the time, this is completely normal behavior for the dog.
The phenomenon of vomiting, or rather regurgitation is just as normal although it is often disturbing for the owner. Be careful, however, not to take this behavior lightly! Abnormally repeated ingestion of grass accompanied by vomiting may reveal a serious disorder or pathology requiring veterinary consultation.
Why do dogs eat grass?
Several explanations are offered by specialists for why dogs eat grass. Among the various causes considered, we find:
Our domestic dogs would have inherited a behavior coming from their ancestor the wolf. This animal, with an omnivorous diet, feeds on prey, including herbivores whose digestive tract contains grass, but also plants and berries. Our faithful companions would thus have instinctively preserved this natural need for grass in their diet.
A particular attraction to grass
Some dogs have a particular taste for grass. In other words, they just like it! This behavior can be observed in your the dog even if its diet is suitably adapted to its physiological needs.
We then speak of food craving, that is to say an irresistible desire to eat a food. This behavior common to cats which throws themselves on catnip, is also found in humans who will instead turn to sugary foods like chocolate!
Eating grass to induce vomiting
When dogs experience discomfort or stomach pain, they may seek to induce vomiting in order to eliminate the stomach contents that are bothering them. To achieve this, they will quickly ingest a large amount of grass without taking the time to chew it well. They will however choose, if you observe them, a specific and widespread type of grass: quackgrass.
This type of grass is a high fiber, indigestible, stomach irritant herbaceous plant that causes vomiting when the dog swallows it. The regurgitation thus induced allows the expulsion of the herb which then acts as a “broom” helping to lift the troublesome stomach contents. This phenomenon relieves the dog and reduces their feelings of nausea.
A disease affecting the digestive tract can upset your dog and lead to this behavior excessively. Thus, it can become abnormal during underlying pathologies such as:
- A more or less serious digestive disorder (food intolerance, foreign body, etc.)
- Metabolic disease (in the kidneys, liver, pancreas)
- An infestation by digestive parasites (irritating intestinal worms)
Pica: behavioral eating disorder
When a dog eats grass, it can also be a behavioral problem. Pica corresponds to the ingestion of non-food substances such as dirt, sand, stones, paper, plastic or any other inedible object… but also feces.
Ingestion of grass is also a form of pica when accompanied by consumption of these non-nutritive materials. This phenomenon can then reveal a medical or behavioral disorder. Indeed, a dietary fiber deficiency, in the case of an unbalanced diet (exclusively meat-based for example) can lead a dog to eat grass.
In other cases, digestive disorders, pancreatic or metabolic disorders, can also cause pica.
If you notice this extreme behavior in your dog, it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian who will investigate the cause of the pica. Indeed, this behavior can be dangerous and lead to sometimes serious digestive complications (intestinal obstruction, perforations, etc.)
What if my dog eats too much grass?
Regular observation of your dog makes it easier to distinguish what is normal from what is not, so you will need to be responsive and consult your attending veterinarian if:
- The behavior is new
- Your dog eats grass too frequently. The “too much” occurs when the dog eats more than usual.
- The ingestion of grass is associated with vomiting and this presents an abnormal appearance (he vomits yellow, presence of blood, inedible elements…)
- The animal shows other symptoms
However, if your dog is looking better after eating grass and vomiting, you can start by monitoring him and if he does it again, don’t hesitate to seek the advice of your vet.
As the behavior is normal at the base, you can let your dog do it and not scold him BUT you must also make sure that the swallowed grass is not contaminated by toxic products and dangerous for his health (fertilizer, pesticides, etc.).
Can eating grass kill worms?
The presence of digestive worms in the stomach or intestines can upset the dog and lead to ingestion of grass. It is commonly said that the dog is “purging itself”.
Be careful, this expression is often misinterpreted and contrary to what many owners think, the herb has no deworming action! Nothing will replace the effectiveness of a real dewormer in getting rid of digestive worms in dogs. This treatment is delivered by your veterinarian who prescribes a substance adapted to the physiology of your pet, its lifestyle and the types of parasites likely to contaminate it.
This belief is all the more misleading because the grass your dog consumes can carry microscopic (invisible to the naked eye) parasite eggs that are emitted in the stools of other animals.
Regular deworming is therefore essential in dogs in general and more particularly in “grass eaters”!
As you can see, there are many reasons why dogs eat grass and some of them require you to be vigilant as a pet owner. We hope this article helps understand this mostly normal behavior and serves as a kind of guide on when to be concerned and about your dog eating grass.
A journalism student at the University of Florida, Serena writes mostly about health and health-related subjects. On her time off, she enjoys binge-watching her favorite shows on Netflix or going on a weekend get-away.