Dogs may eat grass for many reasons, but the truth is that no one really knows why they do it. Over the years, scientists have performed various studies in an attempt to determine why dogs eat grass and have come to make a few educated guesses.
Reasons Dogs May Eat Grass
With no sure answer, it is helpful to examine the various reasons that dogs may eat grass so you can determine the most likely reason that your specific dog is choosing to do so.
1. Instinct or Pleasure
In the wild, dogs eat whatever they can get their paws on to fulfill their needs for a balanced diet. It has been suggested that dogs who eat grass may be looking for the fiber that grass can provide and may be eating it by instinct.
For example, if a dog was out hunting and killed a small animal that had been eating grass, they would get the nutrients and fiber from the grass that remained in the animal’s stomach. Some dogs may instinctively miss the grass they would typically get and attempt to supplement.
Alternatively, dogs may simply enjoy eating grass just because it’s a typical dog behavior. They may not have any reason beyond enjoyment for doing it.
Some dogs may see their mothers eating grass and decide to try it for themselves. Or, some dogs, especially puppies, may simply be curious about what is in the grass and decide to taste it to see what’s going on there.
In fact, some scientists suggest that dogs aren’t really “eating” grass at all but are simply moving their mouths over it. The dog’s vomeronasal organ between the mouth and nose provides them with a “sixth sense,” if you will.
This organ makes them sensitive to the scent or taste of other creatures who have been in the grass and may make them likely to use their snout to search for new information about other animals or people.
Some people think that dogs who eat grass do so in an attempt to make themselves vomit if they’re feeling unwell. However, very little evidence supports this as the majority of dogs don’t actually vomit after eating grass.
While dogs may eat grass to get in some extra fiber if they’re having digestive issues, it’s not likely that grass will help them much with a stomachache.
4. Nutrient Deficiency
As we have already discussed, a dog may attempt to eat grass because they feel their diet is lacking in fiber or other nutrients that they would find if they were hunting in the wild. While grass isn’t particularly nutritious, dogs are used to doing with what they have available.
It is possible that dogs eat grass if their bodies sense a nutrient deficiency. Dogs may be searching for that fiber or the various minerals they want or need but not know how to find them. If your dog is eating grass, take a good look at their diet!
The condition of eating grass, rocks, dirt, and other non-food items is called pica. Some dogs even eat garbage or dog poop if they have this specific disorder. While its causes are not completely understood, pica could be a sign of a serious nutritional deficiency or another disease in your dog. If your dog has pica, you should probably talk to your vet.
6. Attention Seeking, Boredom, or Anxiety
If your pet wants more attention from you, they may try eating grass, especially if it gets a reaction out of you. If your dog is simply bored, they may search and nibble on the grass to give them something to do.
In addition, some dogs may eat grass out of anxiety, much like a human might bite their nails. If your dog has other signs of anxiety, you may want to take this into consideration.
Should Dogs Eat Grass?
Grass in itself isn’t harmful to dogs. Grass is made of fiber and several vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial—it’s much like a vegetable. However, grass isn’t necessarily safe for your dog to eat.
Some grass, especially that in lawns or parks, is sprayed freely with pesticides and other chemicals that are supposed to keep it bug-free and growing well. These substances can be toxic to dogs.
In addition, grass may contain poop and residue from other dogs or animals. It is common for parasites to make their homes in poop and if your dog ingests that poop or grass, they may end up with a parasite wreaking havoc in their gut.
In sum, dogs can eat grass if you know that it’s clean of pesticides or poop, but if you’re not sure, it’s best to keep your dog away from it.
How To Stop a Dog From Eating Grass
Much like when you want to stop a dog from eating poop or garbage, you’ll want to work closely with your dog and provide positive reinforcement to keep them from eating grass. Stop your dog and distract them with another enjoyable activity if you notice they’re eating grass.
If your dog is well-trained to respond to verbal commands, you can simply tell them to stop and they should obey. You can also offer treats as a reward for eating what you offer instead of whatever is on the ground.
Finally, if your dog just won’t stop and they exhibit other signs of illness such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, lethargy, etc., you may need to see your vet. It could be that your dog is dealing with a serious health issue and needs your help to get better.
Keeping Your Grass Clean
If you want to allow your dog to eat the grass from your own yard but are concerned about its cleanliness, we might be able to help. At Idaho Poop Scoop, our team of dog-lovers is dedicated to helping you keep your yard clean of poop!
You can learn more about our services and get in touch with us to see how we can help you keep your dog and your yard safe, clean, and healthy.