Why do dogs eat grass? I’m sure we’ve all witnessed dogs eating grass. Until I conducted this research, I wondered whether something I was doing (or not doing) was the contributing factor. It turns out that it’s normal dog behavior!
Trying to find this evidence wasn’t easy. I searched high and low for the answer and couldn’t find anything substantial. Until this…
STUDY CAPTURES PLAUSIBLE REASON WHY DOGS EAT GRASS
Hours of scouring articles and periodicals left me frustrated, wondering if any resources on the topic existed.
I was about to give up completely when I came across a study written by Dr. Benjamin L. Hart in which a group of 1571 dog owners were surveyed.
AND THE RESULTS ARE…
- Out of 1571 surveys, 68% of the respondents observed their dogs eating grass or plants at least weekly.
- Out of that same group, a mere 8% reported that their dogs appeared ill before consuming grass.
- Dog owners were asked whether their dog was fed table scraps or a raw diet. It turns out that dietary preference doesn’t make any difference to whether dogs eat grass or not.
- Survey results indicate that the amount of fiber in a dog’s diet has no bearing on whether or not they eat grass.
Owners with dogs who had ongoing medical conditions were excluded from the survey, as were owners who spent less than 6 hours per day with their dogs.
In short, the general consensus is that grass-eating is a normal behavior in dogs.
Before coming across this study, the best information I could find were the routine reasons/myths that have been handed down for years:
Hypothesis 1 on Why Dogs Eat Grass
To relieve stomach upset. The problem with this theory is that lots of dogs eat grass, but show no signs or symptoms of being sick or feeling ill.
Hypothesis 2 on Why Dogs Eat Grass
To induce vomiting and/or diarrhea to relieve upset stomach. Some veterinarians would argue that dogs can’t rationalize their illness enough to “know” they need to eat grass in order to relieve symptoms.
The truth is, only 20% to 30% of dogs who eat grass actually vomit.
They like the taste. Some dogs will eat anything you put in front of them.
If they’re hanging out on the lawn without a source of food nearby, it’s possible they eat grass like you or I would eat something as a snack.
They need fiber in their diet. I guess if I believe that dogs instinctively know how to ease stomach upset, I have to believe that they also know when their diets need supplementation.
The urge to eat grass is an inherited predisposition. This theory is based on the evolution of dogs from their ancestors. Dogs are omnivores, meaning they eat plant and meat-based foods.
In the wild, these dogs would eat the entire carcass of their kill, including the stomach which would have contained grass or plants.
IF IT’S CONSIDERED “NORMAL”, IS IT FAIR TO SAY IT’S A SAFE PRACTICE?
It’s thought that the behavior shouldn’t be encouraged. That’s because the grass they are eating could be contaminated with things like:
- Chemical weed killers
WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT IT?
If your dog is eating grass on a continuous basis, you could try offering an alternative like carrots or celery. And you know what? It might not make a difference. If it’s a normal, instinctual behavior, your dog is going to go back to the habit.
WHAT IF MY DOG IS ACTUALLY SICK?
You know your dog best. If you suspect illness, observe the dog’s behavior. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Has your dog’s coat/fur changed in any way?
- Are your dog’s eyes clear and free from discharge?
- Is your dog’s abdomen tender to touch, swollen, or sore?
- Is your dog eating his/her food and drinking normally?
- Does your dog have the same amount of energy he/she normally has?
- Have you noticed a change in urinary/evacuation habits?
Still not sure? consider a routine checkup with a veterinarian. As long as your dog is sustaining a normal diet, isn’t showing signs of illness, and is only eating grass occasionally, don’t be concerned.
Of course, if you spray your lawn with chemicals that’s another story.
A Final Note of Caution
If your dog has a habit of eating grass, he/she may also feed on plants and weeds. There are a number of plants that are toxic to dogs, especially if ingested in large quantities.
A few examples include:
- Sago Palm
- and certain types of Ivy
Click here for a detailed list of plants known to be poisonous to dogs.
Did you find the answers you were looking for? If so, please share!