Dogs and Grass
Many dogs have a condition called pica, which means they favor eating such non-food items as toys and feces, dirt and grass. Most experts, however, consider consuming grass to be fairly normal dog behavior that usually doesn’t cause many -- if any -- problems.
Why then, do our canine companions go for grass?
Some simply enjoy the taste and texture of it. Their wild relatives are known for eating whatever vegetable matter they find in the stomachs and intestines of the prey they catch while also feasting on roots, grasses and berries. Mimicking their relatives then, it makes perfect sense that, in addition to grass, your dog may delight in downing safe, raw-plant snacks like green beans and strawberries as well as slices of apple and banana.
On the other hand, however, numerous studies have shown that grazing on grass may provide dogs with the fiber and/or trace vitamins and minerals that aren’t found in sufficient quantities in most commercial dog foods. Consider asking your vet to help you select a product – dry or wet -- that’s backed by both science and research and that best meets your own dog’s specific needs.
If your dog’s a devoted grazer, keep him from chewing on grass that’s been chemically treated because it could prove poisonous to him. You may not use pesticides or herbicides on your own lawn but one of your neighbors may, and if applied on a windy day, these toxic substances could reach your yard through wind or water runoff. Be wary as well of public areas like parks, where the grass may have been treated with chemicals (if so, signs usually indicate it). Provide your pup instead with a patch of healthy wheat grass or purchase dog-safe grass or herb-growing kits at a pet supply store and grow your own.
When they’re not feeling well, dogs may, on occasion, gulp down grass as a natural emetic to force them to vomit. If you hear ominous rumblings in your dog’s belly and if he seems gassy and somewhat lethargic, don’t be surprised that the moment he gets outside, he starts chewing and swallowing mouthfuls of grass. Their long, tickling blades and slender strands may prompt him to regurgitate whatever was causing his upset stomach. If so, as soon as he’s vomited, he may resume his usual activities almost immediately without exhibiting any further signs of discomfort. The flip side to a dog’s sudden vomiting, however, is when he’s unaccustomed to eating grass at all let alone on a regular basis.
Some animal experts suggest dogs eat grass because they’re bored and that it gives them something to do. This occurs most often in dogs – especially puppies and young dogs -- who don’t receive enough exercise and whose natural exuberance requires a more satisfying outlet to release all of their stored-up energy. The solution: spend more time playing with your dog and teaching him new tricks on a regular basis to keep him mentally stimulated and physically satisfied, thereby reducing the chance of his reverting to such boredom-related behavior.
But if your dog eats grass then vomits for several days in a row, take him to the vet for a thorough examination and to be tested for intestinal parasites such as roundworms or for more serious conditions like the canine parvovirus (CPV) or kidney disease.
Article by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the bestselling author of seven novels, one work of non-fiction, two volumes of poetry, and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her adopted Maltese, Mini, and has been writing as a volunteer for animal rescue groups in Canada and the U.S.A. since 2013.