It’s a common sight for most dog-owners—Fido chowing down on the nearest clump of grass, happy as a pig in mud. While it may be an alarming sight, watching your pup destroy and digest your lawn, dogs eating grass is quite common (it has even been observed in wild dogs!) and most veterinarians consider it perfectly normal dog behaviour. In fact, grass is the most commonly eaten plant by dogs. While dogs cannot digest grass (they lack the enzymes necessary to break down the fibres) and there is little nutritional value in it for them, there are a few reasons why they could crave a good graze.
Different dogs eat grass for different reasons and while experts are not 100% sure why this behaviour occurs, they do all agree that there’s not one clear cut answer—by understanding your dog, you can understand their unique reasons and address the grass-eating if necessary.
Some folks believe that dogs may turn to grass as a snack when they feel nauseated, gassy or bloated to induce vomiting and make themselves feel better temporarily. This self-medication method is more likely the reason for your dog’s grass-eating if it comes on suddenly and your dog seems to be frantic to get outside and to the closet patch of grass, often extending his neck, licking his lips and making gulping motions before vomiting.
However, many dog-owners and experts dispute the idea of using grass as a purgative on the basis that dogs may not be smart enough to understand the cause and effect of stomach upset and grass. Additionally, as stomach distress and vomiting can be a sign of something more serious (like gastric reflux, IBS) do consult a veterinarian if vomiting occurs often. (click through to: how do you know your dog has a stomach ache, how to settle a dog’s upset stomach & home remedies for an upset stomach)
It has been hypothesized that some dogs retained an attraction to grass from their wild ancestors—wolves. Wolves would eat grasses to clear large intestinal parasites and worms from their stomachs. The roughage from the grass increases movement in the intestine and helps to carry out the worms. Domestic dogs—even ones that are parasite-free, may have inherited this evolutionary grass-eating habit. (connect through to: intestinal worm article)
While grass has little to no nutritional value for dogs, the fact that it’s his new favourite snack may be saying something about his diet. If your dog is feasting on a lot of grass, he could be seeking out certain nutrients that his diet is meeting. As grass contains high levels of roughage and fibre, phytonutrients, chlorophyll and potassium, you could consider switching him over to a high-fibre diet. Also, adding probiotics and digestive enzymes to their diet could help your pup process food more successfully while fortifying the beneficial bacteria in their gut.
Like many behavioural ‘problems’, lack of exercise and stimulation could explain your dog’s grass habit. If he is left alone in the backyard for long period of time, eating grass could be seen as a fun way to pass the time and keep busy. To keep his chompers off your lawn, ensure that your dog has an ample supply of chew toys and that you have a sufficient exercise schedule. (connect to: Tired dog is a good dog)
Sometimes the only answer is: because your dog wants to! It’s completely possible that your dog, a natural scavenger, genuinely enjoys sniffing out delicious crabgrass and relishes both the taste and texture. Simply put, your dog eats grass because he loves it! In this case, it’s important to know that you do NOT have to prevent your dog from eating grass unless it is treated or there are pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals present.
On that note, while most experts agree that grazing is not harmful, always be aware that there are other common household and garden plants that can be toxic. Check out the ASPCAs list of toxic and non-toxic plants here: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
You can do your part to protect your pup by only using non-toxic products on your own lawn and keeping an eye out for signs informing you of any chemicals in public spaces.