Your beloved canine companion clearly isn’t a cow, so you might be confused
when you see him eating grass. You might even be worried. Is he hungry? Bored?
Sick? Will eating grass hurt him?
First, rest assured that you’re not alone in your concern, especially if
your dog is eating grass and vomiting.
Pica is the technical term for the disorder characterized by eating things
that aren’t food. Sometimes pica indicates that your dog has some type of
nutritional deficiency, though it is often simply a sign of boredom, especially
when practiced by puppies and younger dogs.
Dogs eating grass is actually quite common (it has been observed in wild
dogs, too, and may be completely natural) and this form of pica does not
usually cause too many problems. In fact, most veterinarians consider it a
normal dog behavior. One small-scale study of 49 dog owners whose dogs had
regular access to grass and other plants found that 79% of the dogs had eaten
plants at some time. Another survey about plant-eating dogs found that grass
was the most commonly eaten plant.
There are a variety of reasons your dog might be grazing on your lawn.
Some people propose that dogs might turn to eating grass when they don’t
feel well as a way to make themselves vomit, and then feel better. Others
dispute this idea, on the basis that dogs are not proven to be smart enough to
decide to treat an upset stomach by eating grass.
Evidence suggests that most dogs that eat grass aren’t unwell beforehand, or
at least they don’t seem so. In fact, fewer than 10% of dogs seem to be sick
before eating grass, according to their owners. And grass-eating doesn’t
usually lead to throwing up -- less than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit
regularly after grazing.
Other suggested reasons why your dog might be eating grass include improving
digestion, treating intestinal worms, or fulfilling some unmet nutritional
need, including the need for fiber. One published study reports on a miniature
poodle that ate grass and then vomited every day for seven years. Three days
after putting the dog on a high-fiber diet, the owner reported that the dog
stopped eating grass entirely. And, of course, there is also the possibility
that your dog simply likes the way grass tastes or feels.
Should I stop my dog from eating grass? If so, how?
If you suspect your dog is eating grass because he’s bored, it might be
beneficial to be sure he’s getting enough exercise. Engage him in some fun
activities. Try tossing a Frisbee or playing another interactive game with him,
or buy him a sturdy chew toy to keep him occupied.
On the chance that your dog’s pica behavior is caused by a nutritional
deficiency, switching to a better dog food, especially a high-fiber variety,
could help alleviate the problem.
Although most experts agree that grazing itself isn’t harmful, one thing to
keep in mind is that certain herbicides and pesticides used on lawns can be
quite toxic, especially if ingested. In fact, fertilizers were one of the top
10 causes of pet poisoning in 2008. Additionally, a number of common house and
garden plants are toxic, which could lead to problems if your dog munches on
them along with the lawn. To make sure the plants in and around the area where
your dog is eating grass aren’t dangerous, check the ASPCA’s Animal Poison
Control Center web site, which maintains a list of toxic and non-toxic