As a dog owner, you may have noticed that now and again your dog resorts to eating grass, occasionally vomiting after they have done so. But why do dogs eat grass?
Contrary to popular opinion, dogs are rarely sick after eating grass – it’s just a cliché that we believe in. More often than not, they are simply reacting to something they may have eaten prior, although there is evidence that many dogs resort to grass eating as a form of self-medication, whether out of habit or instinct.
So, what is the point of eating grass?
In essence, grass comes under the category of ‘ruffage’, and while most dogs get all the dietary fibre they need through the diet they are provided with, this fails to prevent the evolutionary urge to eat grass to aid digestion. It is also important to recognise that not all dog foods are equal, and that low-quality brands may fail to provide your dog with the necessary vitamins and nutrients they need. Eating grass, therefore, may be a sign that you need to check the nutrient content of their food.
In the wild, almost half of all wolves in the wild still continue to eat grass to counterbalance the mainly carnivorous diet that they have access to, and so it makes sense that domesticated dogs feel the same way.
Of course, as with humans, dogs will often repeat behaviours such as grass eating when dealing with physical ailments that may not be immediately obvious. These conditions can include pancreatitis, IBS and other gastro-intestinal problems and so if you see your dog looking under the weather and they keep attempting to eat grass in between meals, contact your local vet.
Interestingly, similar to many other animals, dogs can develop behaviours such as grass eating to help them deal with anxiety, such as when they are separated from their owner. While this may not be a harmful behaviour normally, its use as a comfort mechanism may cause them to ingest fertilisers or other chemicals that have been sprayed on the grass.
As strange as it sounds, however, there doesn’t have to be a huge explanation behind the phenomena of grass eating - many dogs may simply enjoy the taste and texture, favouring certain kinds of grass over others.
Should I allow them to continue eating grass?
Whilst your dog is at home, eating grass shouldn’t be too much of an issue as you can verify that the grass they are eating is free from chemicals and other worrying substances. Unfortunately, by allowing them to do this at home, increases the likelihood that they will do it when they are not at home.
Grass that you are unfamiliar with can contain numerous pesticides, fertilisers, parasites, as well as faecal residue from other animals, all of which could potentially harm your dog’s health.
To prevent this behaviour, it’s a great idea to take distracting toys or treat with you on a walk, ensuring that whenever they look like they are considering eating grass, you can re-focus their attention on a more health pursuit while also providing them with attention and positive reinforcement.
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