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Have you ever noticed your dog chowing down on grass while you’re out on a walk or hanging out together in your backyard? Although it’s a common dog behavior and certainly not the worst thing a dog could eat outdoors, it can still be strange to see your pup doing this, especially if you feed your pet high-quality food and treats. So, why do dogs eat grass in the first place? It turns out that there are a handful of causes behind your pup’s desire to munch on some greenery, including boredom, anxiety, digestive issues and the lack of fiber in their diet.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? 4 Possible Reasons
A common reason a dog might eat grass is simply because he’s bored or anxious. When dogs are outside, grass is usually readily available, and eating it is a way to pass the time. Some dogs may even learn to like the taste and texture! To curb your dog’s grass-eating habits, try redirecting your pet’s behavior with some boredom-busting toys, like this classic rubber Kong toy or this Outward Hound puzzle toy, or give him more physical exercise or playtime if your schedule allows.
Eating grass can also be an anxious habit that dogs do to relieve stress. Some experts compare grass-eating to humans biting their nails or twirling their hair. Anxiety in dogs can be caused by a variety of things, including separation anxiety, fear of new people and loud noises, among other triggers. It’s important to figure out the source of your pet’s anxiety. Then, with the help of your vet, you can come up with a treatment plan that may include medication, supplements, alternative therapies and/or behavior modification.
If your dog is frantically eating grass or consuming a lot of it, he could have a digestive issue he’s trying to soothe. For instance, having an empty stomach first thing in the morning can be uncomfortable for dogs because of the built-up bile in their digestive tract. Eating grass and vomiting yellow foam is a way to help ease this discomfort. (Tip: If this is a common occurrence for your pet, try feeding him as soon as he wakes up to see if that cuts down on the grass eating and throwing up.)
Keep in mind if you catch your dog eating your lawn in large amounts, it’s a good idea to monitor him for any signs of physical distress or nausea, including things like drooling, lip licking, lethargy, diarrhea or continuous vomiting. These could be symptoms of an underlying illness or disease and may require a trip to the vet.
Like people, dogs need fiber in their diets for optimal digestion, and they may not always get enough from processed kibble and treats or canned food. So, dogs might snack on grass to help supplement their diet with more roughage. A 2007 study found that dogs were more likely to eat grass before meals. There’s also evidence that wild dogs, like coyotes and wolves, also eat grass, especially when prey is scarce. So, while dogs are not technically omnivores, eating plants may be a natural and instinctive behavior for them.
If you’d like to help increase your pet’s fiber intake beyond grass, there are some fresh fruits and vegetables that are safe for dogs to eat that can also help with their fiber needs. These include bananas, blueberries, carrots and green beans. Not every fruit or veggie is safe for pets to consume, however, so make sure to check whether a table food is OK to feed before allowing your pup to snack on it. Some foods, like grapes, onions and avocados, can potentially be toxic for dogs to eat.
Is It Safe to Let Your Dog Eat Grass Occasionally?
A dog snacking on grass, especially if it’s just occasionally, isn’t usually a cause for alarm. However, there are some circumstances when it can potentially be dangerous. For instance, lawns that have been treated with pesticide or weed killers (herbicides) can be a major hazard, as these chemicals can cause serious complications and even seizures and death. If you’re not sure if or when your neighbors or the local park treated their grass, look for symptoms like shaking, drooling, digestive upset or breathing problems, and take your dog to the vet or an animal hospital immediately if you observe any of these signs.
While eating grass is a common behavior for dogs, if you have any concerns about your pup chomping on greenery, make sure to speak to your vet about your pup’s outdoor snacking habits.
Want to learn more about why your pet does other odd things, like butt scooting and running in circles, and what those behaviors mean? Read more about other common behaviors dogs are known for.