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Why dogs eat grass

The essentials

  • Dogs don’t only eat grass when they’re sick — Your pup may be engaging in the behavior because they’re bored or anxious, or they just simply enjoy the taste of grass.
  • Dogs eating a small amount of untreated grass is safe — As long as no other symptoms are present and the grass doesn’t contain pesticides, you can let them snack safely in moderation.
  • Your dog’s vet can rule out underlying issues that could cause the grazing — Make an appointment if you’re worried your dog has a diet deficiency, or if they’re showing signs of illness.

Dogs love interacting with grass. Some roll around on it. Some dig it up. And some try to eat it.

There are many reasons why our canine companions sometimes like to engage in this cow-like behavior. In some cases, dogs may be doing it out of boredom, while others may have an upset stomach

Read on to learn all the possible factors that can be causing your pup to munch on your yard, and learn when to consult a veterinarian.

7 reasons why your dog eats grass

While strange, grazing is actually considered a “normal” dog behavior. Of course, if you’re concerned, it never hurts to make a vet appointment to rule out any underlying issues. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common reasons your dog is chomping on grass:

1. Your dog has an upset stomach

Perhaps the most popular theory as to why dogs eat grass is that they’re trying to self-induce vomiting

Consuming grass can have certain GI benefits for your pet pal. Beyond acting as an emetic in high amounts, it can also ease constipation or settle the stomach after a bout of diarrhea

2. Your dog has pica

Pica is a disorder in which dogs ingest non-canine food items. This can be the result of either a behavioral problem — like separation anxiety — or a medical condition

Your dog’s pica might also be caused by a health issue, such as a nutritional deficiency. Beyond its high fiber content, grass is rich in calcium, zinc, potassium, and other essentials your pet needs. If your dog’s diet doesn’t have enough vitamins, minerals, or nutrients, they might feel instinctively drawn to chomp on some grass.

3. Your dog has an evolutionary instinct

While domesticated canines today have different digestive systems from wild dogs, researchers believe they still have self-preservation instincts and genetically crave grass to get those extra nutrients their ancestors would get from wild game. 

Dogs are omnivores after all, which means they benefit from both animal-based and plant-based diets.

4. Your dog is bored

We all know dogs love to act out to get their owner’s attention. They may chew up their toy, an old blanket, the remote — or, if they’re outside, grass. Dogs who haven’t been properly exercised or mentally stimulated will often turn to destructive behaviors when they’re bored. In this scenario, your dog is chewing grass simply because it’s something to do.

How you react to your dog doing this plays a role in how often they’ll turn to this behavior. Rather than yelling at them to stop (which actually gives them the attention they’re craving) try providing them something safe to chew on or taking them for longer walks around the neighborhood.

5. Your dog is anxious

Dogs with anxiety engage in self-soothing behaviors to calm themselves down, like yawning or nibbling on their paws. Eating grass may be another coping mechanism for your canine pal.

To determine if anxiety is at play, monitor their body language for signs like shaking or whining. Crate training, socialization, and exercise can all help ease distress. 

6. Your dog has parasites

Dogs with parasites in their digestive tract might ingest grass as a way of flushing them out. Blades of grass that haven’t been fully digested may wrap around the parasites, making it easier for your best friend to pass them. 

That said, eating grass itself can also cause parasites in dogs (more on that below).

7. Your dog likes the taste

Some dogs enjoy the taste and texture of grass, especially when new grass is growing during spring or if it’s wet after a fresh rain. 

Dogs also have a strong sense of smell and may be enticed by the scent of a fresh patch of grass.

Keeping your lawn pet-safe

Although grass itself is relatively safe for dogs to consume in small quantities, the chemicals people sometimes add to it can lead to serious health issues. Avoid using toxic pesticides on your lawn if your pooch has full access to your yard.

Parasites like roundworms are also a concern, so be sure to pick up and dispose of any poop from your dog or visiting animals that may be contaminated with harmful organisms.

You’ll also need to keep an eye out for any dangerous plants. Foxtail grass in particular is very sharp and can puncture your pup’s paws, nose, and even lungs if they stumble on to any while grazing in the yard.

Should you stop your dog from eating grass?

If your pup is otherwise in good health (and up-to-date on vaccines and preventatives), then the occasional graze won’t hurt. But any more than that can lead to adverse reactions, including:

  • Gastrointestinal issues. Dogs who ingest too much grass are at risk for gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the GI tract that can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and canine anorexia.
  • Allergies. Grass is among the allergens that some dogs are sensitive to. Breeds considered prone to grass allergies include bulldogs, pugs, and German shepherds.
  • Intestinal blockage. Large clumps of grass can bind together in the intestines, putting dogs (especially small breeds or younger dogs) at risk of blockages and constipation.
  • Parasites. As mentioned, other animal’s fecal residues can contain intestinal parasites like hookworms or roundworms. Signs of a parasitic infection include lethargy, bloody stool, and coarse coats.
  • Poisoning. In addition to pesticides and herbicides, grass can contain other toxins from infected animals that pass through, like a mouse that ingested rodenticide and left behind a trail of droppings.

How to prevent dogs from eating grass

If you’re worried your pooch is going overboard in their grass-munching, you can take steps to curb the behavior. Dogs that work for treats may be trained to stop grass eating in exchange for something tastier. 

Any time your dog goes to nibble grass on a walk or during a potty break, redirect them to walk in another direction or offer a verbal cue and give them a treat or praise when they listen. 

If your pup is determined to graze or get into other outside items you don’t want them to (like a dead animal), you could try putting a basket muzzle on them while they’re unsupervised.

When you should consult your vet

So when is it time to call up the vet to snitch on your canine grass-grazer? If the behavior isn’t consistent, you can safely monitor them for other signs of illness.

You should contact your vet if grass-eating is new for your dog or has increased in frequency, the grass has been treated with pesticides or chemicals, or you notice symptoms that your dog is unwell, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and lethargy,

Dr. Liza Cahn

Grass isn’t exactly appetizing to us humans, so it’s natural for pet parents to be a bit freaked out when we see our furry friends chowing down on it. 

As long as your dog isn’t exhibiting other symptoms and only eating grass on occasion, you can probably just keep an eye on the behavior to make sure it doesn’t escalate. Anything more and your vet is a phone call away to answer any questions or concerns.

Frequently asked questions

Why do dogs eat grass and vomit?

Not all dogs vomit after eating grass. One theory as to why dogs engage in the behavior is that they are looking for relief from nausea or an upset stomach.

Does a dog eating grass mean anything?

There are a variety of reasons why dogs eat grass, including boredom, upset stomach, parasites, and nutritional deficiencies, among other factors.

What should I do if my dog eats grass?

Eating small amounts of grass is a normal dog behavior, so as long as your yard hasn’t been treated with pesticides and there are no other signs of illness, you can safely monitor them. If the grass has been treated or you notice your dog exhibiting symptoms like vomiting or lethargy, seek veterinary care as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis of your pet.

What is my dog lacking when it eats grass?

Dogs who eat grass because of a nutritional deficiency are commonly lacking fiber. This can be made up with dietary supplements or high-fiber foods like pumpkin and broccoli.

Should I let my dog eat grass if his stomach is upset?

Pet owners should get medical advice from their vet regarding their pup’s upset stomach rather than encouraging them to eat grass.