Side Salad: Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

dogs eat grassIt’s a question we get a lot: “Why do dogs eat grass?” As a dog owner, you’ve probably witnessed your curious canine munching on a verdant patch of grass or have seen the aftermath: a pile of puppy puke with grass bits. This greenery chewing habit is such a common occurrence that the team at AIMSS wants to address why your dog may love the “lawn lettuce” and what you can do about it.

The Mystery of Why Dogs Eat Grass

Dogs are natural scavengers – omnivores who graze and feast on just about anything in their path (which is why this chow-down behavior sometimes puts them at risk). From eating poop to various plants and shrubs, dogs don’t have what most of us would call a discerning palate.

In the case of grass, it’s still a bit of a mystery why they like it or feel that they need it. This is because dogs lack the enzymes to digest grass, which means it ends up in the stool or back out the proverbial hatch through vomitus.

As you might expect, this behavior has been the subject of countless studies. A more recent one (2008) conducted by Karen Sueda at the University of California, Davis set out to test some of the hypotheses and more popular anecdotes regarding why dogs eat grass. These include:

  • The dog is trying to make him/herself vomit.
  • The dog is suffering from a nutritional deficiency (or missing fiber in his/her diet).
  • The dog is ill.
  • The dog has internal parasites.

Unfortunately, the mystery remains, as each of these hypotheses were inconclusive. One of the more interesting yet hard-to-prove theories is that the wolf (the evolutionary predecessor of the dog) feasts on grass eating animals; therefore, canines are attracted to the grass taste (yes, this one’s a bit of a stretch and hard to prove true or false).

Since so many dogs display a penchant for grass nibbling (with our without subsequent vomiting), it would seem this appetite for turf could be chalked up to the fact that they do it simply because they like it and they can.

When is There Cause for Concern?

Despite the jury still being out on why dogs eat grass, it’s always a good idea to have your pup examined if he or she has taken a sudden interest in (or has always consumed) grass. As a rule, the occasional forage through your lawn shouldn’t signal a problem, but assessing your pet’s diet and ruling out any underlying health issues provides you with peace of mind.

If your dog is prone to eating grass, you should also be careful to avoid chemically treated lawns and unknown plants, shrubs, and trees, as some can be highly toxic to animals.

Compulsive grass eating can also indicate anxiety or another behavioral issue that needs to be addressed by your veterinarian.

If your chow hound has taken an interest in the green stuff, please feel free to call us for more information.