Do you ever wonder why your dog eats grass? It's a pretty odd habit, after all. Some people assume that dogs eat grass because they're hungry and it's a way to satisfy their cravings or that they have an upset stomach and the grass stops nausea. However, this isn't always the case. There are several reasons why a dog eats grass, some of which are actually quite surprising. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the most common reasons why dogs eat grass and what it means for their health.

A retriever chews on grass.

Why do dogs eat grass?

It turns out that more than 80% of dogs will eat a little bit of grass sometimes. Researchers are still unsure why they do this. Still, a few theories range from ill-health to nutritional deficiency. Here are some of the potential reasons why some canines chow down on grass.

It's an instinctual behavior.

Many pup parents are surprised when they see their dog eat grass, but it's not all that uncommon. In fact, there is plenty of evidence suggesting dogs eat plants more than you think.

Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years. Today's dogs have digestive systems optimized to fit a domesticated pet lifestyle. Modern dogs have specialized dry and wet foods neatly packaged in cans and sealed bags. However, our dogs' ancestors' diet was dominated by small wild animals who lived on vegetation like plants and grass. So when a wolf or wild dog fed on a rabbit or mouse, they ate the whole carcass, including any grass or other plants within the rabbit's digestive system. In this way, dogs can't be classified as true carnivores or omnivores, but a bit of both.

When your dog eats grass, she may be acting upon an instinctual carryover from her wild dog and wolf ancestors. Applied animal behavior science studies of wolves have found that between 11 - 47% of wolves' stool content includes grass. The modern dog no longer has to hunt for her food, but that doesn't mean she may not fall back upon ancient scavenging instincts and grab a mouthful of grass now and again.

A black dog eats grass.

They have parasitic worms.

Canine ancestors may have ingested grass as a means to rid themselves of worms and the stomach discomfort that those parasites can cause. Though there is no research on dogs, some wolf studies have revealed parasites wrapped around blades of grass in their scat, meaning the wolves eat grass for a purpose. The plant material passes through their intestines where fibrous matter while causing intestinal contractions, wraps around any worms or nematodes infecting them. The worms and fibrous matter are then purged from the body.

Usually, our domesticated pups are dewormed when they are young. Still, on some occasions when a dog may have parasites and eating grass is an instinctual response to their condition. Researchers also propose that some dogs eat grass because they still have that hereditary need to do so, even if they do not have parasitic infections.

If you suspect your dog has worms, look for these symptoms:

  • worms in the stool
  • development of a pot belly
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • lethargy

Take your dog to a veterinarian for an examination, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment of any parasites she has.

A terrier dog eats blades of grass.

They enjoy the taste.

Grass is an unappealing food to humans, but that's not the case with some of our canine friends. Many dogs eat vegetation because they genuinely enjoy the way the grass tastes. Some dogs love the texture of green, tender, young blades, while others want thicker crabgrasses with a sweet taste.

It's also possible that dogs consume grass because it's so different from their everyday dog food. Maybe a need for some variety drives some pups to ingest grass. There is also the possibility that the instinctual need to scavenge for food is too great. The grass is readily available for dogs needing a snack when outside.

Some researchers in the veterinary medical science community think that dogs like the taste of grass because the vegetation is part of a high fiber diet. Try to add fiber to your dog's diet and see if that slows down or stops her grass eating.

They are suffering from anxiety.

When you see your dog eat vegetation, it may not just be because they are hungry. Eating grass or the green leaves of plants may indicate a dog is experiencing anxiety. A nervous dog around people or other dogs may turn to eating grass to express their stress and discomfort or as a comfort mechanism. This action can be compared to people who pick at or bite their nails when nervous or anxious. Observe your pup's body language carefully when she eats grass, as she may be attempting to satisfy a psychological need.

A puppy chews some grass.

They have an upset stomach.

Have you ever watched your dog eat grass only to see her vomit afterward? One of the most common theories for why our pups are eating grass and vomiting is that they have an upset tummy and try to ease that discomfort. Some canine experts believe that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting, emptying the stomach, potentially making the dog feel better. The act of throwing up may help soothe a dog's digestive tract. Dogs with gastrointestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, may be more frequently disposed to consume grass due to their digestive system issues.

This idea may also be tied to canine evolution. Wild dogs and wolves may have resorted to eating grass when they felt nauseous. The grass most likely irritated their stomach lining even further, prompting them to throw up the grass and other stomach contents. This instinct to self-medicate may be passed down to our modern dogs, which would explain their desire to chew on grass. Of course, the eternal question remains: do dogs throw up because they have eaten grass, or do they eat vegetation to calm down an upset belly?

They're bored.

Much like a child, our dogs will find something to do if they feel bored or lack mental stimulation. Eating grass might just be one method they use to pass the time, especially if their pet parent is inside the home or is not giving the dog attention. Some dogs may eat grass simply because it does provoke a reaction in their owner, which provides them with their owner's attention. Snacking on grass is perhaps just a way of entertaining themselves and alleviating boredom when nothing else is going on.

A mixed breed dog eats grass blades.

Should you be concerned about your dog eating grass?

Eating grass could indicate that your pup is trying to quell an upset stomach, and some dogs throw up soon after eating it. However, studies show that less than 25% of canines vomit after ingesting grass. Only 10% show signs of illness before consuming grass. Therefore, it's unlikely that grass harms dogs.

However, suppose your dog is eating grass excessively. In that case, that could be dangerous due to the potential ingestion of pesticides and other chemicals applied to a backyard lawn. It is also possible for dogs to consume grass blades with traces of animal stool that may have internal parasites.

If you want to break your dog's grass-eating habits, use treats on your outdoor exercise to entice your pup away from the grass. Positive verbal reinforcement is another proven method that can discourage your dog from eating grass.

If you have concerns about your dog eating grass or any accompanying unusual behavior, contact your veterinarian for advice and a physical examination for your canine companion.

A Labrador retriever and her puppy lounge in the grass.

Keep your dog safe with pet insurance.

We love our pups, but they can definitely keep us on our toes. Many pup parents have already experienced a pet emergency. Sadly, many end up choosing between paying for their dog's treatment or paying for family necessities. If your dog were to eat grass and become ill, and you took her to the vet only to find she has a major medical condition, would you be able to afford your dog's care? Honor your love for your dog by purchasing a pet insurance plan, so you will never have to choose between your dog and your finances.

Pet Insurance Review isn't a pet insurance provider, but we find you the best deals providers offer on health insurance. Simply fill out your dog's information and get a free quote today.

References:

1. Bosch, G., Hagen-Plantinga, E., Hendricks, W. (2015). Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: insights for optimal dog nutrition? Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25415597/

2. Hart, B. (2008). Why do dogs and cats eat grass? Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288656215_Why_do_dogs_and_cats_eat_grass

3. Ochoa, S. (2020). Why Does my Dog Eat Grass? Retrieved from https://sitstay.com/blogs/good-dog-blog/why-does-my-dog-eat-grass

4. Yarlagadda, T. (2022). Why do dogs eat grass and poop? Pet experts explain this weird behavior. Retrieved from https://www.inverse.com/science/why-dogs-eat-grass-poop

5. Weir, M., Buzhardt, L. (2022). Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-do-dogs-eat-grass