Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Updated on October 06, 2020
Expert Content

Have you spotted your dog eating grass in your garden?

If you’re a dog owner, there’s a good chance your canine companion has been caught munching on grass at some point.

Like most pet parents, you’ll probably find this dog behavior worrying as we usually associate it with illness.

If you’re reading this article and your dog has been eating grass, we recommend that you contact your local veterinarian immediately to seek advice.

However, for dog owners who are curious to learn about the causes of this behavior, we’ve asked eight experts to answer the question: why does my dog eat grass?

Dog owner hugs her Golden Retriever puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Dog owner hugs her Golden Retriever puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Every Veterinarian Receives This Question Daily

Dr. Shadi Ireifej DVM DACVS, chief medical officer at vettriage.com

Pet owners are naturally curious as to why dogs eat grass for several reasons. Dogs typically eat grass during times of illness. However there are some dogs that are not perceived to become ill by their owners until after they consume grass. And finally, this behavior seems to be unique to dogs as our companion cats are rarely, if ever, reported to exhibit such behavior.

Gastrointestinal motility

Peristalsis, which is the scientific term for gastrointestinal motility, is increased when foods that are considered bulky enter the gastrointestinal track.

Bulk foods can be defined as those items with poor or no digestibility.

Grass, being a fibrous plant with no dramatic nutritional value to the carnivorous dog, would act as such an agent, moving the gastrointestinal tract along and accelerating its contents at a faster rate. This is desirable if gastrointestinal disease is present for a quicker recovery.

Induce vomiting

The same way ingesting grass can speed up the digestion process, it can also aid in inducing vomiting. This is another permutation of canine self help.

The induction of vomiting in this manner not only helps remove the possible cause(s) of the gastrointestinal disease, but also is a rather controlled measure of emesis (vomiting).

Whereas administering a product to make a dog vomit can linger on beyond the desire to vomit further, ingesting grass allows the vomiting to occur during the actual ingestion and not cause prolonged self-induced vomiting.

Dietary deficiencies

Although the medical reasons why a dog may ingest grass during times of gastrointestinal diagnosis states are many, it may be an indication that your dog’s diet is deficient in fiber.

This should be looked at in conjunction with a veterinarian as complications can occur if excessive fiber is added to a diet.

Behavioral reasons

We have to acknowledge that some dogs simply enjoy it or are just curious or bored.

Eating grass is an activity they just elect to perform. A medical condition may not be the cause in such dogs as this is purely in your dog’s personality.

Discouraging the behavior may be of benefit though as dogs can be, as we all know, rather indiscriminate consumers of foreign things, which can lead to actual illness.

Causes of canine gastrointestinal disease

If your dog is seen to consume grass, see your veterinarian or contact a real-time video telemedicine company such as VetTriage. There are many different types of gastrointestinal disease in dogs and ingesting grass is only a nonspecific indication that disease may be present. Professional advice should be sought during such circumstances prior to implementing your own self-devised treatment plan.

Conclusion

It is important to note that the aforementioned reasons why dogs eat grass is based on veterinary experience and medical reasoning and not on published medical literature.

Grass ingestion in dogs should be evaluated in the context of what is occurring in your dog at the time it is occurring. If concerns of this behavior arise, always seek a veterinarian’s advice prior to taking any medical or treatment actions.

They Crave More Fiber In Their Diets

Dr. Tim Shu, CEO and Founder of Vet CBD Hemp

Many of the times why your dog is eating grass are due to the fact that they may be suffering from anxiety issues or they might just simply be bored. Just like humans tend to fidget with a pen or crack their knuckles when they feel anxiety or are bored dogs can display this emotion by eating grass.

A dog may also be eating grass because they crave more fiber in their diets. Again, just like when humans crave certain foods that’s your body’s way of telling you that you need certain vitamins and minerals. The same with dogs, they may be craving fiber, and after all, dogs are omnivores so its completely normal for them to crave certain foods.

However, if your dog is eating grass and is dealing with stomach discomfort they may be suffering from a number of GI issues that would be best for you to see a vet and find out what the root cause is.

There Is No Benefit

Dr. Gary Richter, veterinary health expert at Rover.com

A little casual grazing is normal behavior for dogs. Eating large clumps of grass can lead to vomiting and sometimes dogs do it when they have a tummy upset to begin with.

There is no benefit in allowing them to eat large clumps of grass and then vomit them up. In certain situations, pets may eat grass if they have gastrointestinal issues as well.

Alaskan Klee Kai at the park (Photo: lifewithkleekai / Instagram)

Alaskan Klee Kai at the park (Photo: lifewithkleekai / Instagram)

It May Be An Instinctive Hard-Wired Behavior

Dr. Matthew McCarthy, founder of Juniper Valley Animal Hospital

This is one I get asked a lot. There are quite a few theories why.

It may be an instinctive hard-wired behavior handed down from dogs’ wolf ancestors who would often eat the stomach and intestinal content of their grass eating prey – kinda like a natural veggie Haggis, repellent to some, but delicious to others. This also explains why a lot of dogs love horse stool as it is loaded with digested and partially digested grass/hay.

In practice, we will often see some of our doggie patients that will eat grass in order to vomit and purge their stomachs of something disagreeable such as spoiled food or parasites- there are some studies that suggest this a learned behavior in young dogs.

Finally, there is a condition called pica, in which a dog will eat most anything in its environment that is not food, including grass – such a change in your dog’s behavior may signal a nutritional, neurologic or metabolic disorder and is definite reason to contact your dog’s veterinary care team.

Only About 25% Of Dogs Actually Do Vomit After Eating Grass

Jen Jones, professional dog trainer and behavior specialist and founder of www.yourdogadvisor.com

For a long time it was thought that dogs ate grass as a way to ease an upset stomach and make themselves vomit if they didn’t feel good. However, we now know this isn’t necessarily true.

In fact, only about 25% of dogs actually do vomit after eating grass, and most who do eat grass were found to have been feeling fine beforehand.

Many experts agree that dogs who eat grass do so for different reasons that range from boredom, to improving digestion, to curiosity, or even simply because they are missing something in their overall diet.

Dining on grass from time to time is totally normal and natural for dogs, and has even been observed in wild dogs.

It is also proven harmless, though I do suggest owners try and get to the bottom of why their dogs are munching on the lawn.

To alleviate the issue, I suggest owners ensure their dogs are properly exercised and stimulated mentally. Make sure they are getting a full, balanced diet and that their bathroom habits are normal and healthy.

For any serious concerns, it is always best to visit a veterinarian.

Jack Russell Terrier eats grass (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Jack Russell Terrier eats grass (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Take A Moment To Note How You Are Feeling

Libby Brittain, Intuitive Animal Communicator & Shamanic Practicioner, www.intuitivelibby.com

Typically dogs will eat grass in an attempt to settle their stomach or to induce vomiting if they’ve eaten something that doesn’t sit well with them.

In my work as an intuitive animal communicator, I teach my clients how their animals’ behavior and even health is their way of teaching their human something about themselves.

So from this perspective we can look at ones dog eating grass to settle their stomach and ask ourselves, is there something we’ve figuratively swallowed recently that isn’t sitting well with us?

Our stomach is considered to be our power center and the source of our intuition (aka having a “gut feeling”) so in that respect if my client’s dog were eating grass I’d ask my client if they were currently questioning their intuition or feeling disempowered in some way?

The next time you notice your dog eating grass, take a moment to note how you are feeling in that moment. What were you just thinking about or doing? See if you notice a pattern.

The exact correlation obviously is unique for each person’s relationship to their dog but certainly one worth exploring. And the best part is, when you uncover the connection, and make adjustments to your own thoughts and actions, your dog will too!

Alaskan Klee Kai at the park (Photo: lifewithkleekai / Instagram)

Alaskan Klee Kai at the park (Photo: lifewithkleekai / Instagram)

Some Dogs Have A Medical Condition That Is Known As Pica

Sara Ochoa, small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas and a veterinary consultant for doglab.com

Grass eating is very common with many dogs. This is not as odd as some of the other things that dogs love to eat, such as their own feces.

The reason behind your dog eating grass may not be entirely clear, although many dogs just seem to like eating grass. For other dogs, eating grass may be a way to fill a missing nutritional need or maybe causing them to vomit to settle an upset stomach, or your dog may even be eating grass because they are bored.

Some dogs have a medical condition that is known as pica. This means that your dog will eat things that are not food. This can include anything like dirt, feces, toys, and even grass. Most vets will agree that a dog eating grass may be a normal dog behavior and that this type of pica does not cause them too much harm if any.

Dogs need fiber in their diet. Your dog may be filling this need by eating grass. A lack of fiber in your dog’s diet can prevent your dog from being able to digest food and pass stool. By eating grass, they are helping their bodies function better. If your dog shows any signs of intestinal problems, they may have a medical problem such as gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or pancreatitis. If your dog is vomiting or having diarrhea and eating grass, see your vet rule out any serious medical problem.

It is in your dog’s DNA to eat grass. Your dog ancestors did not eat food packaged in neatly sealed bags. Dogs who live in the wild would balance their diet by eating what they hunted and the grass around them. They also would eat everything of what they caught, such as the meat, bones, internal organs, and stomach contents of their prey. When they eat an entire animal, it provided them with a balanced diet. This is especially true when their prey’s stomach contained grass and plants that fulfilled the dog’s need for fiber.

Your dog may like how grass taste. This may be one of the simplest explanations of why your dog is eating grass. They may like the taste of grass. Many dogs may simply like the taste and texture of the grass in their mouths. Most dogs will eat grass more in the spring when it is newly growing and full of moisture. Usually, these dogs prefer to eat grasses that are sweet when you bite into them. Many plants that also have flowers will be sweet when your dog bites into them, causing them to really like the taste.

It could because they’re bored. Some dogs will eat grass because it will give them something to do. This will usually happen with dogs that do not get plenty of exercise. Young dogs and puppies will have an abundance of pent-up energy to burn. For a dog that is bored, eating grass may be a behavior problem and may not really be a big of an issue at all. You do not need to worry if the grass eating does not make the dog sick. Trying to correct this behavior may interfere with natural instincts and may do more harm than good.