Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Mar 13, 2017

Dogs do a lot of strange things, but they aren't cows, so why do dogs eat grass?

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Let's face it; dogs behave pretty oddly sometimes. They empty the trash while you're out. They sit on your feet. They lick the couch. They bark at plastic bags when you take them for a walk.

As odd as they can be, it's especially interesting to figure out why your dog eats her greens. Why do dogs eat grass one day, yet refuse to eat that expensive dog food the next? Is it the next big thing in the evolution of the local food movement?

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Why do dogs eat grass and should you worry when they do?

There are a lot of urban myths around dogs and eating grass. They're sick, they need to vomit, something is missing in their diet—you've heard them all.

If you have a dog, you already know they eat some pretty gross stuff. (If you don't have a dog, we'll spare you the details until later.) But according to PetMD, dogs are scavengers and will eat whatever they can find to fulfill their nutritional needs. 

Dr. Kathryn Primm of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee, debunks most of these myths in a recent article for iheartdogs.com. The biggest myth she addresses is that dogs eat grass because they are ill and need to vomit. However, "only 8% of plant-eating dogs showed signs of illness prior to the grass eating and 22% vomited after eating grass. The dogs that seemed sick prior to the grass ingestion were the ones most likely to vomit after."

She concludes by pointing out that "you can rest assured that grass eating is a common behavior of normal, healthy dogs." 

Another study by Drs. Samantha J. McKenzie, Wendy Y. Brown, and Ian R. Price backs up Dr. Primm's claim. They write in Applied Animal Behaviour Science that "dogs do not use grass to self-medicate a diarrheal gastrointestinal disturbance." Nor do they "use grass as an emetic, as there were only two vomiting events and 374 grass-eating events observed." 

This doesn't mean all grass-eating behavior is normal, though. Writing in Modern Dog, Dr. Michael Goldberg, DVM, points out that a dog showing signs of irritation, followed by binge eating grass, may have "gastric reflux or inflammatory bowel disease. If your dog looks as if he or she is irritated and extends the neck and begins repeated swallowing motions, it may be time to visit your veterinarian to check out what might be happening." 

Dr. Mike Paul, DVM, is of the opinion that, while it's possible your dog may eat grass to supplement a dietary deficiency, it's most likely because "they like the taste and texture—much like many people eat celery or lettuce." It's an understandable theory. After all, who among us doesn't love a good salad?

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Why do dogs eat grass: what you should worry about

The evidence points to the fact that eating grass is an absolutely normal dog behavior in most cases. But all grass is not created equal. To put it more accurately, not all grass is treated equally.

While it's fine for your dog to eat grass on occasion, keep an eye on where your dog is eating grass. That beautifully trimmed, perfectly green lawn down the street could be the result of chemical lawn treatments. The chance of your dog ingesting enough chemicals from that grass to make itself sick is minimal. But why take the chance? Especially when there's a lovely patch of grass at the park two blocks away.

Here's another reason you may not want your dog eating just any old grass: poop. (Non-dog owners may want to skip this part.)

It's just a fact of dog life; dogs eat poop. Just when you think they're dining on fresh sprouts, you see the lips pull back so they can get their teeth right to that delectable deposit and scoop it up. Cat poop, rabbit poop, deer poop—it doesn't seem to matter to even the most distinguishing of canines.

Clearly, animal droppings are a delightful delicacy to our furry friends. Despite the fact that it's pretty off-putting, there isn't necessarily any harm in eating feces, according to certified dog trainer Jacque Lynn Schultz.  

The problem arises when your dog feasts in the cat's litter box then comes to lick your face (yuck!). While it's not common to get a virus from a big, wet dog kiss, your dog can contract and transmit parasites like roundworm and giardia.  

So should you let your dog eat grass? Under most circumstances, it's a perfectly normal and harmless behavior. Just make sure there's nothing "extra" in the grass.

You can't always keep your dog from getting sick, but you can take the pain out of the vet bill with pet insurance. Contact your local Pekin Insurance agent today to learn more about pet insurance and get your pets the coverage they need.

Does your dog eat grass? Share your stories in the comments below.
    

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