Why Would A Dog Eat Grass?
Does your dog eat grass? Like many other confused dog owners, you're not alone! There are both physical and psychological reasons that your dog may be eating grass. So why would a dog eat grass?
Why would a dog eat grass in the first place?
The most common answer to this question is pica (pic what?). Yes, pica. Pica is a disorder that makes people or animals want to eat things that aren't food. While pica is sometimes a psychological disorder, it is often caused by a nutritional deficiency. A diet deficiency may be due to vitamins, nutrients or minerals that are absent from daily intake.
Evolutionally, dogs may have eaten grass as it is high in fiber and helps pass stools and with other bodily functions. Dogs need roughage in their diets to help digest food and grass is a great source of fiber. One published study reported on a miniature poodle that ate grass everyday for seven years. Three days after putting the dog on a high fiber diet, the owner reported that the dog stopped eating grass entirely. Could this mean my dog has a diet deficiency too?
If you dog has a balanced diet, eating grass may not be related to a deficiency at all, rather an instinct. A dogs digestive system has evolved over time to a domesticated lifestyle and doesn't necessarily need grass to function. While dogs in the wild weren't getting their primary source of nutrients from grass, eating an entire animal provided an optimal diet, especially if the diet consisted of various plants.
Dogs in the wild consume anything that helps them fill their basic dietary needs. Learning from modern day wolves, examining stool samples indicated that 14-47% of wolves eat grass. Modern dogs don't have to hunt for food, but that doesn't mean they don't retain their natural instinct to scavenge. A dog may even love their commercial dog food but feel the need to eat grass due to their ancestry. This doesn't mean they don't enjoy the taste and texture of grass from time to time. Dogs love to eat grass in the spring when it is newly emerging.
What is my dog thinking?
Psychologically, dogs will often eat grass due to boredom or anxiety. Your pet could be bored of running around outside and need something to do. If your dog seems bored, increase the length, distance or intensity of walks to alleviate some of their boredom and anxiety. A mentally stimulating puzzle dog toy may be an even better option to relieve boredom. For dogs that have separation anxiety, leave something with your scent on it close by. Your dog may find a familiar scent comforting.
Dogs crave attention and may even be eating grass if they feel neglected. Eating grass may be comforting to them, just like eating a pale of ice cream when we're upset is comforting to us (..okay maybe not a pale, but you get the idea).
Is eating grass bad for dogs?
Although grass may seem harmless, its not the best snack for your pet. While the grass itself may not be harmful, it is often sprayed with herbicides and pesticides that are toxic to animals. Your dog may also ingest intestinal parasites such as hookworms or roundworms that contaminate the grass in fecal residue from other dogs. If you notice your dog eating grass excessively, they may be trying to self treat an underlying illness. You should see your veterinarian if this is the case. Dogs can suffer from a number of gastrointestinal issues like gastric reflux, inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatitis. Symptoms such as lack of appetite, diarrhea, constipation or decreased energy may indicate an underlying health issue.
How to stop my dog from eating grass
The best way to get your dog to stop eating grass is to train them in exchange for a better option. That means you should bring treats with you on walks. Anytime they start to nibble grass, distract them by directing them in another direction. If they comply, give them a treat!. Some dogs may be driven by affection instead of treats and can often be taught not to eat grass by substituting treats with positive verbal reinforcement and lots of pets.