You may have noticed dogs or puppies eating grass occasionally. Whether in the backyard, on a walk, or hanging around the dog park, most dogs take a nibble at least sometimes. That leads concerned dog owners to wonder about its safety. Does eating grass make your dog sick? Today we’ll help you find the answer to that.
First, why do dogs eat grass? Is it normal?
This question has no clear answer and is still up for debate among some behaviorists. In the wild, dogs and their ancestors ate both meat and plant materials such as grass, which came from eating the stomach contents of their prey. The added nutrients from this addition to their diet made this a normal and healthy part of canine behavior. Other theories on why dogs eat grass include the theory that some dogs are bored and eat grass for entertainment, or that their bodies benefit from the fiber present in the plant material. (For more information, go to Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?)
Does grass have nutritional value for dogs?
Dogs are primarily carnivores (meat-eaters), but in some cases they can also survive on a well-balanced and carefully planned vegetarian diet. Cats, on the other hand, may die without animal protein. Like all living creatures, dogs need a combination of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water in a balanced diet that provides enough calories to meet their daily needs. Plant material such as grass could include beneficial nutrients and dietary components that supplement their existing diet.
Some veterinarians believe that dogs eat grass because their prepared diets are lacking in greens; the grass then functions as a sort of “do it yourself” vitamin. One piece of evidence that supports this contention is the fact that dogs sometimes seek out a particular variety of grass to nibble.
Could eating grass make my dog sick?
The first thing that many dog lovers want to know is whether eating grass is harmful to their pet. The answer is generally “no”; eating fresh, clean grass is usually not dangerous.
However, individual cases vary, and grass can irritate the stomachs of some dogs. It is estimated that 25% of dogs will vomit after eating grass. Some scientists have theorized that eating grass is a way dogs can self-medicate, meaning make themselves vomit if they have an upset stomach. However, recent evidence has led many researchers to think that this is not the case.
There is one exception to the general rule that grass is safe, and that exception is when the grass is treated with toxic chemicals, pesticides, or fertilizers. This is why it is crucial to follow all instructions and not allow your dog access to treated yards per the chemical or fertilizer manufacturer. If you believe that your dog has eaten grass that contains any toxins, please alert your vet and look at the packaging for information regarding toxins. Follow all package instructions regarding accidental ingestions and seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible. Most product packages will tell you the chemical ingredients and recommendations in the case of accidental exposure. For more information, go to Lawn and Garden Hazards in Dogs.
In general, most veterinarians believe that dogs eat grass because they like it and it is not harmful.
What happens if my dog eats grass?
Most dogs that eat grass will digest it just as humans would digest a salad. Nothing notable or adverse happens to most dogs. A small percentage of dogs don’t digest grass well, and you’ll see the grass in their feces. In addition, approximately 25% of dogs will have gastric irritation after eating grass and may vomit.
What should I do if my dog eats grass?
No matter what the reason, your dog’s “grass” habit is normal behavior and you need not be concerned about it. However, if your dog frequently vomits after eating grass, you may want to limit your dog’s access to it. You can do this by leashing your dog during walks and training them not to eat grass. While leash walking your dog, offer treats or affection when he is not eating grass and gently but firmly keep moving if they stop to try to eat the greenery.
Make sure your lawn is safe and only use pet-safe products in and around your home. If you use products that may be toxic, keep your dog away for the period of time recommended by the manufacturer. In some case, you may need to wait until after a good rain. Even after this, I recommend that you clean and dry your dog’s paws after being outside to prevent the ingestion of any toxins that may be tracked in and licked up. If you take your dog to the dog park, monitor your dog for signs of recent chemical exposure. Most chemical companies will display small flags on the edge of parks or lawns that have been recently treated, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Another option is to grow your own little bits of grass just for your dog. Some dog owners keep a few planters of grass just for their pets in a method very similar to the grass that cat owners grow for their feline friends. For more information, read our article on how to “grow grass.”
I hope this article helps you understand more about eating grass and whether it can make your dog sick.