Most owners catch their dogs eating grass at some point in their lives. It seems an odd thing for a carnivore to do! But is eating grass bad for dogs? Or can you safely ignore it?
Dogs could eat grass because they’re bored, hungry, or just because they like the taste. Grass eating isn’t necessarily bad for dogs. But, pesticides and parasites in grass can cause problems, as can certain common toxic plants.
- Can dogs digest grass?
- Does grass make dogs throw up?
- Why do dogs eat grass?
- Is grass bad for dogs?
- How to stop your dog eating grass
Can Dogs Digest Grass?
Your dog’s digestive system is perfectly adapted for processing meat. Grass and herbivorous plants contain tough plant fibres, and dogs lack the ability to break those down. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that eating grass is bad for them. The main problem with eating grass and leaves is that the dog can’t extract the nutrients contained within them.
Does Grass Make Dogs Throw Up?
If your dog has thrown up after eating grass, you might think that dogs throw up because they are unable to digest it. However, not all dogs are sick after eating grass. In fact, one study found that only 22% of owners surveyed had dogs that were regularly sick after eating grass. This same study also found that dogs who showed signs of illness before eating grass were more likely to vomit after eating it.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass And Throw Up?
Some dogs do throw up after eating grass. But, this doesn’t mean that grass is toxic to dogs. Its more likely that grass is irritating to the dog’s stomach, and that causes the dog to vomit.
It’s worth considering that pesticides sprayed on grass and weeds can make dogs sick, as can certain bugs and parasites in grass. Plus, there are some toxic plants that are common in fields and yards that could cause your dog to be sick.
Some dogs might be sick after eating grass because they are unaccustomed to it. But, another potential cause is that there is an underlying health issue causing your dog to be sick. If your dog eats grass and throws up, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet for a check up. It’s important to identify the cause to ensure you can eliminate whatever is causing your dog to be sick.
If you’ve tested their health and checked there are no toxic plants or pesticides on the ground but your dog is still throwing up, it may be best to prevent him from accessing the grass that he keeps eating.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Not knowing why dogs eat grass can be a worry for dog owners. Especially if it seems like it’s making your dog sick. Do dogs eat grass because of nutritional deficiencies, or is the actual reason more harmless? Let’s take a look at some possible causes, and some suggestions that have been disproven.
If your dog is eating grass only occasionally, it could be because of boredom. Some dogs won’t pay any attention to grass or plants if they are busy playing, exercising, or training. So, one solution to eating grass could be to keep your dog busy. But, if your dog is pausing exercise, training, or playing sessions to eat, there could be another reason.
Several studies have looked into why dogs eat grass. One found that the behavior was common among all puppies studied, but that more grass was eaten when dogs were hungry. It found that puppies were most likely to eat grass before they were given any other food. Or, a long time after they had last eaten.
If your dog is eating a lot of grass, you should check with your vet that they are getting enough to eat. Alternatively, if your dog is eating grass only in the morning before breakfast, you can try not to let your dog have access to the grass for too long before he’s eaten. Take him out to the toilet, and bring him straight back in to eat.
Fits Naturally in their Diet
Other studies have tackled this issue by looking closer at natural dog diets. One suggests that undomesticated dogs have an omnivorous diet, like humans. This means they eat a wide variety of things, including meat and plants. The instinct to eat plant matter could similarly be found in domestic dogs.
Another potential reason dogs eat grass could simply be because they like the taste. After all, dogs like the taste of lots of things we don’t… including their own poop! So, it would make sense that they keep going back to grass because they enjoy the taste of it.
One study looked at the grass eating habits of puppies who saw their mother eating grass. It found that puppies with mothers that ate more grass around them were more likely to eat more grass too. This suggests that grass eating could be a learned behavior. Now, let’s look at a couple of theories that have been proven wrong.
One suggested explanation that has been widely discounted is that dogs eat grass because of a nutritional deficiency. Many studies have compared different groups of dogs and eating grass. One found that a dog’s diet had no impact on grass eating. This included those eating less fiber.
So, there is no evidence that dogs eat grass because there is something wrong with part of their diet. If you are at all concerned that your dog isn’t getting all the nutrients he needs, speak to your vet.
Another popular theory is that dogs eat grass to self medicate – specifically, to make themselves sick or get more fiber. But, this is another theory that has been widely disproved. Many dogs with no health issues eat grass. And many have no issues like vomiting after eating grass.
One study compared dogs with a standard diet and dogs with a supplemented diet designed to cause loose stools. Those with the supplemented diet were no more likely to eat grass than dogs with the standard diet. This suggests that dogs don’t naturally use fibrous grass to self-medicate. However, if you are ever worried about your dog’s health, take them to the vet. Do not just leave them in the hopes of self medication.
Is Grass Bad for Dogs?
Generally, grass itself is safe for dogs to occasionally eat, as long as they are getting all the nutrients they need from their main diet. But, there are things in and on grass that can harm our dogs.
Pesticides and Parasites
Pesticides are substances used to control weeds and pests that damage plants. But, these sprays and substances are quite often harmful to our pets too, especially if they are ingested. Whilst you may not use any pesticides at home, you won’t know whether there is anything on grass outside of the home. And, even in your own yard it will be hard to control the parasites in the grass and plants.
There are lots of common plants that are actually toxic and harmful to our pets. So, if your dog is sick or showing signs of being unwell after eating grass, check if there are any harmful plants in your yard. The best place to do this is the ASPCA website. There is a full list of plants that are toxic to dogs.
If you find any of these in your yard, remove them. And try to avoid areas outside the home if you know there are any toxic plants there. If you know your dog has eaten a toxic plant, call your vet straight away.
Because eating grass itself is generally safe for dogs, if your dog is sick after eating grass you should check with the vet that your pup has no other health issues. Vomiting is a symptom for many other health problems. But, your vet will be able to analyse and check your dog for other symptoms to narrow down the possibilities.
How to Stop Your Dog Eating Grass
Although many reasons why dogs eat grass are harmless, some dogs are sick after eating it. If this is the case for your dog, you may want to stop them from eating it. You can do this by identifying the cause of grass eating.
If your dog is eating grass because he is bored – try to play interactive games with him, or exercise him more. If he is eating grass because he is hungry, speak to your vet about increasing the amount of food you give him, or restrict his access to grass until he has eaten in the morning.
Preventing access to grass is a good way to ensure your dog isn’t eating it excessively. You can also try to distract him from eating grass with toys or other treats.
Readers Also Liked
- Biking With Dogs
- Do Midges Bite Dogs?
- Can Dogs Eat Carrot Cake?
- Why Do Dogs Run Away And How To Stop Them
- My Dog Won’t Fetch
- Can Dogs Eat Graham Crackers?
- Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
References and Resources
- Rediger, A. ‘Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?’, Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital (Accessed, 2020)
- Bjone, S. (et al), ‘Grass Eating Patterns in Domestic Dog, Canis Familiaris’, Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition in Australia (2007)
- McKenzie, S. (et al), ‘Reduction in Grass Eating Behaviors in the Domestic Dog, Canis Familiaris, in Response to Mild Gastrointestinal Disturbance’, Applied Animal Behavior Science (2010)
- Bjone, S. (et al), ‘Maternal-Influence on Grass Eating Behavior in Puppies’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2007)
- McKenzie, S. (et al), ‘Grass-Eating Behavior in the Domestic Dog, Canis Familiaris’, School of Environmental and Rural Science Thesis Doctoral (2008)
- Hart, B. ‘Why do Dogs and Cats Eat Grass?’, Veterinary Medicine (2008)
- ASPCA, Poisonous Plants
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website