Are you starting to think your dog is part cow? Is he or she continually chewing up grass? If so, you may worry that something is wrong or that this behavior is unhealthy. In this article, we'll take a look at this common issue and help you discover just why your pet is so, seemingly, obsessed with keeping the lawn well trimmed!
Why Does a Dog Eat Grass?
First things first: just why would your pup gobble up the grass? For many years, pet owners have thought it had to do with a dog feeling ill and making itself vomit to clear whatever was causing the tummy trouble. That, however, is not entirely true.
Many types of animals can suffer from a disorder known as "pica", which is when the individual (dog, person, or another animal) eats something that is not technically food. Pica can be caused by an actual nutritional deficiency but is most often seen as a sign of boredom. This is particularly true of younger dogs and even puppies. What is so interesting about this behavior is that it is seen in domesticated and wild dogs alike, and doesn't usually cause any harm to the animal.
It is so common that one study determined that around 79% of dogs that had eaten plants at some time or another had, mostly, gone after grass rather than anything else available. And that brings us to the issue of motive. Do these dogs go after it to clear up stomach upset? Evidence does not support that idea.
For instance, another report has noted that "fewer than 10% of dogs seem to be sick before eating grass…And grass eating doesn't usually lead to throwing up -- less than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit…" However, many experts have found that some dogs eat grass and plants to support improved digestion. It could be their diet is not high enough in fiber or that some nutrient is missing. Some dogs have been found to consume grass when they are suffering from worms.
Of course, there is the most obvious answer as to why dogs eat grass, which is simply that they like it!
Is It Something to Worry About?
Naturally, a dog that eats grass often and then vomits may have their owner concerned. If a dog follows a pattern of daily consumption and vomiting, it is a good idea to pay a visit to the vet. Though some dogs eat grass and develop pica out of boredom or lack of enough exercise, it could be that there is a nutritional deficiency or absence of fiber.
Keep in mind that "most experts agree that grazing itself isn't harmful…certain herbicides and pesticides used on lawns can be quite toxic, especially if ingested." So, if you do frequently spray your lawn with such compounds, you need to stop using them or find a way to prevent your dog from ingesting any of the grass. You also want to find out which garden plants are risky to a dog's health if eaten, and the ASPCA has an Animal Poison Control Center online to help with that.