Many people wonder why dogs eat grass and, more importantly, if it is safe to allow them to eat grass. The short answer regarding the why could be a variety of reasons that are covered below. It is usually safe as long as the grass is untreated and clean.
If you have a dog that behaves differently than usual, always check to make sure the dog is not sick. If eating grass is unusual for your dog and they start eating and vomiting, it is always wise to rule out any underlying health issues. Do they have a bloated stomach? This can be worms. This can be life threatening to older dogs and puppies. A bloated hard stomach that seems to happen suddenly can also be a twisted stomach also known as bloat. It can kill a dog in a short amount of time. It is a medical emergency that needs to be handled by a veterinarian immediately. I had a dog several years ago that had this happen and I talk about it more here. Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. If your dogs seems sick, always check with your veterinarian.
Healthy dogs eat grass for several reasons.
Dogs enjoy a variety of flavors that we cannot understand. Wild canids are considered omnivorous so it is not so strange to think that domesticated dogs would enjoy a variety of plant material as well. Many of the animals that wild canids would eat have grass in their stomachs. That is one theory as to why a taste for grass was acquired.
Dogs can also eat grass to satisfy a desire for fiber, vitamins and minerals. Grass does have many vitamins and nutrients not found in commercial dog foods or meat so that makes sense too.
Self treating worms is another possible reason. Watch for signs and symptoms of worms. Worms are sometimes visible in a dog’s stool but not always. Common symptoms of worms include butt scooting, excessive licking, vomiting, and in extreme cases a distended belly. For more information about worms, click here to read my post about worms. I have had a couple different canine customers contract worms this year. They can be hard to remedy with over the counter de-worming medicine. According to my vet, most dogs get them from eating a flea because fleas can carry them or eating another dog’s feces.
Upset tummies are another possible reason. If your dog has an upset tummy, grass can help them vomit by tickling their throats and the stomach lining (sometimes). Gulping the grass is more likely to induce vomiting compared to gentle nibbling.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, it is not necessary to try to get them to stop if the grass is clean, untreated by chemicals, and healthy. But, if in doubt, don’t let them eat it.
Always pay attention to what might be hiding in the lawn.
Chemical contamination should always be avoided for obvious reasons. When I am out walking a dog, I worry a lot less about chemical contamination around the wild grass and neglected lawns. In this particular case, a lawn with weeds is a good sign. It is a sign that the lawn is not full of chemicals like herbicides to kill weeds or pesticides. A beautiful well manicured deep green lawn is a red flag for nibblers in my opinion.
Fresh manure is another thing to avoid with lawns. Some dogs get excited around manure and love to roll in it and they will come home stinking of it. I have one dog that starts prancing when we get near manure. I can tell we are close to it before the smell hits me by the change in his walk. It is pretty funny as long as I can prevent the desired roll.
Feces that have not been scooped by other dog owners can be infected with worms and disease(in addition to being disgusting).
Dead rodents are notoriously infected with worms and can also have died from disease or rat poison which is highly toxic to dogs. Rat poison is a terrible problem because in addition to killing rats, it will kill any other scavengers or predators that eat the carcass. In California, where I live, many of our mountain lions are found with rat poison in their systems when autopsied.
Basically, you have to really pay attention to what might be in, on, or hiding in the lawn - much more than the grass itself. I live and work in coyote territory and one of my canine clients (the same guy that loves to roll in the manure) found coyote kill leftovers on a walk. He is an expert scavenger! There were chunks of meat scattered from one lawn to the next. Try pulling that out of a husky mix mouth! I would get one chunk away from him, we walked to the next house and he would find another piece of leftover meat. Dogs will find this stuff a lot faster than you will too! This particular dog keeps me alert on walks. He has picked up the strangest things. I am always pulling something disgusting out of his mouth. I am winning lately though. He hasn't managed to get anything awful past me in quite a while.
A bonus tip for when they do eat grass: walk them for a few extra blocks before putting them in your car or home - just to be on the safe side. Not all dogs regurgitate the grass but many do. I made this mistake once and ended up with regurgitated grass in my back seat - but only ONCE. Now that I think of it, the same husky mix that is always picking strange things up was the one that vomited in my car (on his sister’s head in fact). I learned my lesson pretty quickly. I have read that less than 25% of dogs that eat grass regurgitate it. I do not believe this though. In my experience it seems more like 50%.
Among the dogs that I walk on a regular basis, the same dogs are always the ones nibbling on grass. In my experience, it seems to be a personal preference more than anything. The nibblers also seem to enjoy rolling in the grass. I have a few that love everything about grass. They enjoy rolling in it, taking mini naps in it, and nibbling on it. Others enjoy a good sniff but that is it. I usually follow the dogs’ lead in cases like these.
These are my opinions based on caring for hundreds of dogs over the last several years. If your healthy dog likes the taste of grass and nibbles regularly, there is usually nothing to worry about in my opinion.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope this post was helpful to you. Feel free to share or recommend this to your friends.