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Is it bad for dogs to eat grass? You’ll want to be extra careful

As a pet parent, you often witness your pup getting up to some strange antics. Whether your dog occasionally indulges in the zoomies, or your dog’s behavior is downright adorable, you’ve seen it all. One of the most common behaviors that strikes us as a bit odd? Watching your dog snack on grass. Fortunately, your pup isn’t telling you to mow the lawn or asking you to feed him a vegan diet. So, why do dogs eat grass? Is your pooch satisfying a nutritional requirement? Is he trying to settle his stomach? We’ll get to the bottom of this seemingly strange (yet relatively universal) phenomenon. 

A black and white Border Collie eating grass.
Radharani / Adobe Stock

Do dogs eat grass to settle their stomachs?

Unlike a lot of myths about dogs – that they can only see in black and white or that they age seven years for every one year being some of the most commonly held beliefs – veterinarians say there may be some truth to the assumption that eating grass settles their stomachs. According to Family VetCare, eating grass might be your pooch’s version of taking an antacid for an upset stomach. However, because dogs frequently vomit after ingesting grass, it’s possible that they use it as a natural emetic. When humans vomit, our bodies produce chemicals that make us feel better, so it stands to reason that a similar biological process occurs in our dogs. 

Why is my dog eating grass? 

The pet pros at Pet Check Urgent Care suspect that dogs eat grass for a variety of reasons. Because dogs are less likely to eat grass in the presence of their pet parents, some vets think dogs snack on our lawns when they’re anxious, stressed, or simply when they’re bored. Other vets think dogs eat grass because most pet parents try to stop it, so it’s more of an attention-seeking behavior. Dogs who aren’t being fed a nutritionally rich dog food formula may eat grass to replace micro-nutrients lacking in their diet. Still, others believe dogs tend to eat grass when they’re suffering from an upset stomach.

A German Short-haired Pointer eating grass.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Yet another theory surrounding this puzzling behavior is that it’s instinctive. Your dog’s ancestors, gray wolves, also eat grass – most likely as a way to clear their digestive tract when they eat something that doesn’t agree with them – lending credence to the theory that eating grass is biologically hardwired in your pooch. Another possibility is that your pup has a condition called pica, which causes him to eat non-food items. Lastly, it’s conceivable that your dog snacks on grass simply because he likes the way it tastes. (Considering the fact that some dogs also like the taste of cat poop, we have to say that grass is an improvement.)

Is it bad if dogs eat grass?

Contrary to popular belief, just because your dog eats grass doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s sick to his stomach. Whether your pooch eats grass because he’s bored, because he wants attention, because of an instinctive drive, or simply because he enjoys the taste, there are several reasons that could prompt him to nibble your yard. That being said, if your dog frequently eats grass to induce vomiting, it could be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Just to be on the safe side, you should schedule a checkup with the vet if you think your pup may be suffering from tummy troubles.

While eating grass is a relatively normal behavior for dogs, that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free. If you have a green thumb, chances are good you treat your lawn with pesticides to protect your blooms. Unfortunately, dogs can become violently ill after ingesting these toxic chemicals. Another issue that could arise from allowing your dog to eat grass? Lungworm, a dangerous infection contracted by ingesting a parasitic lungworm. The usual hosts are snails and slugs, though your pup may be able to contract the parasite by consuming the trail of mucus these slimy carriers leave behind. 

A Jack Russell Terrier eating grass.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to stop your dog from eating grass

From worrisome chemicals to nasty parasites, allowing your dog to snack on grass is a risky behavior you want to prevent. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Supervise your dog. If you suspect that your dog eats grass because he’s bored, attention-seeking, or anxious, try to accompany him outside. He’ll be less likely to eat grass because he already has what he wants: your company and attention.
  • Distract him with a treat. Some dogs eat grass because they like the taste, so distracting your pooch with a treat he enjoys more should do the trick. 
  • Rely on basic training. If your dog knows how to heel, you can use the command to draw his attention away from the yard and focus it on you. (Make sure to reward him for being a good boy.)

If you suspect your dog has pica, or he has frequent stomach issues, you’ll want to talk to your vet to solve the problem. Fortunately, most dogs respond well to treat-based distractions or training, so putting a stop to your dog’s unwanted snacking shouldn’t require too much time or effort. 

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Mary Johnson
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Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
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