Nearly every dog eats grass sometimes, and some dogs eat it all the time. You would think that veterinarians would have a pretty good idea by now of why they do it. But they don’t, mainly because no one has figured out how to ask dogs two important questions: “Do you like the taste?” and “If it tastes so good, why do you throw it up?”

If only dog’s could talk! But if you are like many dog owners who live in a grassy area you would swear sometimes that your dog is an Angus. Dogs just lay out in the yard and graze just like a cow. Dogs explore their worlds with their noses and mouths. And there’s the grass, attractive, sweet-smelling, with an appealing texture; and it’s ever-so-accessible on the ground. Why not eat it?

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Dogs May Have A Craving For Greens

Dogs are remarkably flexible in their tastes. They’ll polish off a bowl of dried dog food, then walk over to see if there’s anything good in the trash. If they’re still hungry, they’ll wander upstairs to see what’s in the cat’s box. Basically, they’ll eat, or at least sample, whatever they find in front of them.

There’s a good reason for their liberal tastes. Unlike cats, who evolved solely as hunters, dogs survived by scavenging. When they couldn’t catch live prey, which was a lot of the time, they’d eat the ancient equivalent of roadkill. They didn’t care too much if had been lying in the sun for a week or was half-buried under old leaves. It was food, and they weren’t going to pass it up. When meat wasn’t on the table, they’d root around for tender leafy stalks, or roots, or an old polished bone. They simply weren’t fussy, and dogs today haven’t gotten any fussier. They’re predisposed to like just about everything.

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In addition, there’s some evidence that dogs get cravings for certain foods. It’s possible that dogs occasionally get a hankering for greens, just as people sometimes go to bed dreaming about mashed potatoes and meat loaf. It’s not as strange as it may sound. Grass was part of their ancestors’ regular diets.

Dogs are omnivores, which means they eat meat as well as plants. They don’t need grassy nutrients any more because most commercial dog foods are nutritionally complete. But dogs aren’t nutritionists. They don’t know or care that they’ve already gotten their vitamin or mineral quotients from a bowl of kibble. Their instincts tell them that grass is good, so they eat it. Besides, there’s a world of difference between satisfying the minimal nutritional requirements and having a great meal. And for many dogs, a mouthful of grass clearly tastes great. It’s like a salad – they eat some, then want more.

Even dogs who usually don’t eat grass will head straight for the nearest patch when they’re feeling sick. They’ll gobble a few mouthfuls, retch, and then throw up, or at least try to. Veterinarians still aren’t sure if dogs eat grass because their stomachs are upset or if their stomachs get upset after they eat grass. However, many vets suspect it’s the former, because dogs who are energetic and perky seem to be able to eat grass without getting sick afterward. It seems likely that there’s something in grass that does stimulate the urge to vomit.

The stomach has all kinds of neuro-receptors that respond to what dogs ingest. They react to acidity, chemical content, and textures. The texture of the grass has something like a tickle effect on the stomach, which may induce vomiting.

This tummy tickle may explain why healthy dogs can eat grass without getting sick. They take a mouthful, chew it thoroughly and swallow, then reach down for some more. Dogs who are sick, however, appear almost desperate for the grass. They don’t chew it carefully or savor the taste. They gobble it. Without the chewing, those prickly little stalks hit their stomachs all at once.

This may be what stimulates the urge to throw it all back up – along with whatever was irritating their stomachs in the first place. They can’t stick their fingers down their throats or ask for syrup of ipecac like people can, so eating grass is something that works. And once dogs find something that works, they tend to stick with it.

Watch Out What Grass Your Dog Is Eating

Unless your dog is in the habit of regurgitating grass on the dining room floor, there’s no reason to worry about it. Dogs have been eating grass for thousands or tens of thousands of years, and there’s no evidence at all that it’s bad for them. That isn’t the case, however, when grass has been treated with insecticides, herbicides, or other chemicals. Most products say on the label whether they’re dangerous for pets. In any event, you should certainly keep dogs away from grass soon after chemicals have been applied. Most products break down fairly quickly, but they can be quite dangerous if your dog eats them while they’re fresh.

Serve Sparky Some Broccoli

It’s just a theory at this point, but some veterinarians believe that dogs eat grass because they’re not getting enough fiber in their diets. You may want to buy a higher-fiber food – pet foods for “seniors” generally have the most. These foods can be expensive, however, so you may want to look for other ways to supplement your dog’s diet.

Most dogs don’t care for raw vegetables, but you can run some broccoli or green beans through the blender, adding chicken or beef broth for flavor. Or add a sprinkling of bran to their food.

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Comments

  1. Hernan

    Excellent article. It took a load off my back.
    We were so worried because our Rott loves grass and he’s so healthy. He’s only six months old but he’s already pretty big. He still acts as a little baby and he makes us laugh all the time.
    He snores loudly when he’s deep asleep.
    Thank you so much for the great article.

  2. Laura

    This was great, I’ve got a 2 month old border collie/lab cross who would eat the whole yard if I let her and I was concerned. But now I see there’s no need. It doesn’t seem to bother her stomach at this point, so here’s hoping that continues!

  3. Trish

    I agree- great article and totally brought me some relief. Our 4 yr old Giant Schnauzer suddenly took a ravenous interest in grass this morning. He’d never done it before. Then, he did, as your article suggested, promptly throw it all up. I was very concerned that something might be missing from his diet and almost called the vet, but then found your site first. I do think he must have had an upset stomach. He’s been fine the rest of the day. Thanks again.

  4. Teri

    I too was worried about my dogs, both of them, extremely different,(one is a min pin, the other a german shepherd mix), started chewing on the grass in the back yard. I’ve heard it was because they were sick and not feeling well, maybe stomach irritation, but they act fine, and never throw it back up. So anyway, very interesting, Thanks!

  5. Lois

    This article was a great relief to me. My Lab/Pit mix is always eating grass when we go for a walk.

  6. Kim Montanes

    Great to know! Last night sitting in a quiet room, my Akita Marley, was there with me. I could literally hear her stomach making all kinds of noises..loud noises, and she was passing gas…eek! I took her outside to do her business and she went staight to eating grass(kind of wildly)It was weird to me, never seen her do that. After we came in the house she did what you said she would….she vomited 3 times and this morning she seems to be fine. Kim Montanes

  7. Barbara

    have 3 dogs–the Silky and the Pug never eat grass. The 10 year oldPapillon eats it all the time. I’ve never seen her throw it up.

  8. Ian

    Thanks for a great article!!!.It was witty as well as extremely informative and helpful to my state of mind on grass. GREAT!

  9. kathy

    My dogs eat grass all the time. I think they are cows instead of dogs. They do throw up and get diarrhea from eating to much grass. It must bother their stomach

  10. ronald brousseau

    great to read,thank you.i have a german sheperd 10 months old and i was stunt becouse every time i let my dog go outside she happens to eat some grass,just a little bit then she goes on her playfull ways.thanks again.

  11. cuz

    my 3 year old pitbull has been grazin like a bull since he was 1 this article has put my worries to rest thanks a lot……

  12. trish 2

    good article my female akita (big girl) started eating grape leaves & tomato plant leaves this morning. thank goodness for this site as it put my mind at rest. she did proceed to vomit she has also been suffering from constipation so this confirms that dogs need fibre too. I shall be buying some bran to sprinkle on her food.great article thanks

  13. Crissy

    My golden retriever loves to eat grass! I was worried because I thought she was sick but this article has put my worry to rest. She is extremely hyper and very energetic, she is only 2 though.

  14. Beverly

    I have a papillion mix and he recently started eating grass, then later throws up. He also has started eating the tiny screening gravel stones in our driveway. He really was sick and threw up several times.
    Why would he eat tiny screening gravel? I have him on Royal Canin for weight control, and I add about 1 1/2 teaspoon of canned food to it, otherwise he will not eat his dry dog food.
    Do you have any sugggestions what dry dogfood I could give my papillion mix, 6 years old, that he would eat and still lose some weight. He is 21 pounds and too heavy for his size.
    Thankyou for answering above questions.

  15. Monica

    I am worried about my dog eating the dry leaves of our cypress tree. He does it all the time! I knew that grass is ok but what about the cyrpress’ leaves? thank you very much for your reply

  16. chris

    my dog yellow lab she eats carrots and peas and all kinds of greens she is huge and spunky we give her veggies all the time and she is as smart as a whip break out the dip and she’s in like flynn

  17. Bill

    I have two cur dogs that will eat a certain kind of grass. They don’t eat Bahia or St. Augustine. Whatever it is, they seek out just this one variety. And, it doesn’t make them sick. I used to be concerned about it. But after several years, now I just let them graze during our evening walks.
    Still … I wonder if I could get the feds to issue me a grant to study why dogs eat grass. After all, they funded one on why kids fall off tricycles.

  18. amy

    my dog eats grass all the time, we dont even have to cut the lawn because of it but he never gets sick! he’s like a cow just eating it all the time, the only down fall is it gives him really bad gas! not such a good thing when he’s inside

  19. Joanna

    Emma, our 6 year-old golden, has been eating grass compulsively for the past couple of months. I, too, had heard that it was due to stomach problems or lacking something in the diet. I do feed her greens, maybe not enough. Anyway, I’m glad to hear she isn’t sick, because she doesn’t throw up. Thanks for the thorough, informative article.

  20. Bakunian

    I actually disagree especially with the statement that “most commercial dog foods are nutritionally complete” nothing can be further from the truth. If that was the case pets and dogs in particular would not be getting human diseases such as diabetes, colon cancer and gingivitis. Dog food highly processed just like any ready to serve human food which is also nutrient deficient and any vitamins and minerals added destroyed in the process of preservation and preparation. Otherwise it would not be possible to store perishable product without refrigeration months at the time.

    I identified at least two reasons for eating grass.
    1. Eating grass is like self cleansing and sometimes it is hormonal, they just noxious and need something to stimulate throwing up but they don’t have fingers to push down throat. So one time my GS started eating carpet to induce vomit.
    My German Shepherd eats long stemmed grass mostly in the spring or before she starts shedding since shedding triggers hormonal changes.

    2. And sometimes they just like juicy bitter taste just like humans like beer.

    German Shepherds particularly sensitive digestive system so this might happen with them more frequently.
    So if you want your dog to be healthy feed your dog raw meat and bones diet and for Dog sake if you have to feed commercial food makes sure that it is grain free. And for vitamins and minerals use pet supplements not made in China. Your dog is not a cow and to prove it to you do experiments give your dog in one cup of corn and another cup beef and see what he chooses first.

  21. Ron Eaton

    The problem we have is the after affects of our dog eating grass. That would be what I call the “assist=a=poop.” The grass is very difficult for our dog to pass.

  22. Pingback: Can Dogs Eat Grapes | Pet Library

  23. Uncle Joe In Rochester

    10 year old Jack Russell. Loved grass in the spring but will eat it spareingly all year. Just took him into the back yeard to do his thing and he headed for a stand of grass I missed last Friday with the mower – acted like a goat, just chewing away as he went through the entire patch, picking off the long stems only. He’s fed on all natural wheat and corn free foods and treats. The vet says he’s health (he gets at least an hour a day of running in a ball game we play) and he looks/acts like a 3-4 year old dog. Thanks for a pretty good article!

  24. jww

    I think Bakunian’s comments show this person to be grossly misinformed – place a bowl of asparagus and a bowl of vanilla ice cream in front of a three year old child and see which gets eaten first. This is not a scientific test for nutrition.

    Wild carnivorous animals may eat raw meat without harmful side effects, but I would never feed my dog (or any domesticated dog) raw meat as a steady diet – especially not raw pork that has never been frozen.

    My 2¢

  25. Alan

    Taffy, my 7 yr.old Toy Poodle, has been acting lethargic and isn’t intrested in anything but staying close to me today. when she went outside earlier she was eating grass but not hungrily. We are very close and I know that she feels bad, her nose is warm instead of cold as usual and she wont even lick a piece of fresh beef or touch a drop of milk and those are 2 of her favorite substances (although she NEVER gets more than a taste) She is not in pain or showing other symptoms so I know it’s an upset stomach. She has never shown any intrest in grass before today so that was my first clue. She is very healthy and never misses a vet appt. so I’ll watch her closely and take her in if she doesn’t show improvement by tomorrow. We Thank Y’all for the grass article!

  26. Sandy Dog

    This study is wholly inconclusive. You are looking for “ONE” reason to explain all grass eating. I will tell you that every time my dog is feeling dizzy from getting a sedative at the vets office he will eat as much of any plant that he can and tries to throw up, then eat more grass, ferns, vines etc… my guess is he’s feeling the equivalent of “motion sickness” as my vet said “he’s moving his head around like that because he is dizzy, like when you drink too much”.. when i drank too much in my college years i certainly wanted to puke to feel better… i used a finger… i’m guessing dogs have a problem putting their finger down their throat… BUT…. my dog also eats a certain plant from time-to-time that he just simply seems to enjoy. is it POSSIBLE that humans try to over simplify dogs??? is it possible that dogs will eat outdoor greens for a variety of reasons??? MIND BLOWING!!!! i know, right?

  27. Betty

    My six year old Golden has been trying to munch on grass lately. He is selective about which grass he eats.
    Yesterday, it has been extra humid and warm, he began throwing up bile, at the vet’s office. Never happened before.
    I noticed last week that the flap on his ears looked like something had been biting him, small round red spots on the inside of the ear flap. He has had infections in his ears, but this is different.
    He had abrasions from scratching too. I used the triple antibiotic that we have been using periodically for ear infections. I also applied some topical 3X antibiotic cream, benedryl and aspirin creme to the outer areas.
    (The vet that I saw yesterday was not familiar to me, I did not particularly care for her. The Golden was there for distemper revaccination. He threw up 3 times while we were there. Her concern was for “allergies” his feet get reddish in color, he licks them a lot.? My concern is his throwng up. Eating grass is something new. He is sleeping a lot more than usual. I am told by my groomer, and a couple of other people, he is six, he is getting older.
    The vet recommended I take him to a specialist for allergies. I have changed his food dozens of times. We go on vacation for two weeks every year, it all clears up while we are gone. (Food allergy would not clear up)
    So, I requested a referral to OHIO STATE VET SMALL ANIMAL CLINIC.
    The vet here wanted me to go to a local specialist. Even after I told her I lost two dogs last year to two different types of Cancer.
    I insisted she write the referral to OSU. She was not happy with me nor I with her.
    Bottom line, there might be something wrong if the dog has not been eating grass right along, and, has some behavior changes.
    My Shadow began eating grass the year before she showed symptoms of being sick. None of the vets here could find the problem. I had to take her in ER. The vet found an enlarged heart. (Keep in mind, Roxey crossed the Rainbow Bridge, in Apr of 2009, after nine months of treatment at OSU for Mast Cell cancer.) Shadow began showing signs of breathing difficulties Jan 09, every test done showed nothing unusual until, June of 09. Vet did a trachea wash, saw “something” a shadow on her xray at the back of her throat. Said she had an e-coli infection. A week later, she had the Emergency, to another vet because my usual did not answer the phone. (New vet, recent graduate of OSU) Found the enlarged heart. So we began treating that. We had to leave her at the vet’s for two weeks vacation that we could not cancel. (New OSU grad left clinic for a position closer to her home)
    They said I could call and check on her. Left my phone so they could put the speaker on and she could hear my voice. (We were her fourth owners when we adopted her at six months. She had separation anxiety until the day she died) SHE LOST TWENTY POUNDS. They did not let me talk to her, her appetite was finicky, (never had been before) they did not provide her with the supplements I left for her with instructions. When we picked her up, she did not recognize me, at first she was just, so boney, seemed confused. (thank GOD I bought her a water bed)She had a hell of a time standing, once she realized who I was, I began yelling to open the damn door of the huge crate she was in. (Damn people) She stood up. She weakly walked to where my husband was standing. He did not realize it was Shadow, at first. I left everything! Picked her up, told him to pay them and let’s go. I held her all night and the next day.
    She had a tumor that was pressing on her esphagus! OSU found it! Sept 12th 09
    I made a promise I would not ever wait. If ever a specialist is needed, a specialist my fur babies will get. The best in the country. I will not fool around with locals. OSU is 3 1/2 hours away. With all the money we spent and no one finding the source of the problem, it is cheaper in the long run. I know my dogs, and I know when something is wrong. Trust your intuition! You know your dog better than anyone! ANYONE! If you think there is somnething wrong, go with it! If they think you are a bitch, shame on them.
    As long as I am paying for treatment, I will have my way and give them the best care! You can always access the internet for a site like this one. Facebook is another place to blog if you have concerns about your fur babies. Someone will always be there.
    Betty Emery

  28. Sam turton

    My black lab eats grass a lot. He is 4now and very hyper and energetic. I am not worried about this now after reading this article

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