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?
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.
Is your dog trying to tell you something?
Do you know what is REALLY going in to your dog’s food?
Is your dog’s grass eating hiding something serious? Something that could even harm them?
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.