Our lovable dogs are full of wonderful and strange behaviors, one of which is to eat grass and weeds. This act can be of concern for dog owners, especially if the dog throws up soon after.
So why exactly would a dog decide to graze on grass, especially if they are well-fed? Well, apparently it’s just everyday behavior for dogs, although some may graze more than others. A 2009 study by researchers in Australia found that dogs with a normal diet spent more time eating grass than dogs with a diet that induced a mild gastrointestinal disturbance.
Another study by researchers at UC Davis didn’t identify a strong relationship between grass ingestion and clinical illness. Many articles on the internet will present the theory that dogs eat grass in order to “self-medicate” gastrointestinal illnesses but that doesn’t appear to be the case based on these studies.
Ultimately, you don’t have to worry about the behavior itself and the fact that your dog likes to become a part-time cow every once in a while. The thing you do have to worry about are some of the potential dangers associated with the grass they consume.
Is Grass Harmful to Dogs?
For example, the grass the dog consumes may have been exposed to lawn pesticides. The unfortunate reality is that pesticide is very much a big part of the lawn and gardening scene. In 2014, pesticides accounted for 32% of lawn and garden supplies sale in the US.
The consequences of consuming pesticides will vary based on the type of pesticide and the volume the dog gets exposed to. Certain pesticides may cause vomiting and mild stomach problems, while others may potentially lead to poisoning and death.
Some dogs may also be unfortunate enough to be allergic to grass and pollen. Dogs that are allergic to grass may exhibit symptoms such as itchy skin and scratchy throats.
While you may not want to discourage your dogs from going about their normal grass-eating behavior, you also don’t want to leave anything to chance in case the grass your dog consumes contains toxins and other dangerous chemicals.
Grass-eating may also lead to other worrying symptoms such as vomiting. The UC Davis study found that vomiting was more commonly observed among dogs that didn’t have access to grass on a regular basis. This may suggest that vomiting has more to do with a dog’s inability to digest unfamiliar material.
Regular grass-eating may also cause your dog to poop green stools. This can occur if the green pigment in the grass (chlorophyll) passes through the dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Grass
There are certain steps you can take to discourage your dog from eating grass aside from keeping him away from the grassy areas.
Offer a Healthy Alternative
In some cases, the dogs will continue to eat grass no matter how much you train them because it’s part of their natural instinct. If you find yourself in this situation then you might as well offer an alternative option that you know is safe for your dog.
For example, you can grow your own wheatgrass and give it to your dog. Wheatgrass offers many health benefits, such as aiding digestion and improving bad breath. Wheatgrass is also an excellent source of minerals and vitamins.
Examine Your Dog’s Diet
Consult with your vet and identify potential deficiencies in your dog’s diet. Some dogs may start to nibble on grass due to nutritional deficiencies. For example, the grass is high in fiber so switching to a high-fiber diet may reduce your dog’s need to graze on grass.
Keep Your Dog Engaged
Some dogs may eat grass because they are bored or nervous. Take a step back and determine if you are giving your dog enough entertainment. Giving your dog a chew toy or natural bone could be a simple way of keeping them engaged.