If you have a dog, chances are you've seen them eat grass at some point. Sometimes, dogs eat grass and swallow it. Other times, they simply chew it up and spit it out. Ever wondered what that's all about? Or got a bit worried? You're not alone. Many dog parents have the same question – why do dogs eat grass? – and want to know what it means for their canine friend. Find out why dogs eat grass, when it's safe and when it's not.
"Why does my dog eat grass?" you might be wondering. There is no one simple reason why dogs eat grass. Dogs enjoy munching on the stuff for a bunch of different reasons.
The top 5 reasons for a dog eating grass are:
- Bacterial deficiency in the gut
- Grass is an effective antacid
- Nutrient deficiency
- Instinct—it just tastes good!
Today's article will unearth the root of the grass-eating behavior and help dog parents treat its causes while introducing alternatives to the backyard grass your dog is currently nibbling on!
Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?
#1: Bacterial Deficiency in the Gut
A bacterial deficiency in the gut microbiome is the first cause you should immediately think about when seeing how your dog eats grass. The canine gut is lined with billions and billions of helpful bacteria that keep the gastrointestinal tract in balance. But when the balance of helpful bacteria is upset by harmful bacteria or an insufficient nutrient intake, the gut sounds the alarm and compels the dog to find alternative nutrient sources. Grass is rich in fiber, a nutrient known for encouraging helpful bacteria to grow. So, don't hesitate to have a gut microbiome test to ascertain if everything's alright with his gut.
#2: Grass is an Effective Antacid
You're probably familiar with stories of dogs eating grass and vomiting afterward. If your dog resorts to the same behavior, inspect the contents of the vomit. Are you noticing any yellow foam? If so, your dog is trying to relieve the stomach discomfort caused by increased acidity. The yellow foam your dog is relieving himself of is bile, the fluid involved in the digestive process, which can discomfort an empty stomach. While humans take antacids to relieve distress, dogs use grass-eating as a natural remedy for stomach acidity. You can ameliorate the increased stomach acidity by feeding your dog bright and early, before bile reaches the digestive system.
#3: Dog Food Does Not Always Meet All Nutritional Requirements
We are often surprised when we hear about dogs who nibble grass, but we're sure dogs feel otherwise. After all, why would a dog say no to grass? Its texture and sweetness, especially in young shoots, are irresistible to our canine companions. But there's another, even more valuable reason why dogs and grass get along so well: nutritional value! Canines know when something's missing from their diet, and they're always quick to get it from alternative sources.
For example, did you know that dogs eat grass for its chlorophyll? This green pigment found in all plants, responsible for the photosynthesis process, is chemically almost identical to hemoglobin, a key component of red blood cells. Therefore, by resorting to grass-eating, your dog might signal a hemoglobin decrease in his body, which dog parents should address immediately.
But not all nutritional deficiencies manifest themselves in the same way and with the same intensity. There's a difference between nibbling grass and grazing it like a cow. In the latter instance, the behavior can be associated with a litany of nutritional and psychological disorders. And it might not be only grass your dog is consuming in excess—the psychological disorder called pica manifests itself through the compulsive consumption of unusual non-food items, such as garbage, paper, rocks, and even feces.
Although mainly psychological, pica is caused by nutritional deficiencies as well, with iron, calcium, zinc, thiamine, niacin, vitamin C, and vitamin D as the main culprits. Such a behavior necessitates a re-evaluation of the dog's diet and psychological health. Mental stressors such as separation anxiety, stress, depression, and a lack of socialization, and even medical issues (i.e., diabetes, tumors, parasitic infections, anemia, etc.) are correlated with pica, so look into this disorder if your dog is eating grass in excess.
#4: Some Dogs Eat Grass to Relieve Boredom
The third reason why your dog is eating grass has to do with behavior. We oftentimes think of dogs as independent beings who always find ways to entertain themselves. But such a belief couldn't be farther away from the truth! In reality, dogs require constant stimulation in order to remain happy and avoid resorting to uncommon behaviors, in this case, grass-eating.
Does your dog resort to eating grass after long days of solitude? He might be signaling you that it's time to play "Fetch!" or take a walk in the neighborhood. If boredom lies at the root of grass eating, the dog should gradually stop eating grass after receiving the attention he craves for.
But the behavioral root of grass-eating can go further than boredom. We know that animals can be subjected to stressors such as noise, separation anxiety, and unexpected changes such as moving into another home or the arrival of a new family member. Therefore, dogs can resort to eating more grass when stressors take over their mental health. In such instances, identifying the stressor is imperative before curbing the behavior itself.
#5: Some Dogs Simply Enjoy Grass As a Tasty Treat
And finally, some dogs enjoy the act of grass-eating itself! And why shouldn't they? The young, brand new shoots present a texture, sweetness, and nutritional quality only a few dogs would say no to. Every grass-eating dog has a favorite type of grass to snack on, which they will focus on instead of other plant material. But, as a rule of thumb, dogs will avoid old grass shoots because their texture and palatability change over time.
Is There a Way to Prevent My Dog From Eating Grass?
As we've seen so far, a dog who eats grass is not always a matter of concern. It could be that your canine companion simply enjoys the taste of new grass, which shouldn't be curbed, as it is a clear manifestation of instinct. Likewise, a pet parent should be wary when eating grass becomes a symptom and look for professional help to fix the cause behind the behavior. Other parents agree with their dogs' plant-eating behavior but fear that they might be eating grass contaminated with poisonous substances.
Regardless of the reason, dog owners can replace garden plants with safer but equally scrumptious alternatives!
#1: Add Sauerkraut to His Food Bowl!
Dogs who experience a bacterial deficiency in the gut need help to re-establish the much-needed microbiome balance. While grass has the potential to provide this benefit, there's no telling whether the grass in your backyard is safe for consumption—you can never know whether it was accidentally sprayed with toxic chemicals. Instead, you can easily re-orient yourself towards a safer alternative in the shape of sauerkraut.
This combination of cabbage and sea salt is ideal for repopulating the gut with enzymes and helpful bacteria. By sticking with sauerkraut, you'll always be aware of the source of this food and won't have to worry about your dog ingesting harmful chemicals. Although it doesn't make grass-eating disappear, sauerkraut does minimize the behavior since your canine companion gets exactly what he needs.
#2: Dogs Might Reap More Benefits From Wheatgrass Rather Than Lawn Grass!
Although the grass' nutritional benefits cannot be denied, there are ways for you to take your dog's plant-eating habit to the next level! If you're harboring a true grazer, we recommend switching from lawn grass to wheatgrass. Why? Because, aside from growing it in a healthy, pesticide-free environment, wheat grass enjoys more nutritional value than lawn grass. Wheatgrass is low in calories but high in nutrients, including antioxidants such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and protecting against health conditions like arthritis, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. All you have to do is plant the seeds, water modestly, and harvest! Then, simply leave the wheat grass pot on the ground and allow your canine companion to nibble on it whenever he sees fit!
#3: Try Growing Some Microgreens!
With so many people discovering their unique benefits, it's no wonder that canine nutritionists recommend feeding microgreens to dogs! These seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs make the cut in the finest cuisine, but there's no reason why dogs shouldn't enjoy their nutritional benefits as well! Alfalfa is the top replacement for grass-eating dogs for exciting reasons! These microgreens help alleviate arthritis symptoms and boost kidney health. All you have to do is sprinkle the alfalfa over your dog's food, and voilà, your dog will gradually turn from eating grass to microgreens!
Why is Your Dog Eating Grass?
Dogs can and will eat grass, either to relieve an upset stomach and fight against harmful bacteria and intestinal parasites or just for pleasure. And it becomes the pet parents' responsibility to learn what might be hiding under this unexpected behavior. We hope today's article has shunned some light on the matter and helped you better understand the reason(s) behind your dog's grazing frenzy. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!