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Dogs can have some quirky behavior. Sometimes it can be adorable, but other times it is potentially worrying.
One that leaves many pet parents scratching their heads is when their dog suddenly decides to start eating grass.
If your dog eats grass occasionally, and doesn’t display any other unusual symptoms, eating a little bit of grass is nothing to worry about. It also won’t hurt them as long as there is nothing toxic on the grass.
But if your dog is eating a lot of grass, is displaying other symptoms such as loss of appetite or unusual stool, or seems to be doing it in an obsessive way, these are all warning bells that something might not be quite right with your pup.
So, let’s take a look at why your dog eats grass, both the normal instinctive reasons and the worrying ones. We’ll also talk about how you can discourage your dog from eating grass, and how to deal with the underlying problems that might be causing the compulsion.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- Is It Normal For Your Dog To Eat Grass?
- When Should You Be Worried About Your Dog Eating Grass?
- Is Eating Grass Always Safe?
- How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Grass
- The Verdict
- Save To Pinterest
- Top Picks For Our Dogs
Is It Normal For Your Dog To Eat Grass?
It is completely normal for dogs to occasionally eat a bit of grass. This behavior is even observed in wild dogs. Dogs tend to explore the world with their mouths and their taste buds, so this is a normal way for them to engage with and understand the world around them.
It is not even unusual for them to occasionally eat grass, vomit it up, and then continue eating more grass. Dogs also sometimes do this with their food. They will vomit it up and eat it again. YUCK!
If your dog does this on a regular basis, this is cause for concern, but as a one-off that is not associated with any other symptoms, it isn’t something that you should be worried about.
When Should You Be Worried About Your Dog Eating Grass?
As is the case with most dog behaviors, you should be worried when they suddenly start eating grass as a new habit, or start to do it a lot more frequently than they usually do. It can also be a sign of concern if it is accompanied by other symptoms.
So let’s take a look at some of the uncommon reasons that your dog might start eating grass, and what you should do in each case.
Just like humans, dogs will find themselves subconsciously craving certain foods if they are lacking specific vitamins and minerals that they need. So, certain deficiencies might leave them craving something they instinctively believe they can get from grass.
Unlike cats, who thrive on a carnivorous diet, and while dogs need lots of meat-based proteins, they are omnivores that also benefit from a good dose of plant-based nutrition in their diet.
Plant-based nutrition can be particularly important for giving them the fiber they need for healthy digestion.
Additional signs that this might be a problem could be changes in the consistency of your dog’s stool, which may have become harder than usual, which can suggest fiber deficiency. Changes in their bathroom habits, such as the frequency with which they do their business, can also be signs.
To get an idea of how often your dog should be pooping, read our article on the subject.
What To Do?
Many pet parents who have encountered this issue have added some more fiber-rich plants to their dog’s diet and found that the behavior subsided quickly. So try this out to determine if this is what is motivating your dog’s new habit.
If you have recently changed your dog’s food, take a closer look at the ingredients. It is likely that it doesn’t have enough fiber for your dog, or lacks some other important vitamins and minerals.
You might also want to consider giving your dog a digestive supplement that contains both fiber and probiotics. These options available on Chewy are both good choices:
Some pet parents may tell you that your dog is eating grass deliberately, to make themselves vomit in order to relieve some kind of stomach upset. However, there is very little evidence for this, and eating grass will not always make a dog vomit.
But there is some evidence that dogs will actively eat grass if they are suffering from certain digestive issues such as gastric reflux or inflammatory bowel disease.
But, if it is digestive issues that are affecting your dog, you should expect to see other symptoms. These include loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, and decreased energy. You will also probably notice differences in the color and consistency of their poop.
Generally speaking, their poop should be a chocolate-brown color. Anything lighter can suggest the presence of negative bacteria or dehydration, while darker colors can suggest internal bleeding. It should also hold its own consistency without being hard.
What To Do?
If you notice these symptoms, it is time for a trip to the vet in order to diagnose the underlying cause of the problem.
Your dog might also start to eat grass for emotional and psychological issues rather than physical ones.
Dogs compulsively eating grass has been linked to both boredom and anxiety. If this is what is causing your dog’s behavior, you might have noticed other problems as well.
If your dog is bored, they may also be getting into other types of trouble at home as they look for new and increasingly destructive ways to entertain themselves.
If they are suffering from anxiety, you might notice other behaviors such as excessive barking, breaking their house training, and even sitting by your feet more often in order to feel extra safe and secure.
You can read more about why your dog might sit at your feet here.
If this is what is happening with your dog, you should consider whether there have been changes in their home environment or schedule that might trigger this behavior. Are they being left alone for longer periods of time? Has a new member (animal or human) been added to, or left, the household? Have they had a traumatic experience?
If you can identify the root cause of the problem, you can start to make changes that will mentally stimulate your dog and make them feel safe.
What To Do?
If you suspect that the problem is boredom or pent-up energy, then look for ways to stimulate your dog. This could mean giving them more exercise, and also make sure they have sufficient mental stimulation, perhaps investing in puzzle toys, giving them an acceptable outlet for their energy.
You can find our recommendations for the best puzzle toys here.
Is Eating Grass Always Safe?
While eating grass is normal canine behavior, it is not always safe for them to do.
Grass can be a source of intestinal parasites for your dog, so if they do have the habit of eating grass, it is doubly important to ensure they are on a good parasite prevention medication.
If you don’t already have a parasite medication for your dog, consider:
- Heartgard Chewables – we used this as a heartworm preventative with our dog Linus. It also helps with roundworms and hookworms.
- Interceptor Plus Chewables – this was the first heartworm medication we used with our guide dog puppy, Stetson. Plus, it treats and controls adult roundworm, adult hookworm, adult whipworm and adult tapeworm.
Eating grass can also be dangerous for your dog if it is treated with any kind of herbicides or pesticides.
Finally, while grass may not be toxic to dogs, there are many garden plants that are toxic to them and which your dog may also accidentally ingest.
If your dog does each grass or other foliage, the best thing you can do is to remove these plants from your garden, or at least make sure they are inaccessible to your dog.
Check the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center website for a list of the most common domestic plants that represent a danger to dogs.
How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Grass
If your dog doesn’t seem to be eating grass for any negative reason, but you would like them to stop, either due to concerns for their health or concerns for the state of your lawn, you can train them not to eat grass.
The best thing you can do is associate refraining from eating grass with the “leave it” command, which dogs should learn as part of their basic training.
You can see our list of the essential dog commands here.
When you take your dog out, let them approach the grass as is their habit. Then, as they begin to eat the grass, use the “leave it” command to get them to stop. When they respond appropriately, reward them. This should reinforce to them that this is an appropriate way to respond to this command in these circumstances.
If you are worried about them eating grass when you are not around, you can use the water spray bottle method.
Have a spray bottle of water available and spend time in the garden with your dog. If they begin to eat grass, give them the “no” command. If they don’t respond immediately, or they stop but continue to chew the grass, spray them in the face with the water. When they stop chewing and leave the grass, you can then reward them.
After several training sessions, your dog should have learned that eating grass is unacceptable behavior.
If there are particular plants in your garden that you want your dog to keep away from, either because they are toxic to dogs or because your dog keeps destroying a favorite plant, you can try to discourage them by placing slices of citrus fruit in the soil surrounding the plant.
Dogs are repelled by the smell of citrus, so this may encourage them to keep a distance from the plant.
Should I Stop My Dog From Eating Grass?
It is not necessarily dangerous for your dog to eat grass, as long as they are protected by a parasite prevention medication, the grass is free from pesticides, and it is not close to any plants that may be toxic to your dog. If this is the case, you don’t need to worry about needing to stop your dog from eating grass.
However, if your dog suddenly starts eating grass frequently or compulsively, it is usually a sign that something is wrong. Most often, it is a sign of a fiber deficit in their diet or of boredom or anxiety. All of these problems should be things you can address with lifestyle changes.
In some cases, it can also be a sign of more serious digestive issues. When this is the case, you should see other symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea and changes in the consistency of the stool. When this happens, it is time to speak to your vet.
Why Is My Dog Eating Grass All Of A Sudden?
There are several reasons why your dog might suddenly start eating grass. One of the most common is that they are not getting enough plant-based fiber in their diet and are looking to secure this elsewhere. This will usually happen after you have made changes to your dog’s food.
It can also be a sign or boredom or anxiety, which may cause your dog to start eating grass compulsively. This will usually happen after a life change. Is your dog spending more time on their own or getting less exercise? Has a new animal entered the household or has someone left the household? Has something traumatic happened recently? When this is the case, you should look to make changes to your dog’s routine and lifestyle.
Your dog might also suddenly start to eat grass if they have more serious digestive issues. But this will usually be accompanied by other symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, and worrying changes in the color and consistency of their stool. When this happens, speak to your vet.
How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Intestinal Worms?
You will generally know if your dog has intestinal worms, as there will evidence of them in your dog’s stool. You may be able to see segments of the worms themselves, like small grains or grass or thin strands of spaghetti in their stool. Their presence may also manifest as blood or mucus in their stool, and they may be prone to vomiting and diarrhea.
You may also notice them scooting their bottom across the ground, as the worms cause irritation in the anal area. They may also appear lethargic because they are not getting the energy that they need from their food.
Whether or not you should be worried about your dog eating grass depends on the circumstances.
Do they eat grass frequently or only occasionally? Is this something they have always done, or is it a new habit they’ve developed after a change in diet or environment? Is it accompanied by any other unusual behaviors or worrying symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation?
If your dog occasionally eats a little bit of grass, this isn’t generally something to worry about, as long as your dog is protected by parasite prevention medication and the grass they are eating isn’t contaminated by pesticides or close to plants that are toxic to dogs.
However, if your dog suddenly starts eating grass frequently, this can be a sign of a problem, either physical or emotional.
They might be suffering from a dietary deficiency that their instincts tell them grass might be able to fill. In this case, they may just need an upgrade to their dog food. Or they might have a more serious digestive upset that requires a trip to the vet, though this will usually be accompanied by other symptoms.
Compulsively eating grass can also be a response to boredom or anxiety, often caused by changes in your dog’s living arrangements or routine, or in response to a specific incident. In this case, it is important to make your dog feel appropriately stimulated and safe.
As is the case with most canine habits, the most important thing to do is observe your dog for changes in their behavior and for related symptoms that might tell you what is going on. If you can’t determine what the problem is from this, it is time to speak to your vet.
Have you dealt with a dog that likes to eat grass?
What was the cause and what did you do? Share your experience with the community in the comments below.
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