Most pet parents have seen it – their dog suddenly turning the lawn into an afternoon snack.
The popular belief is that dogs eat grass to settle their stomachs, induce vomiting, or both.
A dog gagging and eating grass would certainly reinforce the theory that they’re doing it because of an upset tummy.
That might not be true.
In fact, there are many reasons why your dog is suddenly wolfing down grass, and they probably don’t have much to do with trying to calm indigestion.
Is there a reason to worry?
There are actually few scenarios in which you should be alarmed by your dog eating grass frantically and seemingly out of control.
So why do they do it, then?
The reasons range from parasites to dogs simply like doing it.
We’ll talk about why, how to deal with it, and if it’s even an issue at all.
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Grass Eating and Vomiting
It is true that in some cases, a dog may be eating grass to induce vomiting.
This could be because they ate something bad already, which is causing nausea or other stomach discomforts.
They often don’t eat the grass
However, a dog who is eating grass to make themselves throw up probably won’t actually “eat” the grass.
The action is more like them swallowing it whole without chewing it at all.
There’s another scenario here, as well.
Your dog could be eating grass for other reasons – which we will explain shortly – and they’re not chewing it properly.
Longer grass blades can get caught up in their throat, or aren’t completely swallowed on the first try, triggering the dog’s gag reflex.
You probably know what happens next – and it’s messy.
It’s difficult to narrow down why exactly your dog threw up.
Did your dog eat grass for an unknown reason and throw up because they swallowed too much?
Or were they feeling upset to their stomach and swallowed it on purpose?
If eating grass and vomiting afterward is a one-off incident, it will be difficult to understand precisely what happened.
If it’s a recurring behavior?
The only way to try to decipher their motives is to pay attention to their behaviors, and make mental notes – or real notes, if you like – whenever the behavior repeats itself.
When to Contact a Vet
The main reason you would need to get a hold of your vet over your dog vomiting up grass is if you suspect poisoning.
This could be from a dangerous pesticide on the grass or other toxic substances your dog could have gotten into.
You need to move fast:
Look for evidence your dog ingested something that made them sick.
Check any toxic plants you might have around, medications, pesticides, foods such as cocoa, or any products containing xylitol such as if your dog swallowed gum.
There are obviously many more things that can make your dog ill and eat grass to try to feel better.
While there are many other reasons for your dog eating grass frantically, it is not totally out of the realm of possibilities that they do it to calm their stomachs.
Look out for other symptoms of poisoning.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Now that we’ve covered the scary stuff, we can talk about the reasons your dog could be eating grass.
There’s good news.
These reasons are more likely than due to poisoning.
You may be thinking, why is my dog eating grass all of a sudden, then?
They Have a Fiber Deficiency
Dogs need fiber, too, and they could be craving fibrous substances if they lack it in their diet.
The grass is a great way for them to get extra fiber in their routine, even if the behavior is puzzling to us.
How do you know if your dog’s love for a grass salad is due to a fiber deficiency?
You might notice your dog’s stools are dry.
If you use a bag to pick up after your dog immediately after they do their business, you might also notice it feels unusually hard.
Your dog could also be showing signs of straining and struggling to eliminate.
Lack of fiber can also manifest itself in loose stools.
In either scenario, adding soluble or insoluble fiber to their food can benefit your dog, and discourage them from turning your yard into an open buffet.
Take a closer look at your dog’s food
They also might need a change in dog food in general, as some commercial brands tend to be constipating.
It’s always wise to consult with your vet before making any big changes to your dog’s diet.
Small adjustments such as adding coconut fiber or pure, cooked pumpkin are easy to do at home without much risk of adverse reactions.
If you’re planning to change up your dog’s diet entirely, remember to ease into the new food.
Transitioning suddenly can disrupt the bacterial colonies in your dog’s gut, and cause some unpleasant effects for everyone involved.
Dogs Can Eat Grass Because They’re Bored
A dog who isn’t properly stimulated could be ripping up and eating grass out of pure boredom.
They might not stop at the grass, either.
Around an active, bored, understimulated dog, everything from your prize rose bush to tree saplings are in danger.
Eating grass can be a sign of boredom, or a downright anxious behavior like suddently getting scared of random things is because your dog is going stir-crazy.
If you notice this behavior out of the blue, stop and ask yourself if anything about your dog’s routine has changed.
Are they going for fewer walks?
Has a change in your schedule resulted in them being left alone more?
The best remedy for this is exercise.
Whether it’s a walk, game of fetch, or even mental stimulation, a bored dog needs more attention before they start chewing and eating everything they see.
They’re Trying to Clear up Parasites
There’s still a debate on whether or not this is a reason why dogs eat grass.
The theory is that eating grass could be a residual instinct from their wolf origins.
Wolves and other wild carnivores eat grass regularly to avoid a buildup of parasites such as roundworms.
Is it instinct?
Your dog could be displaying a similar behavior because of an instinctive drive to do so.
There’s something you should know if your dog isn’t on parasite prevention medication, though.
Fecal residue on grass can perpetuate the spread of parasites such as roundworms.
Eating “infected” grass can cause your dog to pick up some nasty visitors to their digestive system.
A trip to the vets?
So if your dog is eating a lot of grass for no apparent reason, and they aren’t protected from parasites, it’s time to get them tested for worms.
Some Dogs Just Like to Eat Grass
We already know that dogs don’t follow the social norms that humans do. Grown humans, at least.
Many of us have seen human children eat crazy things for unknown reasons.
A toddler could snack on fistfuls of dirt because it amuses them.
The same can be said for dogs. Most dogs have roughly the mentality of a three-year-old child.
Your dog might be ripping up grass and eating it for the same reason a toddler eats a flower. It’s just fun – maybe it looked delicious?
In the dog’s case, maybe it even tastes delicious to them. We may never know.
Should My Dog Stop Eating Grass?
In some cases, a dog eating grass can be dangerous, unwanted behavior, or both.
You definitely don’t want your dog helping themselves to every lawn you pass on your daily walk.
For one thing, you have no idea what’s on it.
Some grasses could be treated with fertilizer, pesticides, or other substances that can make your dog sick.
Urine or fecal residue from dogs or other animals can spread disease if consumed. Even on your own property with other dogs, it’s a good idea to clean your yard if there is excessive urine around.
Where else would your dog accidentally pick up leftover waste, if not on grass?
Discouraging your dog from eating grass is probably in everyone’s best interest. So just how do you do that?
Provide Plenty of Stimulation
If your dog is eating grass out of boredom, you’ll need to shake up their routine.
More exercise is ideal, and adding stimulating toys or games can do wonders for distracting them from eating grass.
If you leave your dog to their own devices in the backyard, try to get some playtime in before they go unsupervised.
Play fetch or hide some treats for them to sniff out. Get them running or engage in a game of tug.
Another thing to keep in mind:
Some toys shouldn’t be left with dogs unsupervised, such as toys that could present choking hazards.
Toys with filling or squeakers, for example, should be saved for when they can be enjoyed under your close watch.
Large, durable toys such as balls, tire toys, or Kong toys are safer to leave with your dog.
They’re more likely to stay occupied if they actually have a toy at their disposal.
Get Them Their Own Grass
Growing dogs their own grass is an excellent option for dogs who seem to eat grass just for the heck of it.
Wheatgrass is a safe plant for dogs and cats to eat, and it even provides some health benefits.
You can easily grow it in a small pot or planter in your home.
It doesn’t take a gardening expert to raise a batch of wheatgrass.
Plus, you control what goes into its growth, and can avoid plant food or fertilizers that could make your dog sick.
Most dogs react to their own personal wheatgrass like it’s Christmas morning – it could be a good gift for your cat, too.
Change Their Food
If your dog eats grass because of an issue with their fiber intake, you will need to adjust their diet to get them to stop.
Adding fiber supplements such as canned or stewed pumpkin is something you can try at home – run it by your vet if you have any concerns or uncertainties.
If you’re trying canned pumpkin, a word of caution – there is a big difference between plain pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling.
Pie filling often includes spices such as nutmeg, which can be dangerous for your dog.
Check the label and make sure it’s pure pumpkin.
It might take some time to find out what your dog needs, and sometimes you’ll need the advice of your vet either way.
It’s always a good idea to consult with a vet if there are any sudden or drastic changes in your dog’s eating or bowel habits.
Save the Lawn
Your dog might be gagging and eating grass for a number of reasons.
Or, they might just be eating grass – either way, you’ll have to do some detective work to understand why.
Fortunately, there are very few cases where this behavior is a big deal.
There are also several solutions for curbing this behavior and keeping your backyard intact.