Dogs Eating Grass

small Jack Russell Terrier dog eating grass in a meadow

A dog occasionally chewing grass is harmless, but sometimes there are serious causes behind this.

There are several rumours circulating as to why dogs nibble at "tasty" grass on their daily walk like sheep. But is this actually normal or should you worry if your dog eats grass?

Causes: Why does my dog eat grass?

Nutrient deficiency, dominant behaviour or nausea are all buzzwords that dogs owners associate with dogs eating grass.

The rumour that dogs eat grass in order to vomit is particularly persistent. However, studies have determined that few dogs vomit after eating grass.

But what are the reasons that can lead to your dog eating grass?

1. Thirst

Even if you don't see it directly, plants contain a huge quantity of water. If your dog is dehydrated and thirsty, eating grass can restore its fluid levels. So make sure that your dog is able to drink at all times.

2. Ingested foreign bodies

Dogs often react instinctively when they have swallowed a foreign body. Eating grass causes it to wrap around the object. The intestine can now transport it better and excrete it from the body without injury if possible.

Incidentally cabbage, which is often used to tackle ingested foreign bodies, has a similar effect.

3. Boredom

We're all familiar with boredom – even your dog. Every now and then it will stop like a cow in the meadow during its daily walk.

If you would like to offer your dog and yourself more variety, you can try out different types of dog sport together!

dog eats grass

4. Stress

If your dog is stressed, it will nibble at grass from time to time. On the one hand, this allows it to absorb sugars contained in grass and to boost its low blood sugar level again. On the other hand, chewing can encourage the release of endorphins (happiness hormones).

5. Digestion problems

Dogs eat a lot of things, including solid bones and hair. However, your dog finds these tissues, which are used especially with BARF, harder to digest than conventional wet or dry food.

Hence, dogs frequently eat grass to facilitate the digestion of these hard tissues.

Tips for emergencies: Read in our article how you can perform first aid on your dog.

Danger to life: When can eating grass be dangerous for dogs?

Even wolves, your dog's ancestors, consumed grass regularly and still do to this day. So this behaviour isn't just inherited, but grounded in your pet's genes.

As a result, the assumption can be made that eating grass is natural behaviour for dogs, so you generally shouldn't prohibit your dog from doing so.

Dogs eating grass: Three dangers

This can only be harmful for your dog in rare cases. However, you should definitely stop your dog from eating grass in the following cases:

1. Danger of poisoning

Caution! Many farmers add fertiliser, herbicides or pesticides to commercially used meadows or fields (e.g. corn fields). If your dog consumes the plant components growing there, it can become severely intoxicated.

As well, certain plants form toxins to protect them from being eaten by animals. The first signs of intoxication in dogs are heavy salivation and vomiting.

dog in the grass with flowers

2. Intestinal obstruction

The quantity of grass ingested also plays a crucial role. If your dog doesn't eat many blades of grass, this usually isn't worrying.

However, it is dangerous if your dog plucks entire tufts of grass and even soil from the ground and bolts it down in seconds. This is because heavy accumulations of grass in the stomach can, in the worse case, trigger intestinal obstruction (ileus).

3. Injuries

Not all grass is the same. Whilst some types of grass are short and soft, others are sharp and hard. Your dog shouldn't eat the latter, because the sharp edges can damage the sensitive mucous membranes in the mouth or intestine.

In addition, your dog can choke on the hard grass, which can also get stuck in the throat and make it difficult for your dog to breathe. If your dog is short of breath and you cannot remove the stuck blade of grass from its mouth, you should contact your vet immediately!

Dogs eating grass: Can they even utilise it?

Although dogs aren't purely carnivores, they do largely consume food of animal origin. Hence, they rely on a smaller portion of plant-based food in their diet. Dogs generally can digest plant-based foods like cucumbers or carrots well.

In contrast, grass is digested less by the intestines of dogs, which is why you can sometimes discover entire blades of grass or parts including mucus deposits in your dog's faeces. Sometimes blades of grass also get caught on the anus, which is why your dog occasionally drags its bottom across the floor. 

Conclusion: Should I intervene if my dog eats grass?

To summarise, you can bear in mind that it doesn't always have to be a bad sign when your pet consumes greens like a herbivore. In most cases, dogs eat grass to kill time or to stimulate their digestion.

However, you should take it as a warning sign if your dog appears very stressed when grazing or shows symptoms of pain. In general, it's better to go to the vet once too many than once too little!

If you aren't sure whether your dog is consuming sufficient nutrients in its food, a nutritional consultation for dogs is also an option.

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