Dogs That Eat Grass
Veterinarian Reviewed on June 30, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM
Posted in Behavior Management
Even though dogs live off of a mostly carnivorous diet, they can also survive on a vegetarian diet that is well balanced. Dogs require a combination of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water that together should provide enough calories to meet their daily needs.
Dogs are descended from wild canids, such as the wolf, and have survived over the years by being scavengers. When eating a kill, they would first go for the stomach and intestines of their prey. Since most of their prey were herbivores, they would also eat lots of plants and berries that were found in their stomach.
Most veterinarians are in disagreement as to why dogs like to eat grass. One theory is that because they were once scavengers that ate the plant filled stomachs of their prey, that they are more predisposed to wanting to eat grass.
Veterinarians have not quite decided whether dogs eat grass to vomit or they vomit because they eat grass. Although the majority of vets actually feel that there is something present in the grass itself that stimulates the dog’s urge to vomit.
A dog’s stomach contains neuro-receptors actually respond to whatever it is that a dog has eaten, such as, acidity, texture and the chemical content.
Research has indicated that the texture of the ingested grass irritates a dog’s stomach which may induce vomiting. This may explain why a presumably healthy dog is able to eat without being ill. Sick dogs will chew the grass faster than a healthy dog will. This causes all the prickly blades of grass to pass through to the stomach without being properly chewed up. This irritation plus whatever was upsetting their stomachs in the first place, causes the dog to throw up, thereby ridding themselves of the irritating substance.
A build up of bile in their stomachs, is another reason why dogs eat grass and then vomit. Their gallbladder produces the bile which is then excreted into their stomachs to help digest fats. If a dog’s stomach is empty, the bile can make the dogs feel ill which then forces the dog to eat grass so that they can regurgitate whatever it is that is making them feel ill. Although this is considered normal dog behavior, it is recommended that dogs be fed smaller meals more frequently or to give them a cookie or two before their bedtime so that their stomachs have something to digest overnight.
Since dogs have been eating and regurgitating grass for centuries without any negative side effects, most veterinarians today are not concerned about this phenomenon.
The problem, however, occurs when a dog eats grass that has been treated with an insecticide, herbicide, fertilizer or other harmful chemicals. When walking your dog outside of his home environment, it is best to keep a watchful eye on your dog to make sure that he does not stop to eat the grass instead of the roses.
At home, however, you are better able to control your dog’s grass eating addiction. Before applying any type of chemical to your lawn, read the packaging label very carefully. These days most of the insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers that are on the market today, state whether or not they are dangerous for pets. Regardless of whether or not the chemical product you choose to use on your lawn is safe for pets, you should prevent your dog from walking, sitting, playing or eating grass right after you have applied such chemicals. Even though most of these chemical products break down quite quickly, they can still pose a threat to the health of your dog if he or she ingests them along with the grass right after they have been applied.
A final veterinarian theory as to why dogs eat grass is because they are lacking adequate fiber in their diets. To see if this theory proves true for your dog, you are encouraged to buy dog food that claims to be high in fiber, such as found in senior dog kibble. But since these types of high end commercial dog foods can be expensive, there are other options to increase your dog’s fiber intake and supplement their diet.
A few suggestions include adding diced raw vegetables to your dog’s kibble, or adding green beans or broccoli to broth and pouring it over your dog’s dry food. Sprinkling bran to your dog’s food can also do the trick.
Another natural approach to improving your dog’s diet is to add supplements, such as Nu-Pets Granular Greens, which contains Wheat Grass, Barley and Alfalfa.
Photo Credit: 2neus
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan