Why do dogs eat grass?
Dog eating grass is a fairly common behavior in dogs and many owners, concerned about the issue, consult the vet. Next, we are going to try to understand why do dogs eat grass and if we should allow this behavior.
Surely on quite one occasion, you’ve got seen your dog or someone you recognize eat grass within the park, and you’ll have wondered if it’s good to let them eat or should we prevent them from doing so.
Why do dogs eat grass?
Some studies claim that 68% of dogs eat grass on a regular basis. As you can see, it is a fairly high percentage; however, little research has been done to determine the causes of this behavior.
There are several theories that try to justify this behavior, so we are going to review them one by one to understand this behavior.
Eating grass to purge
The most popular explanation is that dogs eat grass to purge themselves. That is, the dogs would eat grass in order to vomit and thus relieve their stomach discomfort or possible parasites.
But what does science say about this hypothesis? A study conducted by the University of California investigated this question and the results obtained were as follows:
- 68% of the dogs studied ate plants or grass regularly.
- Only 9% of dogs had symptoms of illness before eating grass.
- In only 22% of cases, vomiting occurred after eating grass.
If we evaluate these results, we observe that the percentage of dogs that presented discomfort before consuming grass was very low, and also, they did not always manage to vomit after ingesting it.
Therefore, consistent with this study, the intake of grass doesn’t need to be related to gastric discomfort, and eating plants or grass could simply be a natural behavior of the dog.
From my personal experience as a professional veterinarian, I share the conclusions of this study, since I have been able to verify that my dogs eat fresh grass whenever they have occasion, and in no case have I associated that they do so because their stomach hurts.
In addition, I keep his deworming up to date, so his behavior is not related to intestinal parasite problems either.
Eating grass to meet your nutritional needs
There are some experts who claim that dogs eat grass to satisfy their nutritional needs.
In the case of wolves, this theory is true since a diet based exclusively on meat would be deficient; therefore, they ingest the contents of the stomach of their prey (which has partially digested vegetables) and eat fruits as part of their regular diet.
However, the nutritional needs of the domestic dog are ensured with high-end feeds that already contain adequate levels of vegetables.
Studies show that dogs on a balanced diet also consume grass. So we will confirm that the consumption of grass isn’t related to nutritional deficiencies.
Dogs eat grass because they are hungry
There are recent studies that show that this behavior is directly related to satiety, that is, dogs eat more grass when they are hungry than when they are satiated.
Therefore, this theory could explain a “grass pecking” behavior in those animals that have food anxiety and don’t feel easily satiated.
Eating grass as part of natural behavior
The ingestion of grass is a common behavior in wild wolves and has its justification. Wild canids eat grass and other vegetables to aid in deworming and as part of their diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
Dogs are descended from wolves, and many of the behaviors our pets exhibit are the innate inheritance from their wild ancestors.
It seems that dogs are attracted to the taste of grass and like the habit of chewing it. In fact, it has been seen that dogs that have direct access to grass usually spend a minimum of three minutes a day consuming it.
Therefore, we can conclude that at present the most correct theory would be that dogs eat grass naturally and because they like it, this being a normal and inherited behavior.
Should we let our dog eat grass?
Now that you simply know that it’s a natural behavior that is often pleasant for our dog, you’re probably wondering if it’s good for a dog to eat grass on a regular basis or if it can cause health problems.
From an ethological or behavioral point of view, we should always let dogs eat grass if they want and not repress this behavior. However, from a health perspective, we must not let them eat grass from the street or field.
Eating this type of herb can have a number of risks to your health:
- The grass of the parks is usually treated with pesticides, so if our dog ingests it, it can become intoxicated.
- Field plants, although we think they are natural and safe, can be a vehicle for parasites in the form of larvae or eggs and cause infestations in our pets if we eat them.
If you want your dog to enjoy eating grass safely, you can consider the option of placing a pot at home and planting grass or another type of edible grass in it.
But we must not forget that there are dogs with digestive sensitivity and may not tolerate eating grass well; Therefore, in the event of vomiting or diarrhea, its ingestion is contraindicated.