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Why do dogs eat grass?

Why do dogs eat grass?

No doubt, dogs eat grass. You lovingly prepare food for your dog based off whatever you determined is the best choice for them.  Whether its kibble, raw food, or a gourmet meal you got off the Food Network, you’re feeling pretty good about nourishing your four-legged family member.  But just like some family members, your dog scoffs at your cuisine and would rather eat some junk that’s not in your meal plan.  I’m not talking about ordering grilled cheese at a classy restaurant (definitely me until my 20s), but I am talking about your dog eating grass every time they go outside.  So if your dog eats grass, you might be wondering why they do it, if its bad, and what to do about it.  Let’s start with the conventional wisdom.

Forcing an Upset Stomach

Growing up, I was always under the impression that a dog ate grass because it wasn’t feeling well.  Under this premise, queasy or nauseous dogs eat grass to intentionally induce vomiting and purge whatever is causing the stomach issue.  The theory here is that the grass tickles the throat and the digestive tract to trigger a gag reflex, sorta like a delayed version of sticking your fingers down your throat.  The result is the same: vomit.  But if this is true, my dogs don’t feel well on a daily basis; they’re always eating grass, in addition to happily finishing the nutritious meal I prepare for them.  But they rarely ever throw-up…maybe a couple times a year.

This is consistent with a University of California study where researchers surveyed dog-owners whose dogs eat grass.  Out of the dogs who ate grass, 22% regularly vomited afterward, and only 8% appeared ill before eating it.  So have my dogs ever thrown up grass?  Sure, but its pretty rare. The research suggests that intentional purging is a tiny part of the reason dogs eat grass.

Dogs Eat Grass

Another theory of why dogs eat grass is that they are making up for a nutritional deficit in their diet.  In this regard, they crave the micronutrients that grass offers.  This theory includes the evolution of dogs from wolves that involves canines eating the stomach contents of their grass-eating prey, and so our dogs inherently crave that grassy goodness.  This theory makes a couple leaps, but it doesn’t sound so far-off, right?  I mean, animals instinctively know what they’re supposed to eat.  However, the researchers tested this, and observed that dogs who ate a diet supplemented with plant matter still ate grass anyway.  So it appears the instinct for nutrition isn’t a significant factor of why our dogs chomp on grass.

Dogs are Weird, But That’s Not Bad

In conclusion, we knew all along why we love our dogs in the first place. Indeed, dogs are weird.  Sometimes they do stuff that defies reason and our human tendency to justify everything with logic.  At the end of the day, some dogs just like to eat grass, whether out of boredom, or because they like the taste.  A small part of the time, it may be due to illness, in which case they likely appear sick and take huge bites of grass without chewing.  Otherwise, they’re taking small bites and chewing it for the herbal bouquet. The important part is that its not actually bad for them; unless the grass is treated with a fertilizer or harmful chemical that they shouldn’t be ingesting.  In that case, they shouldn’t even be walking on that grass because they can absorb the toxins through their paws.  Otherwise, let them eat grass!

References:

Coren (2014): https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201412/why-dogs-eat-grass-myth-debunked

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