The Causes of Dogs Eating Dirt and Grass

Eating dirt and grass is not an unusual dog behavior, though if it happens repeatedly, it could be a sign of a digestive problem or a nutritional deficiency. The type of dirt and grass your dog eats is also something to keep an eye on -- yards treated with pesticides or decorated with poisonous plants could be particularly dangerous for your dog to ingest.

Golden retriever puppy looking at the camera
A little grass nibbling is not usually cause for concern.
credit: EJMPhotos/iStock/Getty Images

Why Dogs Eat Dirt

Dogs eat dirt and grass for a number of reasons. They like the taste or smell or they’re hungry. A dog may eat grass as a way to make himself vomit, which he might do if he has an upset stomach. He also may have a condition called pica, in which he craves nonfood items. This can be a sign that he’s lacking essential vitamins or minerals in his diet. Talk to your vet about choosing a high-quality, high-fiber dog food or supplement to address this issue. Also consider adding cooked vegetables, such as green beans, to your dog’s diet to increase roughage.

Natural Inclinations

Wild dogs often eat grass, berries and wild vegetables, and your domesticated canine may enjoy this pastime too. Nibbling on grass is nothing to worry about, but eating big mouthfuls quickly can be a sign your dog is experiencing digestive issues. This type of behavior should be reported to a vet, especially if it happens frequently or is accompanied by significant weight loss or other unusual physical symptoms. Your dogs could have intestinal parasites that need to be treated.

Boredom Eating

If your dog is left outside unattended for long periods of time, he’s likely to get bored and dig, which can lead to eating the dirt and grass he’s playing with. This can leave unsightly holes in your yard and destroy flower patches and gardens. Help alleviate this boredom by making sure your pup gets plenty of exercise and attention and has interactive toys to play with when you’re gone.

Chasing Prey

If your yard is full of gopher or mole holes, your dogs could be digging for prey and eating dirt as part of the process. Fill in holes or humanely trap and relocate unwanted yard pests as a way to deter the digging-eating cycle if it becomes a cause for concern. This approach can deter dirt-eating as well as protect your dog from potentially dangerous rodent bites and scratches.