At the first sight of my dog eating grass, I thought, "Is he a Cockapoo or a 'Cowcapoo?' Should I be worried that eating grass could hurt him? After all, he'll eat anything! Maybe he simply loves chewing grass because to him it tastes good, like a salad tastes to us?
The technical term for digesting anything not classified as an actual food is called, 'pica.' For dogs the most common form of pica is 'rock eating', but as everyone knows, dogs will, at times, consume a variety of inedible objects including plastic bags, wood, paper, etcetera. My dog for instance, harbors a particular fondness for 'Kleenex,' and they needn't be clean!
Grass Eating Dogs
Dogs eating grass is more common than you think and may be a natural function carried over from their past (as it has also been observed occurring with wild dogs too.) Scientifically speaking, grass eating may be related to a dog's evolutionary past. Good hunting abilities and survival skills were needed for the good of their young and the welfare of their pack. Eating grass may have been a way of hiding their scent from predators, in much the same manner in which dogs roll in smelly things to mask their scent!
Grass eating in itself is a form of pica that doesn't cause a lot of problems and most veterinarians consider it a normal dog behavior. Something to consider, however are the herbicides and pesticides used in lawn care. These chemicals are very dangerous to all pets! Not only are pesticides dangerous but also some plants could be hazardous for your dog to ingest. The ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center maintains an entire list of toxic and non toxic plants for your reference on their site. It's worth a look!
If your dog ingests treated grass or poisonous plants, you can call the ASPCA's 24/7 Animal Poison Control hotline at (888) 426-4435.
Some believe dogs eating grass is because dogs believe it helps them to vomit when they have stomach problems. Others dispute this line of thought saying dogs do not have the intelligence to know what remedy is best for their stomach ailments. Evidence suggests most dogs really aren't sick before they eat grass and afterwards, they don't vomit from eating it!
Intestinal worms may be the cause of your dog's grass eating habit. Worms that invade your dog's body do so in a stealthy manner at first, that is until the worm population grows and your dog experiences other health problems. In any case it wouldn't hurt having your dog tested for these problem causing parasites! Worm testing should be an annual practice. Worm prevention with products such as Sentinel or Frontline should be administered monthly for the entire life of your dog. Believe me, prevention is worth the price for a healthy, worm free dog!
Stopping The Grass Habit
If your dog is bored and boredom is the reason for grass eating, then you might consider exercising your dog more. Buy a frisbee to play catch. Get your dog a new dog toy and keep your dog occupied with some fun activities!
Pica sometimes indicates your dog has some sort of nutritional deficiency, but oftentimes it's nothing more than your dog being bored, especially if your dog is a puppy or a younger dog. Most puppies grow out of this type of behavior in about six months or so with a little discipline from their owner.
If you suspect nutritional deficiencies may be the cause of your dog's grass eating habit, consider switching to a higher grade dog food containing high fiber and better nutrition. This may aid in alleviating the problem altogether.
In the long run, we're not a 100% sure why dogs eat grass. Stomach distress can hint to a number of problems more serious like gastric reflux or inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Obsessive compulsive behavior (including eating anything in sight that is not food) is another disorder requiring special training for your dog in order to eliminate the problem. Check with your vet for more information on how to treat your dog in these cases and where to go for help.
By Tom Matteo