The fact is that even if your dog has a well-balanced diet, she may still go for the green stuff on a regular basis. And studies have shown that most types of grasses will not make dogs throw up. So the idea that dogs eat grass because they are missing something in their diet does not stand up to scrutiny. (Though grass does contain essential nutrients that a dog might crave anyway.) There has also been no hard science proving that eating grass is linked to vomiting. That said, the ingestion of grass does make some dogs vomit, but it’s unclear if it was the grass that gave the dog the upset stomach to begin with.
So Why Do They Eat It?
Whether they scarf it up by the mouthful or daintily nibble just a few blades, the answer may be simple: They just like the way it tastes. Remember, dogs enjoy all sorts of things that disgust the human palate—dirty socks and gristle from the trash can, anyone?
Writing for the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, Andrea Rediger says, “another theory states that undomesticated dogs are naturally omnivores (meat and plant-eaters), therefore domesticated dogs instinctively include plant material in their diet. Alternatively, some speculate that undomesticated dogs would ingest plant material in the stomachs of their prey, and therefore the species developed a taste for it.”
Petmd.com points out that “for tens of thousands of years, these opportunistic scavengers have devoured anything and everything, as long as it fulfilled their basic dietary requirements.”
It has been documented that there are several species of wild canids that also commonly eat grass.
Despite the lack of solid evidence that grass-eating is directly related to a dog self-curing, Petmd.com says that it does seem like dogs will seek out a natural remedy for a gassy or upset stomach, and grass may do the trick: “When ingested, the grass blade tickles the throat and stomach lining; this sensation, in turn, may cause the dog to vomit, especially if the grass is gulped down rather than chewed.”
The Purdue article also cautions that even if our dogs aren’t eating grass because they’re trying to vomit, care should be taken to make sure they’re not sick: “Your veterinarian can determine whether your dog has an underlying gastrointestinal disease with a physical exam, fecal exam, and blood tests including a blood count and chemistry panel. The blood count tells us if there is inflammation or blood loss that could indicate bleeding into the GI tract; the chemistry panel assesses the health and function of body systems including the pancreas and liver, which are intricately associated with the gastrointestinal tract. If your veterinarian diagnoses GI disease, proper treatment can be prescribed. So when should you call your veterinarian? If your pet experiences lethargy, diarrhea, weight loss concurrent with grass-induced vomiting, she should see the vet. If not, you can probably rest easy knowing that your dog is just doing what dogs do.”
Is Eating Grass Dangerous For Dogs?
Most experts say that letting your dog eat grass poses no real risk. But do keep an eye on it, especially if there is a sudden increase in grass eating; it could be a sign of an underlying illness. And always monitor a teething puppy, because ingesting a lot leaves, grass, and sticks can lead to a blockage.
If you notice that your dog has been munching away on grass or houseplants, you may want to introduce natural herbs or cooked vegetables into his diet.
You may also want to buy a small tray of grass just for your dog, or start an herbal home garden. This will give your pooch an alternative to eating the outdoor grass and landscaping, which could lead to accidental ingestion of pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals that have been used to treat your yard.