Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Pet parents might question why their dogs eat grass and if it’s safe. While it’s generally normal and harmless, dogs eat grass for many reasons.

Jessica Martel
Written byJessica Martel
Jessica Martel
Jessica Martel

Jessica is a freelance writer, professional researcher, and mother of two rambunctious little boys. She specializes in personal finance, women and money, and financial literacy. Jessica is fascinated by the psychology of money and what drives people to make important financial decisions. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Cognitive Research Psychology.

Ashley Cox
Edited byAshley Cox
Headshot of Managing Editor Ashley Cox
Ashley CoxSenior Managing Editor
  • 7+ years in content creation and management

  • 5+ years in insurance and personal finance content

Ashley is a seasoned personal finance editor who’s produced a variety of digital content, including insurance, credit cards, mortgages, and consumer lending products.

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Updated June 12, 2024

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As a dog owner, you may have seen your furry friend munching on grass from time to time. While it might look strange, it’s a fairly common behavior among domestic dogs, and it usually isn’t a major cause for concern. Your dog might develop a grass-eating habit for a variety of reasons, ranging from boredom to biology.

Here’s what you should know about dogs and eating grass.

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7 reasons why dogs eat grass

If you’ve noticed your dog eating grass in your backyard or while out on a walk, you may question if it’s typical behavior. In most cases, grass eating is normal. The majority of dogs engage in this behavior, and several theories and explanations exist for why they do it.[1]

1. They have an upset stomach

It’s a widely held belief that dogs with gastrointestinal (GI) issues will eat grass to induce vomiting, which helps relieve their stomach discomfort. While this might be the case for some dogs, other studies have shown that even dogs in good health who have passed veterinary health checks to confirm they have no digestive issues still enjoy indulging in grass.[2]

2. It’s an inherited trait

Other experts believe that grass eating serves a biological purpose and is a trait that domestic dogs inherited from their wild dog ancestors. One biological theory is that grass and plant eating helps dogs and other animals clear their intestinal tracts. As the plant material passes through their digestive tract, it can wrap around worms and clear them from the intestines.

3. It’s a good source of fiber

Your dog might eat grass as a way to increase its fiber intake, which helps it digest food and keeps its GI system working properly.

4. Nutrition deficiency

Another theory is that dogs eat grass due to another type of diet deficiency or a behavioral problem, such as pica. Dogs with pica often eat non-food items such as grass, rocks, poop, or your shoes. Your dog might engage in these behaviors to try to compensate for a dietary deficiency, because it has anxiety, or to deal with boredom.[3]

5. They’re bored

It’s possible your dog’s grass eating is a sign of boredom. Researchers have found that if a dog is hanging out alone in the yard with nothing else to do, it might decide to eat grass because it’s bored. Spending time outside with your dog or providing it with chew toys or other forms of physical or mental stimulation might help deter it from eating your lawn.

6. They might be hungry

Dogs have been found to eat more grass before a meal rather than after, suggesting that maybe they’re eating your lawn because they’re hungry. Similarly, studies have found that dogs tend to eat more grass in the morning than later in the afternoon, when they’ve already had a meal or filled up on grass.[2]

7. They might like the taste

Perhaps your pet just really likes the taste of grass and treats it as another type of dog food. After all, it’s wet, fresh, and inviting. VCA Animal Hospitals suggests that many dogs have a preference for spring grass. They like to eat it when it’s starting to sprout.[4] Your pet might also enjoy the texture of grass in its mouth.

Is it safe for dogs to eat grass?

Eating grass is a normal behavior for dogs and is generally safe. But there’s a risk associated with grass that’s been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides because it can be toxic to dogs. 

Research has found that dogs that are exposed to lawns treated with herbicides have a significantly higher risk of developing cancer.[5] These chemicals can stay on lawns for at least 48 hours after they’re sprayed. To keep your pet safe, try to restrict its access to any grass that’s been treated with a pesticide or herbicide.

There’s also a chance that your dog can ingest parasites, such as hookworms or roundworms, when eating grass contaminated with feces from other dogs. Regular veterinary check ups can help identify these kinds of problems.

Good to Know

Whether or not eating grass is safe for your dog can also depend on the amount of grass they’ve eaten. If your dog enjoys the occasional munch of grass when you take it for a walk to the dog park, it’s likely no problem. But if it’s sitting in your backyard eating too much grass obsessively, this could make your dog sick.

When to consult a vet

While grass eating typically isn’t a cause for concern, you may want to contact your vet if your pup is eating excessive amounts of grass. Similarly, if your dog exhibits signs of illness after eating grass, such as vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, or a lack of appetite, it may warrant a vet visit.

If you notice that your dog has been eating a lot of grass off a neighbor’s lawn that’s been recently sprayed with a herbicide or pesticide, you may want to consult your vet, especially if your dog starts to display any new symptoms.

Ultimately, you know your pet best. If you have a concern about your pet’s grass eating, then it’s probably a good idea to reach out to your vet, even if it’s just for informational purposes. If anything, your vet can provide you with peace of mind.

See More: Best Pet Insurance Companies and Plans for 2024

See More: Best Pet Insurance Companies and Plans for 2024

Is eating grass normal dog behavior?

Grass eating is common across all breeds of dogs and is a regular behavior that isn’t necessarily associated with illness or dietary deficiency. Besides, dogs have been known to nibble on things far less nutritious than grass, like shoes, stuffed animals, and poop.

While many different theories can explain why your furry friend likes to indulge in green roughage, it’s often as simple as boredom or that it’s a tasty treat.

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How to stop your dog from eating grass

If you’re worried about your dog’s grass eating, here are some things you can do to curb the habit:

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    Feed your dog early

    Studies have found that dogs tend to eat more grass in the morning and before they’ve been fed. So feeding them early and before you put them in the backyard or taking them for a walk could deter them from eating grass.

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    Change your dog’s diet

    In some cases, your dog might benefit from a diet that’s higher in fiber or other nutrients. You can seek veterinary advice to determine if you should switch up your current dog food.

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    Provide entertainment

    Give your dog toys to play with or throw the ball in your backyard. Take it for walks and give it attention to prevent it from eating grass out of boredom.

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    Train your dog

    When you go on your walk, bring a pocketful of treats. Any time your dog goes to nibble on grass, say something like, “Leave it.” Call your dog back to you and then give it a treat and lots of praise.

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    Talk to your vet

    You can always reach out to a veterinary professional for specialized medical advice. Your vet can provide an accurate diagnosis of your pet and provide you with the next steps to help improve your dog’s health.

See Also: Best Pet Insurance for Dogs

See Also: Best Pet Insurance for Dogs

Why dogs eat grass FAQs

Dogs eat grass for a variety of reasons. If you still have questions about why your pup loves to eat your lawn, check out this additional information.

  • Does a dog eating grass mean anything?

    While it’s normal behavior for dogs to eat grass, it could mean something if your dog is eating grass obsessively or exhibiting symptoms of illness after eating grass. If you’re worried about your dog’s grass consumption, you can consult your veterinarian for more information.

  • Why do dogs vomit after eating grass?

    One theory for why dogs vomit after eating grass is that it causes gastric irritation. But not all dogs vomit after eating grass. In a study from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine looking at plant-eating behaviors in dogs, only 22% of dogs vomited after eating grass or plants.

  • Do dogs eat grass when they have worms?

    Some research suggests that dogs might consume grass and plants to help clear their intestinal tracts of worms. Studies have found that younger dogs are more likely to eat grass and plants, possibly because they’re less immune to worms and other intestinal parasites than older animals.

  • What is your dog lacking when it eats grass?

    Your dog might eat grass as a way to increase its fiber intake. But not all dogs eat grass because they’re lacking something in their diet.

  • Is it safe for dogs to eat grass?

    It’s generally safe for dogs to eat grass. But if your dog is eating grass obsessively, you might consider speaking to your veterinarian.

    Also, because people spray their lawns with pesticides, herbicides, or other fertilizers that can increase your pet’s risk for cancer, it’s best to keep your dog away from these areas.

Sources

  1. American Kennel Club. "Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?."
  2. University of New England. "Grass eating patterns in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris."
  3. American Kennel Club. "Pica in Dogs: What to Know."
  4. VCA Animal Hospitals. "Why does my dog eat grass?."
  5. The Humane Society of the United States. "Dogs, lawn care and cancer."
Jessica Martel
Jessica Martel

Jessica is a freelance writer, professional researcher, and mother of two rambunctious little boys. She specializes in personal finance, women and money, and financial literacy. Jessica is fascinated by the psychology of money and what drives people to make important financial decisions. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Cognitive Research Psychology.

Ashley Cox
Edited byAshley CoxSenior Managing Editor
Headshot of Managing Editor Ashley Cox
Ashley CoxSenior Managing Editor
  • 7+ years in content creation and management

  • 5+ years in insurance and personal finance content

Ashley is a seasoned personal finance editor who’s produced a variety of digital content, including insurance, credit cards, mortgages, and consumer lending products.

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