Why do dogs like to eat grass? There are several reasons. When you’re walking your dog or she’s running around at the dog park, you’ve probably noticed that she likes to stop and nibble on it. It’s probably something you wouldn’t do yourself (although I once observed two inebriated young men pull grass from the ground and stuff it into their mouths)!
Dogs are omnivores and for thousands of years they were opportunistic scavengers who would eat anything they could get their paws on. Way back when, they would eat their entire prey. This often included the stomach contents of plant-eating animals.
Your pet dog doesn’t need to do this. However, the tendency to do so still persists and dogs eat plants, most commonly grass when it’s close at hand.
Grass is tasty
They like the taste and the texture; much like people like the taste and texture of foods such as celery and lettuce. Again, dogs are omnivores and nature has programmed them to seek out all kinds of food sources.
Possible nutritional deficiency
Not everyone agrees, but experts says that if you’re feeding your dog a commercially produced diet, it’s possible she may be craving something that diet lacks. If she’s really going for the grass with gusto, consider introducing natural herbs or cooked vegetables. Many dogs eat and like vegetables. If fact, you can read here about vegan dog treats.
Dogs will seek out a natural remedy for an upset stomach and grass might help. The grass blade tickles the throat and stomach lining and in turn may cause vomiting; especially if she gulps it down instead of chewing it. However, studies have shown that less than 25% of dogs vomit after ingesting grass.
Is it something other than an upset stomach?
Watch out for a sudden increase in grass eating. In this case, you might want to make sure that your dog doesn’t have something more serious. Your veterinarian can determine if there’s an underlying gastrointestinal disease with a physical exam, fecal exam and blood tests that include a blood count and chemistry panel. The blood count can determine if there’s inflammation or blood loss. This might indicate bleeding in the GI tract. The chemistry panel assesses the health of systems including the pancreas and liver. Contact your veterinarian if your dog has lethargy, weight loss and diarrhea along with the grass-induced vomiting.
Your dog could be bored. Is she getting enough exercise and other kinds of stimulation? Make sure she is.
Can grass eating hurt a dog?
Most experts agree that there is no harm in dogs eating grass. However, when you’re out on your daily walk and she wants to munch, make sure the grass hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Watch for this especially in the spring and summer when many people seem to go crazy with this stuff. Also, make sure your dog isn’t allergic to grass.
But, watch out for grass awns
Other names for grass awns are mean seeds, timothy, fox tails, cheat grass, June grass and Downy Brome. If you’ve ever walked in a field (at least here in the US) you’ve probably had this stuff stuck through your socks and it’s very irritating! An awn is a hairy or bristle-like appendage that grows from the ear or flower of barley, rye and other types of grasses. They are characterized by sharp spikes that hold fast to surfaces (like your socks) so that their seeds spread.
Those sharp ends can penetrate into the skin and tissues of your dog. Your dog could also inhale or swallow these or they can become lodged in her ears.
How do grass awns affect your dog?
If an awn is stuck in your dog’s nasal cavity, she may sneeze. Subsequently, she could suffer from nasal drainage or infection.
If it gets into her ear canal, you may notice that she shakes her head, scratches her ears and holds her head at a tilted angle.
If she swallows an awn, it can embed itself in the back of the throat and cause irritation and swelling.
When it’s embedded in her skin, you will find inflammation, redness, irritation and draining sores. As a consequence, your dog may scratch, lick, chew or paw at the area. She may also suffer from lethargy, depression and decreased appetite.
So, here’s the really nasty part about these things. They can migrate through the body and cause all kinds of chaos. Once they penetrate through the surface layers of the tissues, they can end up almost anywhere, including the lungs, spinal cord, abdominal organs and the brain. This in turn can produce infection, inflammation and hinder normal body functions.
Thus, this seemingly harmless plant material can do some serious damage. Unfortunately, dogs have been known to die. So, keep your dog protected with vests and head covering when walking through fields where awns may be present. After your walk, make sure to check your dog for awns.
Why do dogs like to eat grass? Well, we can see that it’s a pretty common and non-harmful behavior. Dogs are omnivores so vegetable material should be part of their diet anyway. However, be very, very careful around grass awns. Furthermore, if grass eating becomes excessive, take your dog to the veterinarian to determine if there’s a more serious problem.
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