Cows eat grass. But Dogs? One of the most commonly asked questions is why do dogs eat grass. Contrary to common beliefs, grass eating or technically referred to as ‘pica’, is quite common among dogs. In this article, we explore some theories explaining why dogs eat grass.
1. Health benefits: There is a common belief that dogs eat grass to fill a void of fiber in their diets. Grass contains dietary fibre and thus your dog could be eating grass to source extra roughage.
2. Because your dog enjoys it: A plausible and in fact quite simple reason could be that they enjoy the taste or texture.
3. To induce vomiting: There is a common misconception that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting. Whilst this may be true, in a study conducted by Dr Benjamin Hart, a distinguished professor at the University of California along with Davis, Dr. Karen Sueda, an animal behavioral specialist, and Dr. Kelly Cliff, only 22% percent of pet owners reported their dogs routinely vomited after eating grass. “Contrary to the common perception that grass eating is associated with observable signs of illness and vomiting,” writes Hart, “we found that grass eating is a common behavior in normal dogs unrelated to illness and that dogs do not regularly vomit afterward. Vomiting seems to be incidental to, rather than caused by, plant eating."
4. An inherited trait: Eating grass could reflect an innate predisposition inherited from ancestors. Although more studies are needed, Dr Hart and team concluded that grass eating could serve a biological purpose. As observed in wild chimpanzees, which eat whole leaves from a variety of plants, the plant material passes through the intestinal tract, increasing intestinal motility and wrapping around worms and thereby alleviating the intestinal issue. As such, eating grass may be an inherited trait from their wild ancestors.
5. Behavioral issues: Dogs like humans can develop anxiety-based conditions e.g. obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). This is when certain behaviors are triggered when the animal feels anxious or nervous. As such, grass-eating could be developed because your dog may be feeling anxious or nervous. Other behavioral-related explanations relate to your dog being bored. Grass eating becomes more of a “pass-time” activity.
Grass eating does not pose a real risk and in fact is quite normal behavior among dogs. However, you should keep an eye on your dog for any sudden increases in grass eating behavior as it could be a sign of an underlying illness. It always good to exercise additional care and be mindful of where your dog is eating grass, if it is at all. Be mindful of pesticides and other harmful chemicals that may be used on the grass which could lead to adverse health effects.