My grandma used to say that when dog feels stomach ache, he will eat grass. And if you are a dog owner, you have probably seen your puppy eating grass sometimes. So, is there any explanation for this behavior or is this just coincidental?
There is actually a term for the disorder that is characterized by eating foods or things that are not common for certain animals, or even for eating real things (not foods). It is called Pica. Pica can be an indicator that your canine friend is having certain food deficiency, on the other hand it doesn’t have to mean anything bad. So, simply pure boredom and especially if it’s practiced by smaller dogs.
This is also a quite common behavior, and up till now, no serious cases or harmful incidents have occurred or been caused by Pica. Veterinarians find grass on their examinations regurarly and they don’t even bother with it, so at least you have nothing to be worried about.
Why do dogs eat grass?
Now that we know that this behavior is not dangerous, here are some explanations why this strange thing happens.
In the sea of many different opinions, two of them sitck out the most. There are people who support this first theory, and others that dispute it. In this theory, dogs eat grass, so that they can later vomit and that way treat their upset stomach. They are indicating that dogs are reasonable enough to cure their own sickness. The ones that consider this foolish, as their main argument offer the fact that dogs are not that smart. So, there is no way that they have found a treatment method for themselves that actually works.
Studies showed that dogs don’t necesserally feel bad before eating grass (or most of them), and they actually feel worse after they consume the grass. Less than 10% of the dogs that participated in this experiment, were sick beforehand and felt stomach ache or sickness.
Also, eating grass doesn’t make the dog vomit every time. Less than 25% of the dogs vomited afterwards, so the connection to the self treatment, in this case, is probably disputed due to the fact that eating grass doesn’t really helps or hurts them.
Other suggestions are, that dogs eat grass to fulfill their nutritional needs. Perhaps if the dog is lacking in fiber, he will eat grass and in that way make up for the missing component. Connected to this theory, there is also an example of a poodle eating grass every day, and then vomiting for seven years. Veterinarian then put the poodle on a high fiber diet and she stopped eating grass. In this case the poodle was acting out, and eating grass to show her owner that something is wrong, or perhaps to make up for the missing nutrient by herself.
As a most obvious reason, your dog might simply enjoy eating grass, and that is why he does it. Even few veterinarians have shared this opinion as valid since it is so common. Dogs are natural explorers, and it is not strange to consider this to be just a normal dog behavior to get used to. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the right ones.
Getting back to the roots
Dogs used to be wild. And after domestication, some of those natural instincts have remained. And it is best shown in this case.
You will find your little scavanger digging holes in the backyard, checking every corner of the garden and simply exploring. So we can easily put „grass eating“ in this category also. Perhaps the grass is just interesting to him, and he wants to get some own pray for the day, and not only eat what is there for him served on a plate every day. Don’t let them ruin your garden of course, and try to tame them a bit when it comes to this behaviour.
It is natural to them to go out and explore everything, and smell everything and in the end even try to find some new delicious treats. Or you can still put some new food to try out for them, like fennel.
Should you be worried?
Like I said before, there is not really any danger to eating grass. Prunes are more dangerous to dogs. Except of course if the grass is covered with some dangerous chemicals, or you don’t want your flowers to be ruined in the process as well as your lawn. So, don’t get too scared when your dog starts to vomit, but also make sure that this doesn’t continue to the phase when it becomes strange. If it’s just one or two times then it is ok, but if you notice something’s wrong, always consult your veterinarian and explain to him what happened.
Some case studies even imply that this is a perfectly normal behavior and it is not connected to illness or dietary needs that are not being satisfied. So, from many different results you can find all over the internet, not even the experts can explain this behavior, and since no life threatening situation has been recorded they mostly ignore it.
It is probably just your dog’s animal instinct kicking in and making him explore around and making him go on a scavanger hunt. In the end only lead you can follow in this case is your gut. And if your dog feels just fine after eating grass, then let him do it. Just make sure he doesn’t redecorate your whole lawn.