Congratulations! As the proud new owner of an adorable little puppy, you want to do everything you can to make sure they are happy, healthy, and well-behaved. And so far, everything had been going along fine. That is until they recently started eating grass. Why is your puppy doing this? And should you be concerned?
Why Does My Puppy Eat Grass?
There are several reasons why puppies and dogs eat grass. Vets often point to a psychological disorder in dogs known as pica, the practice of eating non-nutritive items such as grass, dirt, rocks, or even (yuck!) feces. Most of the time it shouldn’t be a concern.
If your dog is eating grass, this behavior could be attributed to boredom. That’s especially true with puppies. By making sure they get enough exercise and playtime, you can help your puppy curb the practice and make him feel less bored.
It could also be your dog trying to make up for a lack of necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in the store-bought foods they are fed. A Journal of Veterinary Medical Science case study(1) from 2007 concerning an otherwise healthy poodle that constantly ate grass found that switching him over to a high fiber diet quickly remedied the problem. It could also be a best-effort attempt on your pet’s part to help improve their digestion. Changing up your puppy’s diet to something with a higher fiber content or one that aids in digestion may remedy the problem.
In some cases, puppies and dogs may eat grass due to an upset stomach, as having long pieces of grass hanging in the back of the throat or irritating their stomach will help induce vomiting. If you notice your puppy devouring grass after a particularly gassy episode inside or after you caught him getting into and eating something he shouldn’t have, chances are this is the reason. He may also show signs of lethargy or have runny, discolored feces.
Your puppy can’t exactly put his paw down into the back of his throat as we humans do with a finger when we badly need to regurgitate something that shouldn’t be in our stomachs. This may simply be his way of inducing the same results. If after eating grass and vomiting, your puppy returns to his regular, playful self, there needn’t be a concern.
Is it Common for Puppies to Eat Grass?
It’s not at all uncommon for puppies and dogs to occasionally eat grass. After all, dogs are an omnivorous species. In fact, chewing grass is fairly common in canines and may simply be an expression of instinct they have inherited from their ancestors in the wild. They may also like the taste.
In fact, the reason they eat grass may be the most obvious one. A notable 2007 Australian study, Grass eating patterns in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris(2) concludes that grass-eating is largely a satiety issue, that most dogs eat grass and do so simply because they are hungry.
Should I Stop My Puppy from Eating Grass?
Although occasional grass chewing should not be a concern, you should still discourage your puppy from eating grass, particularly if your lawn or the area that he eats it has been treated with herbicides or pesticides. These chemicals can be harmful to your pet. And even if you don’t use lawn chemicals, that doesn’t mean your neighbor might not. Rain and wind can create runoff that may carry such chemicals onto your property.
While your concern may be with grass and leaves outside, don’t overlook the fact that your puppy may want to munch on indoor plants, some of which may be poisonous. If you’re both a dog lover and a plant lover, avoid keeping any type of toxic plants in or outside of your home. And train your puppy to steer clear of all kinds, or barring that, keep them out of his reach.
Raising a puppy can be a bit like raising a child, and as all parents have learned, it can be hard to keep them from snacking. Introducing “healthy snacks” to their diets often works for kids, and it can for your pet too. If your puppy insists on sampling the grass in your yard or during other outdoor adventures, try introducing a healthier option to your dog’s diet like a container of wheatgrass, which you should be able to find in your local pet supply store.
Many dogs also enjoy safe “people” food like green beans, bananas, and strawberries. Or even cooked broccoli. With a little luck, you may get your dog to set a good example for your kids!
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Grass?
The best way to stop your dog from eating grass is to redirect his attention elsewhere with a more exciting activity, such as throwing a ball or stick or offering him a ride in the car.
This is also the perfect time to practice tricks or commands such as sit and come and providing him with ample praise as well as a few treats for following through. The key is to be consistent. Don’t offer a treat only occasionally for good behavior. He’ll need to connect the good behavior of not eating grass with the reward.
When Should My Dog’s Grass Eating Be Concerning?
While you need not worry if your dog occasionally consumes grass, there are situations when the behavior is concerning. If you find your puppy or adult dog repeatedly chowing down on grass and vomiting, contact your vet immediately. This may be a sign of a chronic condition, either parasites such as intestinal worms or worse, parvovirus or kidney disease.
Because there are always a few questions left unanswered…
Are There Other Red Flags to Look Out for Along With Grass Eating?
If your dog is constantly licking his lips and making smacking sounds, this is often an indication of nausea. If the licking behavior is combined with frequent grass eating and followed by vomiting, these are signs of illness and that something is clearly not right. It should go without saying that if your puppy is exhibiting such behavior, contact your veterinarian right away.
Grass Has Chlorophyll. Is it True Dogs Need That in their Diet?
Dogs do, in fact, need chlorophyll! Chlorophyll will help replenish your dog’s red blood cells which carry oxygen to the organs and cells throughout his body. But while the grass is green and therefore contains chlorophyll, it is not the best source. When you see dogs eating grass, don’t fool yourself into thinking they are getting the chlorophyll they need. That’s because they can’t digest it. Providing quality pet food that contains healthful vegetables or offering your pet fresh veggies like broccoli and parsley straight from the garden is far more beneficial. You may even find they enjoy pickles, though you should be careful and watch the salt content and other ingredients used to make them.
Should Dogs be Given the Same Diet as Their Counterparts in the Wild?
Some veterinarians and dog owners of a late push for a “natural” diet for dogs that more closely resembles what their ancestors, namely wolves, eat in the wild. And these animals do eat grasses and other plant life. The suggestion is that despite thousands of years of domestication, the biology of dogs and their wolf-like ancestors has not changed. This is simply not true. In fact, it is not even clear if dogs evolved from present-day wolves, but rather a smaller species of wolf that no longer exists. The dietary needs of today’s domesticated dogs are quite different than those of wolves, coyotes, and other “wild dogs.” Your pet should be given a well-tested, nutritionally balanced dog food diet as well.