Have you ever wondered if your canine companion is actually a goat? Mine can be, especially in the spring and early summer. The reason is he likes to munch on grass when we go for walks after our cold winters. I am constantly saying, “Allin, stop eating grass- you’re not a goat!” When your dog is eating non-food items, like grass, this is referred to as pica. Why they indulge in grass has many answers but nothing definitive.
One reason may have to do with an instinctual behavior to vomit. When some dogs eat grass they vomit, which makes some experts believe this is their way of medicating themselves when they have an upset stomach. Unfortunately, this theory only works if your dog vomits after eating grass, which mine does not.
Another closely related reason is this behavior is a way for the animal to “purge” their system of intestinal parasites. The worms would get trapped in the grassy material and get expelled from the animal’s body in their waste.
This leads to another reason which is based in a more ancient behavior instinct involving their diet. When in the wild dogs would eat many different kinds of prey items. These items would include meat, bones, and internal organs, but no fiber. In the wild they would indulge in grass to fill this need for fiber. This may not be the best answer because our dogs eat a very well balanced diet in the widely available commercial diets today.
If your pet happens to be grass eater you should attempt to curb this behavior. While the grass may not be harmful the pesticides or herbicides that could be applied to the grass are. Not to mention the possibility of ingesting parasites, like roundworms or hookworms from the feces of another infected animal, in that grass snack.
The simplest way to curtail this behavior would be to redirect when you notice them eating grass. This can be accomplished by offering an appropriate treat or with a verbal command, such as “heal” or “leave it”.
While there is no nutritional value to eating grass and no definitive reason for this choice of snacking, I tend to believe the real answer is that they just like it.
Todd Yaekel is a Veterinary Technician at Apple Valley Veterinary Clinic and a graduate of Glove University. He has been working in the veterinary field for two years. He has been active in Greyhound rescue for over ten years and enjoys fly-fishing.