Your beloved canine companion clearly isn’t a cow, so you might be confused when you see him eating grass. You might even be worried. Is he hungry? Bored? Sick? Will eating grass hurt him?
First, rest assured that you’re not alone in your concern, especially if your dog is eating grass and vomiting.
Pica is the technical term for the disorder characterized by eating things that aren’t food. Sometimes pica indicates that your dog has some type of nutritional deficiency, though it is often simply a sign of boredom, especially when practiced by puppies and younger dogs.
Dogs eating grass is actually quite common (it has been observed in wild dogs, too, and may be completely natural) and this form of pica does not usually cause too many problems. In fact, most veterinarians consider it a normal dog behavior. One small-scale study of 49 dog owners whose dogs had regular access to grass and other plants found that 79% of the dogs had eaten plants at some time. Another survey about plant-eating dogs found that grass was the most commonly eaten plant.
Why Is My Dog Eating Grass?
There are a variety of reasons your dog might be grazing on your lawn.
Some people propose that dogs might turn to eating grass when they don’t feel well as a way to make themselves vomit, and then feel better. Others dispute this idea, on the basis that dogs are not proven to be smart enough to decide to treat an upset stomach by eating grass.
Evidence suggests that most dogs that eat grass aren’t unwell beforehand, or at least they don’t seem so. In fact, fewer than 10% of dogs seem to be sick before eating grass, according to their owners. And grass-eating doesn’t usually lead to throwing up — less than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit regularly after grazing.
Other suggested reasons why your dog might be eating grass include improving digestion, treating intestinal worms, or fulfilling some unmet nutritional need, including the need for fiber. One published study reports on a miniature poodle that ate grass and then vomited every day for seven years. Three days after putting the dog on a high-fiber diet, the owner reported that the dog stopped eating grass entirely. And, of course, there is also the possibility that your dog simply likes the way grass tastes or feels.
Why Does My Dog Dog Eat Dirt and Other Gross Things ?
Sigh. Dogs will be dogs, won’t they? Unfortunately there’s no rhyme or reason to why your dog eats certain things, like used tissues or tampons from the bathroom trash (yes, they do it, and it’s disgusting), compost and even moldy kitchen garbage. Most of the time, this is due to the strange smells that tempt them, their curious nature and boredom.
The safest things you can do ?
– Keep trash stored in closed pantry closets or out of reach
– Dump your trash frequently to avoid tempting your dog
– If you have a motivated Labrador retriever or chowhound, crate train your dog while you’re gone during the day to avoid an accidental poisoning.
– Make sure you have pet-proofed (or child-proofed) your house. While ingesting a used tissue isn’t directly harmful, we still want to minimize your dog’s chances of getting into things (some objects will get stuck in the stomach and intestines requiring emergency abdominal surgery).
What is it about eating dirt ?
Once in a while, we’ll see dogs eating dirt. While dirt doesn’t get “stuck” in the stomach the way other foreign material can, this is still abnormal. However, if your dog eats dirt, this may be due to an underlying medical reason not just a curious schnooze!
When animals eat unusual substances compulsively (such as dirt, kitty litter, gravel, etc.), we call this pica. In some species (e.g., horses), it’s often out of boredom. While pica can sometimes be associated with behavioral idiosyncrasies (like if you have a very bored dog), it’s often more likely due to anemia or rare iron or mineral deficiencies. As an emergency critical care veterinarian, I occasionally see pica due to severe, life-threatening anemia secondary to immune-mediated hemolytic anemia.
Likewise, if you are cooking a homemade diet or feeding your dog a frozen or raw food diet (Editor’s Note: Ask your veterinarian before trying any new diet), make sure to get the diet assessed for trace mineral or vitamin deficiencies or excesses, as this can also result in pica.
Should I be concerned that my puppy is chewing on fallen leaves ?
Puppies will naturally chew on leaves, bark and twigs. They are teething and need to chew. Chewing on non-toxic plant matter should not, generally, be a problem, even seeing the occasional leave matter in the feces is normal. If this is becoming excessive and you are seeing plant litter in the feces every time your puppy relieves herself or she becomes constipated, is struggling to defecate, or has runny* or hard feces, then you perhaps should rethink letting her play in the leaf litter unsupervised.
Puppies chew all sorts of things and it’s a matter of encouraging them to chew the things we want them to chew. The best way to steer puppies in the direction of what we want them to chew, is to remove the objects from the puppies reach i.e. shoes, to the remove the puppy from the source (in this case it would be leaves) or replace the object of chewable affection with a more desirable chewable object. If you are concerned, provide your puppies with chew toys, dental chews and appropriate fresh meaty bones for them to chew on (they will enjoy these and they are good for them). If introducing fresh bones, do so gradually, as a sudden change in diet can cause stomach upsets. You could also clear the leaves from the play pen each day, or move the playpen to another area, where the leaves won’t fall in; Or provide a protective and angled shade cloth over the pen, if it remains under the tree, the leaves will cascade over the shade cloth and fall on the ground outside the shade cloth, if moved from under the tree, your puppies will have shade. The good news is, these puppy stages do not last for many seasons, so this may be the only fall you need to worry about.