Why do dogs eat grass?
It might be an anomaly that dogs eat grass. They are well known natural carnivores. So it is confusing to see them eating grass in the backyard, lawn and in public parks. Is it that they are hungry, sick or bored; it is not clear to many of their owners. It might seem like an odd behavior and be worrisome for the owners especially when after eating grass, dog vomits.
The reason for dogs eating grass is contributed to Pica, a disorder characterized by eating of non-food things. Pica can be caused by nutritional deficiency, but more often than not, it is merely a sign of boredom, especially in the case of puppies and younger dogs. Studies have shown that dogs eating grass is common and does not cause too many problems. It is a normal behavior on the part of the dog, as veterinarians believe. According to a study, 79% of the dogs have eaten grass and other plants at some point in time.
There are various proposed reasons for dogs to be eating grass. Some of the theories are contradicting to each other. The fact is that there is not 100% evidence for any of the theories. There is no single or simple answer. It is reasonable to assume that different dogs are motivated by different reasons for this behavior.
One of the theories is that dogs eat grass when they are feeling ill. The grass makes them vomit, which in turn make them feel better. Dogs have no means of digesting the grass as they lack the essential enzymes. They eat it due to the feeling of nausea. It is possible that they have learned that eating grass is a solution, even temporary, to soothe stomach irritation. According to some vets, when endoscopy was conduct on dogs eating grass with a show of swallowing gesture, it was often discovered that there is an inflammatory condition in their stomach or redness around lower esophagus ‘“ indicating gastric reflux or inflammatory bowel disease.
Another theory suggests that the reason behind grass eating is the improvement of digestion, treatment of intestinal worms or fulfillment of nutritional need, such as fiber. A published study reports the miniature poodles that ate grass and vomited regularly, stopped eating grass completely and vomiting as soon as they were put on a high-fiber diet. In addition, dogs eat indigestible matter if they are very hungry or suffer from malnutrition. Canines are natural scavengers wired to search for nutrition anywhere. It would make sense that dog may turn to grass for its nutritional need.
However, the theory is disputed by many due to the fact that according to them, dogs are not smart enough to know to treat an upset stomach by eating grass. They support their objection by the fact that less than 10% of dogs appeared sick before eating grass as reported by their owners. Also, it has been reported that less than 25% of dogs vomit after eating grass. In 2008, a study in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, stated that grass consumption don’t often lead to vomiting. Sick dogs are more likely to vomit after eating grass than healthy ones. Stats imply that illness is not the only reason for eating grass.
It is also possible that dogs simply enjoy the taste and feel of grass. They search, rather meticulously for moist, thick and juicy patches of grass. They apparently enjoy their habit and do not suffer from the aforementioned effects of eating grass such as vomiting. Grass does not harm them in any way. Furthermore, it is quite possible that dogs eat grass merely to pass time. It may have access to a backyard but not much to do in it. Is it important to evaluate whether its physical activity requirements are being met. Regular exercise and mental challenges for the dog can diminish the habit.
The evolutionary process also presents a theory for this behavior. The ancestral dogs had to develop good hunting abilities to survive and grass eating allowed them to conceal their scent from the prey. The need to hunt disappeared with evolution, but the grass eating behavior was retained.
Experts believe that grass is a type of self-medication, taken in to relief of stomach problems. It is usually the case if the dog starts eating grass suddenly, extending its neck and making swallowing gesture followed by vomiting. But statistics show that eating grass is infrequent in dogs and there are other reasons for the behavior.
Many veterinarians consider grass eating as a normal dog behavior. Usually it don’t results in any real nutritional value from the grass but it is not harmful as long as it is free of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. It is recommended that no toxic products are used on the grass, it is always better to keep an eye out for chemical signs warning.
WebMD, N.D., Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?, Retrieved from: http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/why-do-dogs-eat-grass
Juliana Weiss-Roessler, Why Dogs Eat Grass ‘“ And How to Prevent it, Retrieved from: http://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/dog-nutrition/Why-Dogs-Eat-Grass-and-How-to-Prevent-It
Michael Goldberg, A Vet’s Take On Why Dogs Eat Grass ‘“ Decoding Grass Chewing, Retrieved from http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/vet-s-take-why-dogs-eat-grass/297