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Why do dogs eat grass and vomit?

Your dog isn't a horse or a cow, so why would she wander outside to graze? You may be a bit confused when you see your dog outside acting like a farm animal, and it's completely normal to be concerned. But, rest assured, you're not alone in your questioning. 

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but a dog eating grass is actually quite common and known to be a relatively normal behavior. The question now though is, why do dogs eat grass? Is it a nutritional deficiency? Upset stomach? Some other type of illness?

When a dog has pica, they compulsively devour non-food items. Pica may be an indication of a nutritional deficiency in dogs, but it is frequently caused by boredom. This form of pica doesn't generally cause problems unless it spirals out of control. And, it's quite common. Most often, puppies and young dogs are most prone to this behavior. 

Possible nutritional deficiency 

Many veterinary professionals believe that grass-eating is caused by some sort of nutritional deficiency. Vitamins, minerals and adequate fiber for dogs are frequently missing from everyday diets. If your dog's body senses it needs more fiber, they may have a craving for grass to bulk up their feces preventing gas and loose stools.

But, if you know your dog is eating a well-balanced, healthy diet, eating grass may not be related to a deficiency. Dogs are naturally drawn to the act of grazing, with genetic origins extending back to when they pursued animals. They obviously didn't graze in the wild, but the prey they captured often did have grass contents in their stomachs. 

Other dogs may also be attracted to the taste and texture of grass, especially when it's fresh and emerging for the first time as it does in the spring season.

Removal of parasites

To remove huge intestinal parasites in dogs, canine wild ancestors consumed grasses. The roughage from the grass stimulates intestinal movement and helps to eliminate parasites. Even parasite-free dogs may retain an evolutionary habit of grazing on grass.

On the other hand, it is equally important that your dog avoids ingesting parasites by consuming the grass outside. In contrast to roundworms and tapeworms, hookworms survive in the soil, and they don't require an intermediary host to do so. The hookworm can be found in more temperate places, such as Virginia and North Carolina.

Checking your dog’s fecal matter for parasites on occasion, especially if you notice them consuming grass, can prove beneficial. If you notice any type of egg or larvae in your dog’s feces, call your veterinarian to make an appointment and get the problem taken care of.

Boredom, anxiety, and nervousness

Many dogs resort to chewing on grass due to boredom or nervousness. Not showing any symptoms of stomach difficulties, yet constantly munching on grass may be due to psychological factors.

Adding more activity to your daily routine will help minimize your dog's desire to eat grass. Adding mental stimulation, like puzzle toys and extra walks can help improve your dog's mental health. And, even if eating grass isn't caused by boredom, the mental stimulation will be healthy for your pup.

If grass consumption is due to anxiety (the most common type being separation anxiety), consider leaving an old blanket or t-shirt with your fragrance on it when you leave the house. The familiar aroma may serve to limit your dog's grass-eating habits.

Some dogs may also demonstrate compulsive behaviour, similar to OCD in humans, and if this is the case it may require medical attention or further investigation by a canine behaviorist. Dogs who have compulsive behavior will chew on grass excessively rather than just on occasion. 

Make your grass dog friendly

In order to make your grass as safe as possible, in case your dog does get a craving for any reason, you shouldn't use pesticides or toxic chemicals in your lawn. Pesticides and insecticides can lead to an array of health hazards. Not only can it cause severe poisoning, but even in small quantities, it can significantly increase cancer risk.

You should also reduce the risk of parasite transmission by ensuring your dog only eats grass in your yard and nowhere else a dog may have defecated. And, clean up the feces from your lawn as well. We don't want our dog outside eating fecal matter. 

You should also ensure your dog is eating only soft grass. Long, rigid grass with sharp edges could cause abrasions in the throat. This could lead to severe irritation and inflammatory reactions.

When to take action

As long as your dog is not vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, or drinking a lot of water, it's considered generally safe for her to eat grass occasionally (not excessively).

If you find your dog is eating grass more regularly or excessively, be on the lookout for underlying health issues. Also search for vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, blood in stool, lethargy, or lip licking. If you notice any of the above, or suspect your dog has consumed a plant type he shouldn't have, contact your veterinarian to determine the cause.