Should you worry if your dog eats grass?

Does your dog eat grass?At one time or another, you have likely caught your dog taking a bite or two from a patch of grass. Should you worry about the family dog's grass eating habit? While the common belief is that dogs eat grass when they are sick, there may not be as much cause for concern as dog owners fear. What should pet owners know about why dogs eat grass?

Grass eating in dogs is not always a sign of illness. Growing up, I believed that our dog was sick if he ate grass. In fact, common beliefs say that a dog seeks out a quick bit of grass to self treat a stomach ache. It always seemed logical that a grass eating dog was ill. Most times, he would vomit soon after eating a few bites of grass! However, experts are less certain whether the upset stomach causes the dog's desire for grass or whether the blades of grass cause an upset stomach.

Most dogs eat grass at one time or other. While most pet owners attest to the fact that they have seen their dog eat grass at some time, the reasoning remains a mystery. Some dogs are even able to eat grass without vomiting. Since most dogs, even perfectly healthy dogs, satisfy a random craving for grass without risk, pet owners should understand that eating grass may not be the worst strange item your dog consumes.

While grass is not necessarily harmful, not all grass is safe to eat. Chemically fertilized, or pesticide treated grass should be avoided. If at all possible, pets should only be allowed to eat untreated, grass in a safe environment. Ensuring that the grasses your dog comes into contact with are safe is a difficult task. It may be safest for your dog to avoid grass eating entirely. Some dog owners choose to provide a safe indoor patch of grass just for eating purposes.

Experts offer a lot of theories about why dogs eat grass, but draw no solid conclusions. Some experts agree that dogs may instinctively attempt to settle an upset stomach by eating grass. Others argue that dogs eat grass to satisfy strange non-food cravings, much like pregnant women who report the urge to eat chalk or dirt. Some animal experts wonder if the dog does not try to induce vomiting by eating the ticklish grass pieces. Some experts wonder if a dog is simply bored and chews on grass pieces to pass the time. In reality, the exact reason that prompts dogs to eat grass is not known--and may even vary by dog. Most experts agree that if a dog eats safe grass, and shows no other signs of illness, there is little cause for concern.

What can you do to prevent grass eating in dogs? Feeding a dog a proper diet and offering toys and activities to battle boredom may reduce grass eating in some dogs, but may have little effect on others. Without knowing exactly why your dog chooses to eat grass, it is difficult to remedy the situation. If grass eating concerns you, supervise your pet as much as possible when outdoors or confine him to safe areas during times outside.

Grass eating along with other signs of illness warrants a veterinary visit. If the dog that is eating grass is also losing weight, refusing food or water, exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior, is suffering from extreme vomiting or diarrhea or seems generally sick--then a call to his veterinarian is necessary. Simply eating grass is not a cause for concern in every dog. It is essential; however, for dog owners to watch a dog who has been eating grass for other signs of illness that may indicate a cause for worry.


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