Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

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Dogs, though primarily classified as meat eaters, can be conveniently categorized as omnivores. This is because of their prevalent feeding habits where they eat anything from breads to chocolates to cereals and to grass. The most common dog of them all, Canis Familiaris, is a domesticated species that tends to eat food articles that human beings or other herbivores also eat. But the most surprising feature about dogs’ food habits is their eating grass. It is surprising because grass does neither form a part of a dog’s staple diet nor does it have any nutritional or energy value for it. This confounding canine behavior has always mystified veterinarians ever since dogs have been domesticated. Rationally so, because their digestive abilities are the least capable of digesting grass. Some dogs occasionally nibble small quantities of grass, but others ingest larger quantities and do it more frequently. These anomalous behaviors of eating varying quantities of grass and the frequency of eating are peculiar to every other dog and cannot be attributed to any specific breed or environment. While for some it may be a monthly practice, for others it may be weekly or even daily. Many times, it is a cause of concern for the dog owners when there is a change in the pattern of the grass-eating regimen of their pets.

Some experts opine that dogs, by munching grass, get some worthwhile enzymes that help in the digestion of fiber content in their diets. And if a dog is noticed eating grass when it is sick, it is nothing unusual as they do likewise when healthy, too—that is to say, all the time.

Veterinarians have classified dogs’ grass-ingesting habits under four categories:

(a) Behavioral drives: It is very much likely that dogs are attracted to a particular fragrance emanating from grass or take pleasure in nibbling a particularly textured grass;

(b) Nutritional causes: When hungry, dogs might eat grass to make up for the time gap till they get their next meal. Some might tend to eat more of it because of being diabetic or having abnormal thyroid conditions. With such conditions, dogs tend to eat more of everything than they normally do;

(c) Medical reasons: Sometimes dogs ingest grass when they have upset stomachs or to induce vomiting after realizing they have eaten something they should not have;

(d) Idiopathic causes: When dogs’ grass-eating behaviors cannot be assigned to any of the above factors, they are perceived to be inexplicable and, thus, listed as idiopathic causes. A study conducted by the School of Psychology, University of New England, NSW, Australia, on the grass-eating habits of dogs goes a long way in explaining this exceptional canine propensity. A sample group of 12 healthy dogs of different breeds were kept under observation for six days. Interspersed with their kibble meal, two varieties of grass were provided for these dogs to feed on. It was noticed that all the dogs ate grass. They ate more when hungry and less when satiated. Being of different breeds, though, they all exhibited a similar pattern of eating grass, like having it mostly during the forenoon than at any other time during the day. Finally, since all the dogs selected for the study were healthy, their eating grass could not be attributed to any particular abnormal condition.

Therefore, at the end of the study period, it was conclusively established that “it is perfectly normal for dogs to eat grass.” And if a dog is healthy, is being fed properly, and every care is being taken to provide its nutritional needs, it does not mean that it shall not crave something extra. It is a perfectly normal, rational, and healthy trait for dogs to eat grass.


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