The Reasons Why Dogs Eat Grass

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - April 27, 2011
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Many pet owners are responsible, caring individuals. In their quest to know as much as they can about their pet, they ask a lot of questions.

How do I bathe my cat? Answer: Very carefully.

Should I spay my female rabbit? Yes, to reduce the chance of cancer later in life.

Does my dog look fat? Loaded question that is best left unanswered.

But of all the questions that seem to come up, the most by far is, “Why does my dog eat grass?”

Here are a few plausible reasons suggested by clients in their attempt to solve the grass munching. Which are true and which are urban legends? You decide.

“Dogs eat grass because they feel sick.”

This is the most common belief. Many clients come in thinking their dog is sick because it ate grass and vomited. Many times this is true, especially if the owners gave their dog table scraps like leftover pizza or bacon tidbits. Though tasty at first, the salty meal can cause an upset stomach. Feeling the need to purge itself of the greasy morsels, a dog may opt to indulge in a mouthful of Bermuda grass. Vomiting their stomach contents in this case would be therapeutic and give credence to this theory.

“Dogs eat grass because they are lacking certain nutrients in their diet.”

Seems logical and may be true for some dogs. To rectify this situation, many concerned owners put their furry family member on vitamin supplements. Some even give Body Mint, which contains chlorophyll, a key component in plants. Does it work? As far as I know, all of these patients continue to eat grass although the Body Mint dogs do smell a little nicer.

“Dogs eat grass because they are bored.”

Canis lupus familiaris is a very intelligent creature, yet many do not have an outlet for their mental aptitude. Walks around the block, romps at a local dog park and time spent with the family do offer some excitement, but pale in comparison to finding a mate, defending territory and hunting wild game. Why not spice up the day by going crazy and eating some ... grass? OK, I’ll bite.

“Dogs eat grass because they are omnivores and in the wild they do so regularly.”

Though dogs have been domesticated for centuries, they do have certain instincts that they share with their feral cousins. Wild dogs eat small animals like rabbits, and also work together to take down larger game like gazelles and wildebeest. What do these preys have in common? They are herbivores, which means they eat grass, leaves and other plant parts. After catching their meal, the undomesticated canine will not seek out the filet mignon or prime rib as we would. They go for the body parts with high nutrient density like the liver, kidney and intestines. Eating the intestines involves ingesting the grass contained within them and an acquired taste. Some argue that this taste for grass persists even with domestication.

So which of the above makes the most sense for the backyard munchies?

It’s probably a combination of all the above. Dogs are complex creatures with exceptional intelligence. Who knows why they eat grass. If only we could talk to them and find out the answer to this puzzle as well as other mysteries - like, say, the butt-sniffing ritual.

Then again, maybe some things on The Wild Side are best left alone.

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