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Answers from vets about your dog:

Why do Dogs Eat Grass?

Reviewed by Dr. Peter Kintzer, DVM, DACVIM on Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Posted June 19, 2014 in Dog Behavior

Older dog laying down in the grass

This has always been one of the most frequently asked questions among dog guardians. They see their dog eating grass or chewing on plants — seemingly for no reason. Not surprisingly, dogs sometimes gag or even vomit the grass they have swallowed and then go right back to eating more grass! Other times the grass they swallow may pass in their stools undigested.

Are they trying to make themselves vomit? Are they trying to make themselves pass something? Are they attempting to clear their intestinal tract of foreign objects or parasites?

Why do dogs like grass?
The eating of strange objects and material is called “pica.” Some people believe that dogs eat strange things to stimulate vomiting or diarrhea, but this is undermined by the fact that most dogs do not act ill before eating grass. Besides, most dogs that eat grass don’t vomit at all.

I’ve always been of the medical opinion that dogs eat grass and plants for one simple reason: they like the taste and texture — much like many people eat celery or lettuce. In fact, some people eat weeds for that very reason. (Did you ever have nettles or dandelions as an ingredient in salad?)

Unfortunately, from a medical perspective, we can't be sure why dogs eat grass, and several other ideas have been put forward:

  • Your dog may be boredDogs chew things frequently when they’re bored and need “something to do.” Be sure to provide plenty of enrichment and activity and even appropriate chewing options, like chew toys.
  • Your dog's diet may be missing something — If you feed your dog home prepared diets, it is possible that they are missing a key nutrient; although, if you supplement the diet with veterinarian approved vitamins, it becomes improbable that they are lacking anything found in grass. Make sure your veterinarian is aware of your dog’s diet and see if he thinks anything could be missing.

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.