Downeast Dog News

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

By Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH | Jul 01, 2019

Q. My dog loves eating grass. It is worse in the spring. I was told he has an upset stomach, but he isn’t showing any signs of stomach trouble. Can you tell me why?

A. No one knows exactly why dogs eat grass, but there are theories. Here are many reasons why a dog craves grass and plants.

Many dogs will eat grass in the spring. It may be the young shoots taste sweet to the dog.

Dogs, in general, will eat plants and fruits when offered. They also are known to raid the garden. Canines are omnivorous carnivores, which means they are meat eaters primarily but do eat plants to balance out their diet. You see this when dogs kill and eat the whole animal including the stomach and entrails. One study found less than 25% of the dogs who eat grass throw up. In another study, 79% of the guardians reported that their dogs ate grass and didn’t vomit.

With all the discussion about gut health and its relationship to other diseases, eating grass with the dirt may be one way a dog regenerates his gut health. Many dogs have been on antibiotics and other drugs that can create imbalances. A natural way for the dog to correct this problem is by eating specific plants.

It is not unusual for a dog, or other animals, who are sick to go out into a field or woods and eat specific vegetation to self-medicate. An example of this occurred several years ago when a patient of mine developed swelling in his legs called edema. The dog would not eat his food; instead, he went outside to eat one specific plant. The next day the edema was gone. His guardian brought me a sample of the plant. The Labrador was eating dandelions. Any herbalist will tell you dandelions are a natural diuretic and liver tonic. This boy instinctively knew how to treat his illness.

Dogs will eat grass to make themselves vomit, and they usually feel better afterwards. They may eat grass because they have intestinal worms. The plants the dog eats can purge them of worms.

Another possibility is the dog’s diet isn’t balanced. This can happen with commercially made foods or homemade foods. Just like people, nutritional needs vary between individuals. Plants vary in micronutrients. Have you ever craved a specific food and would eat it for a period of time? Your body needed either minerals or vitamins found in that food. Dogs have the same needs. Many commercial diets have ingredients that are not as bioavailable as raw ingredients. Dogs will supplement their diet with nutrients found in vegetation. Another reason is the need for more fiber in their diet.

Sometimes the reason for eating grass and plants is out of boredom. There is an easy fix for this. You can be out there with your best friend playing games. If that isn’t possible, there are many interactive toys on the market to keep Bozo active and engaged.

Overall, eating grass is generally harmless. One caveat to remember is not to let your dog munch on grass or plants that have been treated with herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals.



Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine