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Today’s question: Is it OK to let my dog eat grass?
Now that the summer has arrived and all the new plants and grasses are starting to grow, my clients are complaining about their dogs wanting to stop and eat “salad” constantly on their walks.
The other problem I hear about is that these same dogs have a tendency to throw the grass up, sometimes in the worst places.
The common assumption is that there is something wrong with our furry friend, but this might not always be the case.
I am going to give you some ideas of why this may be happening and how to stop this behavior.
There are numerous reasons why your dog has taken up eating grass and the first priority is to make sure your dog doesn’t have any health issues.
Many dogs who are eating grass or other objects can have a common condition called Pica.
What Is Pica In Dogs:
Pica can be the result of an illness, some sort of parasite or a nutritional deficiency. It can also arise if the dog has some anxiety or is not stimulated enough.
This condition causes dogs to want to ingest things with no nutritional value such as rocks, dirt, paper and even plastic or metal.
Some dogs choose the same non-food item to eat while others pick different things every time.
A dog must consume the items and not just chew on them to be considered pica.
It is important if your dog is exhibiting these types of behavior to check with your vet to rule out any medical conditions or nutrient deficiencies.
If there are no underlying medical conditions, this behavior can be modified by reducing your dog’s anxiety, giving the dog more exercise or mental stimulation.
Why is my dog eating grass:
With any medical conditions ruled out, we can focus on the grass eating that seems to be troubling a lot of dog owners.
The first thing to recognize is that grass tastes good and some dogs enjoy the flavor of grass and vegetables.
There are others who suggest that dogs start to graze when they need more fiber in their diet or they are getting small amounts of vitamins and minerals that they might be lacking.
Domestic dogs have a limited diet where wild dogs and wolves eat roots, grasses and berries as well as the meat they kill.
Some dogs enjoy raw or cooked vegetables and fruit. My own dog, Finley, surprised us all when he started liking apples and bananas and wanting them as much as he does a slice of cheese.
I get the common complaint from my clients that grass eating causes their dogs to throw up. This doesn’t always happen but it can be unpleasant when your dog vomits.
When dogs eat grass, sometimes they are trying to induce vomiting to settle their stomach after they may have eaten something they weren’t supposed to.
You might notice your dog being a little gassy or a little low energy before you go outside.
Then, when you take them out, they are grazing like crazy. The prickly grass might prompt it to get rid of whatever is causing the upset stomach.
After they throw up, they may return to their normal selves and not show any other signs of tummy troubles.
This can be done by giving them some of the toys I mentioned above or by engaging in extra training with your dog.
Your dog may be trying to entertain itself by being destructive, which might include digging up the yard and chewing the grass.
Training your dog to stop:
If you have tried dietary changes, ruled out health issues, and have added exercise but your dog is still eating grass, it is time to try some training methods.
I have had success deterring dogs from eating grass by training them to “heel” while on a walk to keep their attention on you and off the grass.
QUICK PRO TRAINER TIP: My friend Colby recommends the Multifunctional Service Dog Leash which he likes to use with his service dogs.
Another technique I have used to stop dogs from eating grass or other objects that may be harmful for them or disgusting to us, is to use a Citronella collar. This is a safe and easy way to curb this behavior.
Place the collar on the dog and let them engage in the unwanted behavior. As the dog begins to eat the grass, push the spray button on your remote.
This will cause a small spray of citronella to shoot up into the dog’s face.
When this happens, give the dog a command, such as “leave it”.
This teaches the dog two things, one that the object they are trying to eat might spay them, which is unpleasant and two, when you give the command “leave it”, they are to not engage in that behavior.
It is helpful to train with the citronella collar on a long line so you can call your dog back to you after the spray and reward the dog for leaving whatever they were interested in.
Supplies we recommended:
- Citronella Spray Dog Training Collar
- Multifuntional Service Dog Leash
- Crazy Dog Train Me! Training Rewards | Dog Treats
Rapid Fire Questions:
Is it OK to let my dog eat grass?
Although it is common for dogs to eat grass, it is important to be aware of why they are wanting to eat grass and where they are eating this grass.
As I explained above, there could be some underlying reason why your dog is eating grass and we have to be sure there are no health problems or nutritional deficiencies.
Where the dog is eating grass is important as well because we want to be sure the grass has not been treated with pesticides or any other chemicals.
If you have a puppy, you don’t want them eating anything in public places because it is easy for them to become infected with a virus.
When should I call the vet?
Always watch your dog for signs that there might be something more going on than just enjoying the grass.
If the dog has vomited multiple times and doesn’t seem to be feeling better after, is lethargic, panting or has diarrhea, it is time to call the vet.
It is always better to err on the side of being safe.
What nutritional deficiencies might be making my dog want to eat grass?
The first thing to look at is your dog’s diet when you notice them eating grass.
Fiber is something to consider and if this is lacking in their diet, they might be trying to meet this need through grass eating.
They need fiber to help them digest their food and to have good bowel function.
Most dog foods today are lacking in vital nutrients.
If your dog is eating grass it could be deficient in iron, calcium, zinc or thiamine to name a few.
Your dog may also need more vitamin C and D. It is important to have your vet check your dog to see if they are low on any of these vitamins.
Grass eating in dogs is a very common occurrence and not something that should create immediate alarm in their owner.
However, that being said, it is always important to take note of your dog’s behavior to be sure there isn’t something more going on especially if this is a new behavior.
A lot of my clients have mentioned this happening as the new grass is beginning to grow here in the mountains and although it is not usually a problem, for some it becomes troublesome when the dog throws up in the car or on the carpet.
I have had success with my clients using the spray collar I mentioned and with working on their leash training.
I hope this information has been helpful and has shed some light onto why our dogs are grazing.
Don’t worry too much about grass eating and get outside with your furry friend.
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