Dogs seem to like the taste of some strange things, grass included. Some might have a little chew on it every now and then but suddenly eating grass like crazy can cause some concern for owners. If your dog isn’t usually the sort to eat grass and develops a sudden and intense interest in it, it can be quite alarming.
Most sources online if you search grass eating will suggest that your dog has an upset stomach but there may be more reasons than that for grass eating which we will take a closer look at.
First, it’s good to understand how your dog tastes to establish if they might just enjoy the taste of grass.
How Do Dogs Taste?
Dogs have a very different palette to us humans which is why they might seem to enjoy eating different things that we might not see the appeal in. Dogs taste in a similar way to us physiologically. Taste buds on their tongue are wired to detect different flavors except the biggest difference is we have around nine thousand taste buds while dogs have one thousand and seven hundred of them.
This might be why dogs seem to be far less fussy about what they eat and why your dog may sometimes swallow things and barely chew them. They’re not physically built in a way that encourages savoring their food.
Interestingly, dogs have taste receptors that we don’t. On the front of their tongue, dogs have special receptors just to taste water so while we find that all water tastes the same or doesn’t have a taste minus a few minor differences, dogs are able to take a lot more from their drinking water when they taste it. This fact alone was enough to get me to change my dog’s water bowl more often!
Humans taste sweet things at the front of their tongue which for dogs is actually at the back of their tongue which might be why they seem to gulp down any sweat treats. They also have taste buds located at the back of their mouth, unlike us so when you think they swallow things too quickly to taste, they are actually still tasting them.
Causes of Grass Eating
There can be various different reasons for your dog swallowing mouthfuls of grass all of the sudden but here are a few of the most common ones. If you are worried at all about your dog make sure you take them to see their vet for a quick check-up.
You might have first noticed that your dog went off their food, if that is then followed by a lot of grass eating it can be a cause of concern but it’s thought to be a way for them to introduce roughage into their diet. Some dogs eat grass on occasion anyway but it might be a sign that they have some sort of gastrointestinal issue. Eating grass when there is a digestive issue is thought to be an instinct to help add some fiber into their diet and get things working properly again.
If this lasts for longer than 24 hours and your dog still isn’t eating then they may not be able to resolve the issue themselves and it might need a vet’s help.
When dogs are not mentally or physically stimulated enough, they will find their own things to do which can include some destructive behaviors. If your dog tends to eat grass when they have nothing else to do, try giving them more toys, training sessions, and engaging food enrichment games to get their brains working. You might notice that your dog may only do this when you can see which suggests it may be attention seeking.
When dogs are bored they tend to look for things that will get them attention. If you’ve ever called your dog away from eating grass before or even told them off, they might have linked these things and decided that it’s a good way to get your attention.
They Might be Hungry
If it’s around meal time and your dog starts eating grass, they could just be hungry and looking for food. If your dog is hungry you will normally notice a few other signs like waiting at their bowl or sniffing around the floor to see if they can find any leftovers. As a last attempt to find something edible they might eat some grass so if you feel them and they no longer do this, you have your answer.
They Want to Play
Some dogs might grab a toy when they want to play. Dogs love to use their mouths through play, especially certain breeds. Breeds like Huskies and Golden Retrievers are known for using their mouths a lot but any breed can have a fondness for grabbing at things when they’re feeling energetic and playful.
The most common time to see dogs playing and eating grass will be when they get a case of the zoomies! We still aren’t sure what causes zoomies but dogs, young dogs especially sometimes need to run around as fast as they can when they’re feeling particularly happy and playful. Sometimes as they’re running they might grab toys and some dogs grab big mouthfuls of grass, it’s usually just because they want to grab something and if the grass is closest then so be it.
Does Grass Make Your Dog Sick?
Generally speaking, grass isn’t harmful to your dog. They would have to eat a very large amount of it over a duration for them to fall ill from anything the grass contains. Grass doesn’t have any nutritional value for your dog so they’re not really getting anything good or bad from it.
The biggest risk your dog faces when eating grass is usually what’s on the grass.
Dogs can eat a number of parasitic larvae to contract any number of things like roundworms or tapeworms. These parasites are shed in dog feces which tend to be in the grass so the risk becomes higher if your dog is eating grass in areas where a lot of dogs tend to go to the toilet like the dog park. At home in the garden they may be less at risk of parasites but if you treat your plants or grass with any chemicals like weed-killing sprays or fertilizer, ingesting these can be harmful to your dog.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Grass?
The first thing you should do to avoid your dog eating grass is to never reward the behavior. If your dog is bored and trying to get attention, rewarding the behavior will only make them do it more. Reinforcing the behavior doesn’t always have to be anything positive either, you could go out to the garden to bring your dog inside or even shout for them to come in.
Both of those are attention and for a dog who is attention seeking, that response is still a reward. Ignoring a small amount of grass eating will not be harmful to your dog, especially if it prevents them from eating more in the long run. Just make sure you keep their anti-parasite treatment up to date.
Sometimes prevention comes in the form of management and restricting your dog’s access to grass when you can keep an eye on them and distract them away is your best option otherwise they might just continue the habit when you’re not looking.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Grass?
On the whole if you catch your dog eating grass you probably don’t need to be too concerned. Some dogs like to just taste grass every now and then and it’s nothing to be stressed about. Grass eating can be a sign that your dog is lacking some fiber in their diet.
You can always try adding a supplement to their diet or changing it up to something with a higher content to help satisfy their dietary needs.
If your dog is eating large quantities of grass at a time and it persists, you will likely need to manage their access to grass and speak to your vet to try and assess what the cause of the grass eating is too.
Dogs are curious by nature, grass eating isn’t entirely bad or something they need to avoid. It is generally harmless unless they’re eating it for long periods and in large quantities. If they are, it could be a symptom of something being lacking in their diet or sometimes can point to an underlying illness.
If your dog has a stomach upset, their grass eating may be short lived as they try to get their digestive system working again. Grass eating is something to keep an eye on and manage but only really becomes an issue when it’s to excess.