_ Ever notice the mini lawnmowers munching away at the grass in our homes? I am not referring to those of us that own cows or the occasional goat but our lovable dogs. As Vets, one of the questions we are constantly asked is, “My dog is eating grass, is he sick?”
A lively debate usually ensues regarding dogs and their tendency to graze. Before jumping into the possible reasons of grass eating, we will briefly take a look at the two common behaviours associated with grass eating and the frequency of grass eating.
On observation, there seems to be two general types of grass eating behaviour, the nibblers and the guzzlers. The nibblers take a few bites and nibbles, eating carefully and chewing. The guzzlers eat quickly, barely chewing.
One possible explanation that explains this behaviour is that the dog is probably lacking some nutrient in its diet. This may be true in some cases where dogs are not given proper nutrients and the animal resorts to eating dirt and grass to supplement its dietary needs. Most dogs that are fed on balanced dog food and chow are not in need of supplementing their dietary needs. This is certainly the case with a friend’s beautifully kept bull mastiffs, which are well fed on the premium dog food, yet love to slowly graze, heads down in a strangely odd dog herd. The apparent love of grazing on grass rings true for many dogs as their tastes include green, leafy vegetables. My pit-bull is a lover of water-cress and caralli, strange, but true. Not surprisingly, she is a nibbler. Most veterinarians agree that dogs actually eat grass because they enjoy it and eating grass is not necessarily a sign of illness. In the case of the nibblers this seems highly likely.
The guzzlers who eat quickly and barely savour their grass sometimes end up throwing up their meal. Possible explanations may be that the animal is actually using the grass technique to purposely throw up or to remove an item that was stuck in its throat. The frequency of grass eating is also important to note. Dogs tend to exhibit increased grass eating particularly after rains, when grass has just begun to grow. This is fairly common and the occasional vomiting sometimes occurs. There is usually no need for concern, as it can be attributed to normal canine behaviour. If your dog is a regular grass eater, you can consider supplementing her diet with dark, green leafy vegetables that are cooked, as the cooked vegetables reduce the tendency to vomit.
However, if your dog has recently increased his/her frequency of grass eating, with other signs of ill health such as excessive vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhoea and vomiting not associated with grass eating, it is important to check your friendly neighbourhood Vet. It is possible she may be trying to compensate for gastrointestinal problems and may require veterinary intervention.
We should be mindful of where our dogs graze as manicured grasses and lawns that are treated with fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals are extremely toxic to our animals. A chemical free lawn/grass area should be considered for dogs. If your dog has recently eaten grass that has been treated with pesticides/fertilisers and signs of illness are seen, veterinary treatment is advised.
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