We’ve all heard that dogs eat grass because they’re trying to make themselves sick, but that’s not as common as you'd think! In fact, most dogs eat grass and are perfectly healthy.
However, the prevailing myth that dogs only eat grass when they’re sick can still worry pet parents and leave you wondering “can dogs eat grass?” when you find your dog grazing like a cow.
Let’s explore whether you should be worried when Fido starts nibbling the lawn, or whether eating grass is a perfectly normal thing for dogs to do.
Yes, dogs can eat grass and there’s little reason to worry if your pooch takes to some occasional grazing. Even though your pup isn’t a sheep or cow, eating grass from time to time is relatively normal for them.
Although you might worry your dog is eating grass because they’re unwell, it’s actually a very common and natural behaviour. In fact, 79% of doggy parents said their pup eats grass or plants, with most of them eating greenery every day or at least every week!
We’ve all heard at some point that dogs eat grass when they’re sick to make themselves vomit. Some dogs might eat grass to make themselves sick, but it’s uncommon and your pooch would need to wolf down a lot of grass for it to make them ill. Most of the time, dogs eat grass and show no sign of illness.
Although if your dog has suddenly developed grass-eating behaviour, or eats a lot of grass every time they go outside, there might be something wrong that’s causing the behaviour. Keep an eye on them to see if they show any other symptoms, and make sure you talk to your vet if you’re worried about your pooch.
One kind of grass we humans are known to munch on ourselves is lemongrass, and this aromatic plant pops up in many different dishes. However, there are actually over 50 different species of lemongrass and not all of them are edible.
The most common kind of lemongrass is cymbopogon citratus, and this is the kind we humans use when we’re making a curry. Although this plant is edible and not likely to poison your pooch, it’s best not to let them eat it.
Another common kind of lemongrass is cymbopogon nardus, or citronella. This sort of lemongrass definitely shouldn’t be eaten by humans or hounds.
Generally, if you grow any sort of lemongrass or ornamental grass in your garden, the safest thing to do is to prevent your dog from eating it. Instead, you can try growing a patch of organic grass or even cat grass to let them nibble on.
As the name suggests, our feline friends can eat cat grass safely, but can dogs eat cat grass too? Some places opt to sell this mix of green plants as “pet grass” instead because both dogs and cats can safely snack on cat grass.
Cat grass isn’t a specific type of grass, it’s either wheatgrass or a mix of cereal plants like wheat, oats, and barley which are green and grassy while the plants are immature.
Many pet parents will grow some cat grass indoors to give their furry friend a safe plant they can munch on, allowing them to exhibit the natural behaviour of eating grass without any risks of their furry friend ingesting harmful herbicides.
Yes, dogs can eat wheatgrass. This plant is sometimes referred to as “cat grass” or “pet grass” and grown specifically for peckish pets to nibble on. Wheatgrass isn’t actually a kind of grass, but the young shoots of wheat before the fruit forms.
We humans eat wheatgrass and like to think it’s super healthy, with claims that this plant can help to boost the immune system, improve metabolism, aid digestion, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
However, there’s not a lot of study on the benefits of eating wheatgrass, especially when it comes to dogs, but there seems to be plenty of potentials that this plant could help to improve your hound’s health.
There’s certainly nothing unhealthy about your pup eating wheatgrass in moderation, and there are a lot of great nutrients in those green shoots. For starters, wheatgrass is packed full of chlorophyll which is meant to improve mood and boost the immune system. There’s also a number of nutritious vitamins and antioxidants.
Since wheatgrass is safe for dogs and cats to eat, you can consider growing a pot of wheatgrass in your house to let your pup snuffle in and satisfy their natural desire to graze. And if eating some of those leafy greens benefits their health too, that’s a bonus!
Although eating too much grass can cause vomiting, eating grass is not typically linked with gastrointestinal illness. In fact, fewer than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit afterwards, and less than 10% of dogs were ill when they started eating grass.
However, munching on some grass can make your dog unwell if the grass has been sprayed with chemicals like herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. They might help to keep your lawn healthy, but these chemicals can be harmful to your dog if they get it on their skin or if they eat any.
Eating grass can also make your dog sick if the grass has been contaminated. For example, slugs and snails can carry lungworm, which your dog can pick up if they eat grass with snail trails on, or if they pick up a slug amongst some grass and scoff the lot.
Similarly, if another dog is sick because of a virus or parasite like parvo or worms, their poo can carry these nasties and contaminate grass that your dog might eat.
That’s why it’s crucial that your dog is regularly vaccinated and treated with anti-parasitic medication as it will help to prevent them from becoming sick should they munch anything undesirable on their walkies.
There are a few different theories on why dogs eat grass, but no one knows the exact reason. Many people believe dogs do it because their wild ancestors did, or that they simply enjoy the taste and texture of munching on grass.
Another theory is that dogs eat grass regularly when there’s something missing from their diet. One study on a poodle that was regularly eating grass and vomiting for seven years found that as soon as he was fed a diet rich in fibre, he stopped eating grass and being sick.
However, that is just a single dog studied and not enough to say that it’s definitely the cause. Fibre is important in your dog’s diet to keep their gut healthy though, so they should still be eating plenty of fibre regardless!
In short, no one knows for sure why dogs eat grass. But we do know that munching grass is a very normal thing for dogs to be doing.
There’s no reason to stop your dog from eating grass or to worry about the behaviour. Plant-eating is perfectly natural for dogs, and eating grass is usually perfectly safe as long as the grass hasn’t been treated with any chemicals and your dog is regularly receiving anti-parasitic treatment.
One of the only times you will want to stop your dog from eating grass is if the behaviour is becoming obsessive. If you’re struggling to go for walkies because your pup is too busy grazing like a cow, you should talk to your vet and a doggy professional to figure out what’s wrong.
You should stop your dog from eating grass if you know that it has been treated with chemicals. Herbicides and pesticides you might use on your lawn can be harmful for Fido, so they shouldn’t eat any grass that’s been treated with these chemicals.
Yes, dogs can eat grass and munching on grass is a fairly normal doggy behaviour. Most dogs have eaten grass at some point in their lives, and many graze regularly.
Eating grass shouldn’t make your dog sick, as long as they aren’t eating any chemical herbicides or pesticides that could be on the plants that they scoff. If you want to make sure your pup is perfectly safe, don’t let them eat any grass unless you know it hasn’t been treated.
You could also grow cat grass or wheatgrass in your home to give your pup a place to snuffle and exhibit this natural behaviour and allow them to eat grass without any worries about any nasty chemicals that could make them sick.
If you're worried about how much grass your dog is eating, there are a few ways to try and stop it. You can try to tempt them away from the grass with a treat or a toy, and make sure they’re eating fibre-filled and healthy dog food.
Your dog could be eating grass purely because they're feeling a little peckish and not getting enough nutrients to sustain them throughout the day. Feeding a nutrient-dense diet such as Pure may be just what's needed to help curb this behaviour.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.