Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Should you be worried if your pup likes to munch on your lawn?

It’s no surprise that livestock animals like cows, sheep, and goats love gnawing on grass. Grazing is what they do, because their stomachs are able to digest all of the cellulose in grass. But unlike these animals, which are in the ruminant family of mammals, dogs are omnivores, related to meat-eating hunters like wolves. Yet, if you own a dog, you may have seen Fido snacking on grass while out in your backyard or on a walk. So why do dogs eat grass? Is your dog not getting enough food? Could she be sick? Or is it totally normal dog behavior?

Will eating grass harm your dog?

Fortunately, simply eating grass won’t harm your pet. That is, unless the grass has been treated with pesticides or other chemicals, in which case you probably want to keep your pooch away from the grass altogether. Otherwise, no, eating grass is not bad for your dog. On the other hand, these are the 12 things your dog should never, ever eat.

Eating plants is in their DNA

Though dogs eating grass might seem unusual, it’s actually a fairly common habit that many dog owners have noticed. Nor is it as strange as you might think. Though we think of canines as historically carnivorous, they actually evolved as omnivores that would eat whatever was available, including vegetation. Also, the animals that dogs’ ancestors would eat were usually herbivores, so when the wild dogs killed and ate their prey, they’d by extension be eating whatever the prey animals ate—plant life. A way less understandable dietary habit, meanwhile, is why dogs like to eat their own poop!

Nowadays, why do dogs eat grass?

So, their wild ancestors ate vegetation, but what’s the reason domesticated dogs still do it—and why do dogs eat grass, specifically? Well, different dogs might eat grass for different reasons. The habit of eating something other than food is called pica. While pica can be a cause for concern in humans, it’s usually nothing more than a sign of boredom in dogs, according to WebMD Pets. Or, as Chewy.com explains, your pup could simply like the taste or texture of grass, like a human munching on a celery stick. “They [may] find it palatable and need to add roughage to their diet,” Chewy’s Resident Pet Expert told RD.com. If your dog eats a lot of it, though, you might want to take a look at her diet. Eating grass regularly could be a sign she’s not getting enough fiber and is seeking out natural herbs to eat.

What if your dog vomits after eating grass?

This is definitely an understandable cause for concern; it’s not super common, but some dog owners will notice that their dog vomits after eating grass. If it isn’t the grass making them sick, why do dogs eat grass and then throw up afterward? Well, it may be a way for them to alleviate an upset stomach, especially if they’re swallowing the blades of grass whole. “The long blade, if not chewed, tickles their throat, leading to [the vomiting] reflex,” the Chewy Pet Central team explains. “By throwing up, a dog can relieve himself of his upset stomach.” So if your pet suddenly starts eating grass and then vomiting afterward, it may be a sign that he’s experiencing gastrointestinal issues. A vet visit might be in order, especially if it happens multiple times, as it’s one of the signs your “healthy” dog may be sick.

What action should you take?

If your dog seems to be just casually nibbling on grass, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if it’s frequent and your dog seems to be eating a lot of grass at a time, or if you’d rather just be safe than sorry, there are some things you can do. “A way to ensure your dog is munching on pet-safe vegetation is to purchase commercial pet grass, which will oftentimes contain nutrients for your dog,” suggests Samantha Schwab, Resident Pet Expert at Chewy. You can also consider switching your pooch to a dog food with higher fiber content, and/or feeding him more cooked vegetables. The additional fiber may end up fulfilling his nutritional needs. And, whatever the case, make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and playtime. Something as simple as a game of fetch might be all it takes to banish his boredom and get his mind off grass. Next, check out these 30 things your dog wishes you knew.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.