Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

By Linda Cole

I love sitting with my dogs outside in their pen, especially on warm, sunny afternoons. Trees provide plenty of shade as they patrol their territory. Their ears are pricked forward, adjusting as sounds float by in a gentle breeze. Interesting smells set their noses working overtime. At times, they sit and search the trees overlooking their pen for squirrels or neighborhood cats. Then, out of the blue, my dogs turn into a herd of grazing cows. Why do dogs eat grass?

Dogs are carnivores, but they are also omnivores. When hungry, a dog will eat whatever it can find. No matter how full they may be from scarfing down their normal meal of dog food, it seems like it's never enough.

Vets have no real idea why dogs eat grass, but it's believed by some that a dog's diet included grass a long time ago. They are decedents of wolves and foxes who consumed grasses and berries when they ate their prey which were mainly herbivores. When these ancient animals couldn't find food, it's believed they turned to grass to fill their empty tummies.

Dogs aren't picky eaters like cats. If my cats don't like the smell from an offering before them, they stick their nose in the air and walk away. Dogs don't care if their food comes from a bag, can, garbage container or some choice prize found hidden in the grass. They will scavenger anything they find laying around inside or out, including those “treats” they find in a cat box.

So if dogs like eating grass so much, why do they vomit it back up? Not once, but twice. It's always twice. Many a dog owner has smiled at the look our dogs give us between one and two. A disgustingly bad tasting, sour look that indicates it didn't taste that bad going down.

An old wives tale says your dog eats grass because he's sick. Yes and no. Vets believe dogs eat grass to help relieve indigestion. Bile is secreted from their gallbladder into the stomach which helps break up fats. When their stomach is empty, they can get a sort of indigestion from the built up bile. Dogs will eat grass to make themselves throw up to get rid of the excess acid caused by the secretion of bile.

Vets also think some dogs simply like to eat grass. The nice, neatly mowed grass that makes up our lawns is soft and has a sweet taste. This grass is the best type for them to eat. More weedy types of grass can scratch and irritate their esophagus. If you see a slightly bloody froth after your dog throws up, they have gotten into a patch of weedy grass. It's believed some dogs simply crave a good mouthful of greens every now and then. That's when they seem to be able to keep it down.

If your dog eats grass regularly and throws it up, it could be cause for concern. A vet visit may be in order to make sure there is no underlying illness that hasn't shown up yet. A dose of antacids can be prescribed by your vet to help get rid of that acid feeling your dog has, thereby curbing his desire to eat grass.

Another way to help discourage your dog from eating grass is to spread his food into smaller meals throughout the day. Keeping food in his stomach will help eliminate the acidic feeling your dog gets from an empty stomach. A round of treats like CANIDAE® Snap-Bits™ before going to bed can also help, or you can sprinkle a little bran on his main meal (bran helps fill the stomach).

It's normal for dogs to eat grass, and it won't hurt them. Just be careful not let them eat grass that's been treated with any kind of chemicals. Once they've had a chance to break down, which isn't usually very long, the grass is safe for your dog to graze on to his heart's content.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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