Pica is the term used to describe consumption of strange non-food items, such as grass and may be associated with a diet deficient in nutrients, vitamins, or minerals. But, if dogs on well-balanced commercial diets are not nutritionally deficient, why do they eat grass?
Dogs eating grass is quite common, it has also been observed in wild dogs and may be completely natural, and this type of pica usually does not cause much problems. However, a lot of people are baffled by this behavior.
One common misconception is that dogs eat grass to relieve stomach upset. Some dogs devour grass only to vomit shortly afterward. Is it better for a dog to eat grass to vomit and soothe an ailing stomach, or does the dog develop a stomach ache and vomit because it ate grass?
Because studies show that less than 25% of dogs vomit after ingesting grass, it is unlikely that they use it for self-medication. Only 10% of dogs exhibit symptoms of illness before eating grass. The bottom line is that most grass-eating dogs are not sick and do not vomit.
Grazing may satisfy another digestive need. Dogs require roughage in their diets, and the grass is an excellent source of fiber. Because a dog’s ability to digest food and pass stool is affected by a lack of roughage, grass may help their bodily functions run more smoothly.
If your turf-eating dog exhibits stomach discomfort symptoms, he could suffer from a medical condition such as gastric reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, or pancreatitis. Consult your veterinarian to rule out any severe medical conditions and to receive the proper treatment.
A dog’s day revolves around his owners’ activities, with him watching them leave and anticipating their return. Although most dogs enjoy being outside, some become bored when left alone and require stimulation. Nibbling on readily available grass helps pass the time.
Dogs crave human interaction and may try to attract their owners’ attention by engaging in inappropriate behavior, such as eating grass if they feel neglected. Furthermore, anxious dogs, like nervous people, chew their fingernails as a form of comfort. Whether dogs are bored, lonely, or anxious, grass eating often increases as owner contact time decreases.
What can their owners do to help these grazing dogs? A new toy or an old t-shirt with his owner’s familiar scent may provide some relief for anxious dogs. A puzzle toy that contains food and challenges the dog will provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom. More frequent walks and strenuous play time benefit more active dogs. Doggie daycare may be a good option for dogs who crave socialization with other dogs.
The grass is not the best snack for your dog, regardless of why he eats it. While the grass is not harmful to your dog, the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on it can be. Furthermore, when picking grass from the ground, your dog may consume intestinal parasites such as hookworms or roundworms, which contaminate the grass with fecal residue from other dogs. So, how do you put a stop to grazing?
Dogs that respond to food treats can be trained to stop eating grass in exchange for a better alternative. You should bring treats when you walk your dog and accompany him on potty breaks. Distract the dog by directing him to walk in a different direction or by giving him a verbal correction and rewarding him when he complies.
Affection-driven dogs can be trained using the same method described above, simply substituting positive verbal reinforcement and petting as rewards. Dogs who respond to verbal commands may require a simple heel command to break up the grassy snack and redirect their attention.
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