Dear Daisy Dog
Why does my dog, Harry, eat grass? Does he have a dietary deficiency? Is he trying to make himself vomit?
The answer to both questions is: probably not.
Veterinary behaviorists recently surveyed thousands of people about their dogs’ and cats’ grass eating behavior. Their conclusions may surprise you, but they comfort me because, like Harry, I enjoy dining on grass every so often.
The researchers found that most dogs ingest grass or other plants on a daily or weekly basis. Most dogs seem fine before their grass meal, and most do not vomit afterward.
Younger dogs indulge more frequently than older dogs.
When the researchers compared the grass-eating habits of dogs fed nutritionally balanced commercial diets with those fed table scraps or raw food, they found no difference. Similarly, dogs fed high-fiber diets ate grass as often as dogs fed low-fiber diets.
While grass eating seems to be less common in cats than dogs, cats are like us dogs in that they don’t regularly vomit after eating grass and other plants.
In studies of wolves and cougars, up to 74 percent of stomach content samples and scats were found to contain plant material.
So researchers think we dogs eat grass simply because our ancestral genes program us to do so. But why?
They theorize that grass helps purge intestinal parasites. Studies in chimpanzees have shown that ingested leaves wrap around worms and increase intestinal motility, thus helping to rid the body of parasites.
So let Harry continue to dine on grass, but make sure he stays away from chemically-treated lawns and poisonous plants.