Eating Grass: Normal or Abnormal?

Does your cat or dog like to eat grass? If so, you may be wondering if this is normal or abnormal behavior. Either conclusion may be accurate, depending on the individual animal.

Some dogs and cats are natural born grazers. They seemingly love the taste and texture of grass. Given the opportunity, they will eat some daily without any apparent ill effects, and it is fine to let them do so. Perhaps they were cows in a previous lifetime!

For others, foraging on vegetation (grass, leaves, twigs) is a response to an underlying gastrointestinal upset. These dogs and cats typically have other symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Eating grass may actually induce vomiting, which, from the animal’s perspective, may be the desired effect. If your pet who normally ignores grass is suddenly ravenous for the stuff, a visit with your veterinarian is recommended.

Some overtly healthy appearing dogs and cats vomit only when they eat grass. This suggests an underlying allergy or sensitivity to such greenery, and, for these animals, grazing should be prevented.

Grazing Do’s and Don’ts

– Grazing is fine as long as your pet is overtly healthy, and eating grass does not cause vomiting or abdominal discomfort.

– Don’t let your pet graze where pesticides may have been applied. There is a known correlation between ingestion of pesticides and the development of certain types of cancers. If in doubt, keep your pet out.

– Avoid allowing your pet to graze where fertilizer has been recently applied.

– Don’t allow grazing if foxtails are present. This grassy plant grows in abundance west of the Mississippi. The foxtail heads are barbed, and can readily become lodged within an animal’s throat.

– Consider growing “cat grass” for your strictly indoor kitties. This feline treat can be purchased at most pet stores.

Do you happen to have a grazer in your household?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

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11 Responses to “Eating Grass: Normal or Abnormal?”

  1. Holly says:

    My dogs graze only in the spring, on new grass. Probably has a higher sugar content and is more tender than later in the year.

  2. Same like my pets – daphne (dog) and cat (felix), sometimes they go into my garden and forage for grass. They seem to like it. After reading your article, I understood what is behind this behavior, now I have peace of mind that this eating has no ill effects. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sadie Anne says:

    We have four grazers. Not only do they love grass, they forage for what my husband refers to as “lawnmower turds”…the chunks of cut grass that build up on the underside of the mower deck and then fall off. These “turds”smell like silage that gets fed to cattle. My dogs love these chunks.
    We do not use fertilizers or pesticides of any kind on our 5 acres…never… Ever.
    We raise trout and any chemicals would eventually run off into the ponds. Trout and Steelhead have very sensitive constitutions and cannot survive chemical exposure. This is a benefit to the dogs as well because they are grazers.
    They eat lettuce, cabbage, carrots, peaches, plums and pears.

    I think they were vegetarians in a past life or lives.

  4. Cassandra says:

    I’ve never had “grazers” but most would eat grass in the spring, throw up once and that was the end of it. We called it the Spring Upchucks. I have always felt it is an inherited behavior that goes back to their wild days when they would have to eat so fast that they swallowed indigestable stuff and would need to get rid of it. Sort of like Owl pellets.

  5. Jann Becker says:

    My goldendoodle’s a salad muncher too! She also loves green veggies and begs at the table for them (yes, I know she shouldn’t get away with this.) It’s really funny to see her do the sit-down-up routine for a floret of broccoli.

  6. My daughter had a birddog once that had a foxtail lodged inside his nose. It required a veterinarian visit to get it removed.

  7. Sky Benoit says:

    My oldest dog, now 14, eats grass very often and sometimes vomits it. The thing that concerns me most is that he also eats dirt every chance he gets. He chows down on it like crazy and I can’t seem to break him of eating dirt. The dirt he eats is usually the dirt around the base of a tree. I have never seen a dog eat dirt before and don’t know why he does it. This has been going on for about three years now. He has never shown any ill effects from this habit.

  8. kathryn says:

    Both of our Border Collie girls love to graze. They are very picky, searching for long thick soft green blades! We call it their ‘salad,’ and they nibble some every day with no ill effects at all.

  9. Ksenia says:

    Both my dog and cat love to eat grass on a daily basis without vomiting. My previous dog, a Jack Russell/Beagle mix, only ate grass when his tummy was upset. This happened maybe twice a year. My current dog, a pitbull mix, looks like a cow grazing in the pasture!

  10. Suzanne Brown says:

    My Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have all loved grass. They are, however, highly selective about just which grass they choose to eat. They remind me of women in the produce dept deciding among multiple varieties of lettuce!

    And no, they don’t throw up from eating it.

  11. All my dogs graze on the trails when we hike and love the long green spring grasses which are just now coming out. My cat, too. They never vomit and chow down loving every minute of it.