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Why Do Dogs & Cats Eat Grass?

In particular with dogs, but also to a lesser extent with cats, eating grass seems to give them some degree of satisfaction. Although, dogs love eating pretty much anything — from your shoes to pine cones. It’s pretty safe to say that most dogs aren’t picky eaters. What makes grass any different from other things? We’ll get to that shortly.

Just like dogs, cats also have an exploratory nature, making them open to eating all sorts of strange things. However, some of these eating habits aren’t as odd as we think. One thing that dogs and cats eat that, from a human perspective, doesn’t make much sense is grass. For both cats and dogs, eating grass is very common. But why do they do it?

At Carter Veterinary Services in the Lowcountry, we are dedicated to understanding the behavior patterns of your cats and dogs. Our veterinary clinic relies on understanding of these kinds of behaviors to help us conduct our veterinary services and care for your pet to the best of our ability. From mobility to eating habits, our team has spent years studying how to make your pet as happy and healthy as possible. If you are in Hardeeville, the Lowcountry, or the surrounding area and want to schedule a checkup for your pet, call Carter Veterinary Services today to set up an appointment!

We’ll start by looking at why dogs eat grass, and then move on to cats next.

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Why Dogs Eat Grass

Folk wisdom has it that dogs eat grass to alleviate stomach illness, to induce vomiting, or to supplement their diet. However, none of these explanations hold up very convincingly under closer scrutiny. In a 2008 study conducted by veterinarians from the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, only 8% of dogs that ate grass were reported to be sick. What is more, 80% that had access to grass were reported as eating it, and most of them were not sick. The veterinarians in California therefore concluded that there is no significant correlation between illness and grass eating. The same goes for a deficiency in their diet — there appears to be no correlation between a dietary deficiency and the grass-eating habits of dogs.

So where does that leave us? One part of the answer as to why dogs occasionally eat grass is that it may be ingrained in their instincts; that it remains as a habit left over from their days as a scavenger. However, nobody is entirely sure why our furry friends eat grass. The most accurate answer may therefore be the simplest one: dogs love eating, chewing, gnawing, and digging. The opportunity to engage in all of these behaviors is presented in the abundantly growing grass right in front of their eyes, tempting them as it blows gently in the wind. Chomping on a moist, texturized snack in the backyard may just be an enjoyable pastime for them — simple as that.

Why Cats Eat Grass

Cats generally are less interested in eating grass than dogs are, but it is still a normal habit they often take up. This is especially true for outdoor cats. Once again, the common wisdom is that cats eat grass to help pass indigestible materials like bone matter and feathers. However, cats don’t pass these things by eating grass but by throwing up, as they don’t have the enzymes they would need to be able to digest them anyway. Throwing up is a normal occurrence in cats, and is not usually an indication of health problems. However, if your cat is vomiting more often than usual or something about it appears problematic — like there is blood in it or they are excessively gagging — we recommend you contact us and describe what is happening. We may recommend you to bring them in for a check-up.

Cats likely eat grass for the same reason dogs do — it’s a way to satisfy their oral fixation; they just love to chomp, and grass is often conveniently located right in your own yard. Maybe it’s the taste? Maybe it’s the texture? Who can say for sure.

When To Be Concerned

Each pet will have their own grass-eating habits. Pay attention to what is normal for your pet — if you see any sudden increases in the amount of grass they are eating, it may be a good idea to visit the vet. If they are constantly throwing up after eating, there may be some digestive issue that needs to be addressed. Usually, though, eating grass is perfectly normal and doesn’t cause them any harm as long as it’s not covered in fertilizer or pesticides. The general rule for these scenarios is, when in doubt, call your veterinarian.

If you are in or around Hardeeville and your pet is eating an unusual amount of grass or experiencing symptoms you suspect to be related to their grass-eating habit, be sure to call Carter Veterinary Services to get them checked out.