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Why Do Dogs Eat Grass Frantically?

Dogs eat grass frantically in general when there is some impellent need that needs met. There is grass eating and grass eating in dogs. On one hand, you have the leisurely grass eating seen in dogs who savor the greens and enjoy them, on the other hand, you have the almost desperate grass eating seen in dogs who are eating grass with a specific purpose in mind: get relief from an upset tummy.

If your dog is eating grass frantically, you may be wondering what may be going on. Perhaps your dog has been insistently asking to go outside, and then, once out in the yard, you see him grabbing grass by the mouthful like there's no tomorrow, what gives? Following are some possible causes as to why dogs eat grass frantically. 

Dogs Eating Grass Due to Tummy Upset

GI issues causes dogs to eat grass frantically

GI issues causes dogs to eat grass frantically

When you feel sick to your stomach, you may frantically reach for your medicine cabinet and gobble down an antacid, when your dog feels sick instead, he starts frantically eating grass. 

It's is not completely clear why dogs eat grass when they are feeling sick, but there are chances that dogs are naturally drawn to ingesting grass because grass is not easily digestible, or the grass blades, once swallowed by the mouthful, cause a tickle effect triggering their gag reflex which facilitates vomiting.

Regardless of the underlying mechanism, grass eating in dogs feeling sick is different from the leisurely grass nibbling seen in healthy dogs. Dogs feeling sick tend to to typically eat the grass quickly by grabbing it in mouthfuls.

Dogs feeling sick are also often indiscriminate grass eaters, meaning that they grab any type of grass compared to dogs savoring grass just because they love greens. The latter tend to look for the most tender tips or a specific type of grass.

I remember not to long ago boarding a dog with a sensitive stomach. Every morning he would seek grass to make himself vomit. Unlike my dogs who were grazers and quite picky on the type of grass they ingested, this dog seemed to care less and actually sought the rougher types of grass that were mostly composed of indigestible cellulose. He would also swallow it in mouthfuls, with desperation, versus my dogs who were gentle, relaxed nibblers.

With the owner's permission, I had this dog see the vet and the dog was put on antacids and I had to give him a late snack. Apparently, he couldn't stay too long with an empty stomach. The owner had no clue, just thought he was vomiting because of the grass eating, when in reality he was eating grass because he had nausea. Sort of like a chicken and egg situation.

He was diagnosed with "Bilious vomiting syndrome." With the antacid and late snack though, his days of grass eating and vomiting were finally over.

Dogs Eating Grass Due to Nutritional Deficiencies

 On top of eating grass due to digestive issues, sometimes grass eating may be due to some nutritional deficiency. These dogs may show a preference for eating grass rather than dog food.

Pica is the medical term used to depict a disorder where dogs may be eating things that aren't food. Pica can be caused by some type of nutritional deficiency, although it can sometimes be a sign of boredom, particularly when practiced by puppies and young dogs. 

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 There may be chances that dogs who eat grass frantically may be trying to fulfill some nutritional need that is not met. In the wild, canines tend to eat every part of prey animals and that includes the grassy contents of their stomachs. 

Some dogs may have a higher need for fiber or certain vitamins or minerals in their diets and once these dogs are placed on a high-fiber diet, the frantic grass eating stops almost entirely.

Dogs Eating Grass to Seize the Day

Indulging in grass eating can be a dog's favorite pastime 

Indulging in grass eating can be a dog's favorite pastime 

And then there are dogs who eat grass voraciously rather than frantically, just because they adhere to the "seize the day" philosophy of life. In other words, these dogs feast and want to fill up quickly because you never know what tomorrow brings.

Dogs don't really think like this in such a rational way as humans do, but more at an instinctive level. The behavior of dogs gulping down food like there's no tomorrow, is likely reminiscent of the days when in the wild, they led a "feast or famine" lifestyle.

Before food waste from human settlements provided a new niche, a dog's ancestors dealt with times when there was food in abundance and lean times when they were starving. When food was in abundance, they would fill up very quickly, especially considering that anything not consumed within a certain time frame could have been quickly eaten by other opportunistic animals. 

When provided with the opportunity to eat grass, dogs may therefore eat it voraciously, in the same fashion as they gulp down their meals. 

Sometimes, certain dynamics contribute to making the grass extra salient to dogs, and therefore, worthy of consuming quickly. For instance, if your dog is fond of a particular type of sweet-smelling grass that he may find only sometimes on walks, he may gulp it down quickly when it stumbles upon it due to scarcity.

Also, if you normally prohibit your dog from eating grass, that day you are not watching, you can bet your dog will eat it voraciously. Bored, understimulated dogs may too find grass extra appealing due to their need to forage and some dogs may even eat grass as part of an obsessive compulsive disorder.

Now That You Know...

As seen, dogs often eat grass frantically when they are not feeling well. While the grass eating may look rather innocent, there are several dangers to consider. If your dog eats grass frantically, here are some warnings and tips. 

  • Never let a dog eat grass that has been treated with fertilizer, weed killers or pesticides. 
  • Watch for dogs who eat grass frantically as they may ingest toxic plants and poisonous mushrooms along with the grass. Learn what plants are in your yard and look them up in the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center website to make sure they are not toxic.
  • Since grass is not digestible, if your dog happens to eat a large quantity, it could possibly cause a blockage.
  • Keeping your grass mowed short may discourage grass eating considering that dogs often seek the longer blades. 
  • If your dog often eats grass frantically, have your dog see the vet for underlying digestive disorders. GI issues in dogs can be caused by eating anything unusual to them, a change in diet or even eating too much. Some dogs may have underlying GI disorders and may need a special diet and/or antacids.
  • Giving the dog multiple pieces of bread when seeking grass can sometimes absorb any acid and help the dog feel better. 
  • Some dogs when feeling sick and not being allowed to eat grass, may end up licking floors, carpets or their paws. Be careful as some dogs may also ingest things such as socks or other items.
  • If your vet determines other issues not related to digestion issues, follow your vet's advice for treatment.
  • Adding fiber to a dog's diet may help dogs who crave it. Adding some canned pumpkin (the plain type without spices added) can sometimes help, suggests veterinarian Dr. Ralston. Other options are adding some green beans to the diet or feeding a higher-fiber food. Consult with your vet for specific recommendations.
  • Finally, if the grass-eating may stem from boredom, provide more mental stimulation through brain games and ample of foraging opportunities

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