Should Dogs Eat Grass? How to Prevent Illness in 10 FAQs

We get an uneasy feeling when we see our dogs munching on the lawn, but it can be hard to avoid. It’s also hard to find clear answers about why they do it, and whether it’s safe.

Correct your dog when he eats grass, for the sake of his health.  While ingesting grass, he may also take in toxins and parasites. Your dog’s desire to eat grass may signal stomach upset, or a more serious problem, such as intestinal parasites.  This is especially true if your dog’s grazing occurs every few weeks in a regular pattern.

After you read this article, you will know what to do about your dog’s grazing. You’ll know what he is swallowing, besides grass; and be ready to stop him. 

No time to read the full article?  I’ve created an infographic to give you the basics – Simply scroll down to the bottom of the page!

Table of Contents

A Dog May Eat Grass for More Than One Reason

The veterinary website DVM 360 has an article by Dr. Benjamin Hart, who did an interesting study about why dogs eat grass.  He concluded that grass-eating is an instinctive behavior, and I agree with this:

Eating grass “reflects an innate predisposition inherited from wild canid and felid ancestors.”

Benjamin Hart, DVM

I disagree however, with the part of his article where he states that dogs, by and large, do not eat grass because they feel sick.  He drew this conclusion from his survey, in which only a small fraction of owners cited illness as the reason that their dogs graze.  

The problem I see here is that a dog may eat grass for more than one reason.  An owner who is being surveyed will pick the most frequent one.  Since dogs are more often healthy than sick, such a survey could easily skew in a way that misses an important truth – Of course there’s a often a connection between a dog feeling ill, and his grazing!  After all, isn’t that what brought you to this article?  Are we not all tired of cleaning chartreuse vomit off of our carpets?

Only two of my dogs have been recreational grazers, but all of them have been known to eat grass when they’re not feeling well.  Lily, as usual, is the oddball of the group – The only time she goes for the grass is when she has an upset stomach.  When this happens, she is very intentional about it, and will eat grass, leaves, and a variety of plants.  Needless to say, I’ve learned to keep her on a very short leash when she’s like this!

So, let’s get to the real questions that have you searching this topic:

Dogs Who Eat Grass: FAQ

Why is my dog eating a lot of grass all of a sudden?

If people have been eating over the spot where your dog is grazing, he may be finding bits of food in there.  Otherwise, review what he has eaten over the last day or so, to see if there is something that may have upset his stomach.  If this behavior seems to come and go every few weeks, have the veterinarian screen your dog for parasites – It’s not unusual for bouts of stomach upset to come and go according to the life cycle of the worms.

Why do dogs eat grass when sick? Do dogs eat grass to settle their stomach?

In an indirect way, yes.  The dog may feel sick, and know that getting some grass into himself will induce vomiting, and purge whatever is bothering him.  Unfortunately, the grass often just compounds the problem.

How can I settle my dogs stomach? Can I give my dog Pepto Bismol?

Pepto Bismol can be very effective in settling your dog’s upset stomach.  It works so well, in fact, that Lily often comes to me for some whenever her stomach is upset, instead of pushing at the door to go out for some grass.

For a greyhound (50-85 lbs.), I drizzle 1 teaspoon of Pepto Bismol Regular Strength on 1/4 slice of bread.  The bread will help soothe the tummy, too.

Please don’t give any other stomach remedies to your dog. Generic Pepto is fine; but whenever you buy a new bottle – regardless of brand – always check the lael, to make sure they haven’t started adding xylitol.  Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs!

Does grass give dogs diarrhea?

If your dog has diarrhea after eating grass, he was probably already sick.  If not, he may have ingested something that was on the grass, such as parasites, bacteria, bird droppings, or spoiled food, which may have sickened him.

What is a dog lacking when it eats grass?

Some experts speculate that he may be lacking fiber in his diet.  An article from VCA Hospitals states:

“Dogs need roughage in their diets and grass is a good source of fiber. A lack of roughage affects the dog’s ability to digest food and pass stool, so grass may actually help their bodily functions run more smoothly.”

VCA Hospitals Blog

Dr. Hart felt that they don’t do it out of any nutritional deficiency, and I agree with him.  Some dogs are just gourmet grazers, like my greyhound, Peaches.  She really relished those first, green shoots of Spring.  It’s the same way with me and bran muffins.  I eat them, because I like them….not a thing to do with the fiber.  Honest.

Should I stop my dog from eating grass?

Even your dog never suffers any ill effects from eating grass, and you live completely away from areas where fertilizers are used, he could still ingest bird droppings or parasites.  Parasites can live in the soil for thirty years.  Some bird droppings are so toxic, they can be fatal to your dog.  Hard pass on eating grass!

What can you give dogs instead of grass?

I would not have believed this, if I hadn’t seen it for myself, but you can actually buy dog-safe, gourmet grass for your buddy.  I will leave a link below for the company that sells it.

Any Tips for Getting That Green Stain out of my Carpet?

No dog’s home should be without a rug shampooer…unless that home has no rugs, that is! (I like this one, because it’s compact and easy to use on furniture, as well)

Always blot up the mess with paper towels and spray with cleaner, such as this enzymatic type, before using the rug shampooer.

Resources for Further Exploration

By Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!