You’ve noticed your dog snacking on grass. Like many other dog parents, you want to know why. The scientific term used to describe eating non-food items is ‘pica’ (pronounced pai-kuh), and it’s a very common behavior in dogs. Here are the top 3 reasons why dogs exhibit this behavior:
3 Reasons Why Dogs Eat Grass
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Reason #1 - Bacterial Deficiencies in the Gut Microbiome
Your dog's gastrointestinal tract is lined with millions of bacteria that play an important role in their overall health, from digestion to immune system function. When there aren’t enough beneficial bacteria in the gut, or the ones that are present aren’t getting enough food, the gut bacteria sound the alarm. They can signal that they need more nutrients to repopulate. Because fresh grass is rich in dietary fiber that helps good bacteria grow, your dog may start eating grass in response to signals from gut bacteria.
Consider Gut Microbiome Testing
If you are concerned about your dog eating grass, you may want to consider a DoggyBIome Gut Microbiome Test. Our easy to use Gut Microbiome Test provides a detailed assessment of what is going on in your dog's gut and makes actionable recommendations to fix it with dietary changes and supplementation. If you have questions about your test results, email us, or schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation with one of our gut health test experts.
Reason #2 - A Nutritional Deficiency in a Dog's Diet
If your dog eats grass on a regular basis, it may be a sign that they have a nutritional need that they aren’t getting from their regular diet. Pica is associated with nutritional deficiencies of iron, calcium, zinc, thiamine, niacin, Vitamin C and Vitamin D. Grass can provide vitamins and minerals missing from your dog’s diet, but more importantly, it provides a source of fiber.
Consider a Supplement
In many cases, pica behavior (eating non-food items) has been resolved by switching dogs to a high-fiber diet. There are many ways dog parents can add fiber to their dog’s existing food, such as mixing in fiber-rich psyllium husk powder to moist dog food or using DoggyBiome S. Boulardii + FOS a probiotic and prebiotic supplement powder.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are tiny soluble fibers. These fibers are prebiotic, meaning that they are the preferred food of beneficial microbes like the ones in your dog’s gut. Studies in dogs have shown that supplementation with FOS improves both gut health and immune functions. By feeding the beneficial bacteria, fiber helps restore balance to the bacterial communities that live in the gut.
Reason #3 - It's Behavioral
Some dogs eat grass if they are bored, but may also do it if they are anxious or trying to get your attention. It’s possible that your dog may just enjoy the texture and taste of grass. The exact reasons behind the habit are not well documented in scientific research because it is difficult to study.
That said, a 2019 study in Japan did find that younger dogs and neutered dogs were more likely to exhibit pica behavior. These groups of dogs also tend to be ones that can get bored more easily and are more attention-seeking.