Monday 22 October 2007

why do dogs eat grass?

I noticed Penny eating grass in the garden today and it occurred to me it's lucky our garden has weeds.

The clump of grass included some panic veldt grass (ehrharta erecta) and what I think is prairie grass (bromus unioloides).

When I looked at a few sites to check out what types of grasses dogs usually eat, I came across an Australian article by Justin Huntsdale about Sam Bjone, who is studying the eating of grass by dogs - this was accompanied by a photo of dogs eating kikuyu (pennisetum clandestinum).

Green Foods has a report on this study also. Interestingly, they say they are excitedly awating the results because
We at Green Foods believe that dogs and many other carnivores, including cats and bears, eat cereal grasses because cereal grasses contain nutrients not found in meat that are essential for the animals' good health.

Of course, this raises the great debate about store-bought dry food, which is often criticised by raw feeders and barf (bones and raw food/ biologically appropriate raw food) feeders, who say that canines don't naturally eat cereals.

One organic site suggests that eating grass occurs because wild dogs would eat the entire body of their prey and this would include the stomach contents of a grass-eating animal. The author recommends growing rye or barley sprouts (not wheat sprouts) and including these in the daily diet. I can see that this might be useful but I'd want to cross-reference it with other authorities before I did it. After all, as long as I make sure our garden includes weedy varities of grass (not too hard to arrange!) Penny can choose the amount and type of grass she eats.

April Holladay, at WonderQuest (Solving Mysteries People Wonder About) , discusses the various theories briefly . She says
Finally, dogs may appear to eat grass, says Feiler, when they are just running the blades through their mouth to gather information. Their sense of smell and taste may act together to detect if other animals have walked through their area or urinated on the grass.

I must say, I enjoyed the cynical discussion of commercial supplements that are designed to enhance an apartment-dwelling dog's diet. I laughed out loud at the last sentence. Suffice it to say that Penny loves visiting a friend of mine who has lots of cats. Penny zeroes in on the kitty litter tray to check for enticing feline poo.

She also races out each morning to check the garden for possum poo. So, if I move to an apartment I just could be a customer for an intriguing type of dog-food supplement...


Amber-Mae said...

Well for me, I usually eat grass when I'm sick or have upset stomach. It's like a medicine for us doggies...Sometimes I would eat grass not becoz I'm not feeling well but becoz they taste nice. Better then vegetables, ugh!

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

parlance said...

Hi, Amber-Mae.
Penny eats grass and then throws up, but I'm never sure whether she already had an upset stomach before she ate the grass.

I read on one site that some people think dogs eat grass to get the water on the blades of grass. I must say, Penny usually eats it in the early morning when the grass is still wet.

When do you eat grass? Any time of the day? Is there one kind of grass you like best?

Amber-Mae said...

Oh, I eat any grass as long as they are loong. My mommy usually discourages me from eating the grass coz the grass here in my country are called 'lalang' in malay & they are sharp & can easily cut our skin. But ofcourse, I eat it carefully. So far nothing happened to me. I never vomit it back out. I eat it when it is dry or wet.

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

parlance said...

I'm going to look for info on the internet about 'lalang', Amber-Mae, because I love reading about plants in other countries. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

saw a TV vet suggest adding spinach, broccoli or similar to your pet's meal 3 times a week to help prolong their lifespan. Maybe grass is like 'wild salad' to cats and dogs?

parlance said...

That's interesting about broccoli. Did the vet say why it was recommended?

I saw something in the newspaper just today about the value of broccoli for humans as a means of preventing cancer. Smeared on the skin it turns on the skin's natural cancer-fighting machinery. I think the anti-cancer properties might be the reason it is advocated as part of a dog's diet.

You might be onto something about the value of 'wild salad' to dogs. The fresh juice shops recommend grass juice for us, after all. (I forget what grass it is.)

Anonymous said...

I don't eat grass and I think it is because I eat VAM (yuk)with all those grains, vegs. and things in. I love the raw meat and bones that go with it but I can't say I really love the VAM and leave bits of it if I am not really hungry. While we were on holiday I got cans of DUCK and some dry food(Innova) and BOY did I really gobble that down.

parlance said...

Hi, Jabari
I'm glad your holiday was good! Duck sounds very special. Lucky you didn't catch any wild ducks for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your neat site. Cool images, too. Nice work. I also appreciate your mention of my science Q&A column/blog

That question --- why do dogs eat grass --- has been most popular for almost a decade now.


April Holladay

parlance said...

Thanks, April
when I visit your site I have to allow myself LOTS of time because it is endlessly fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Hi April,
My dog Scout (a little mixed Cairn and ? Terrier - a rescue) has always loved to eat grass. I know he has a bad stomach (via an x-ray from our vet and he gets hiccups sometimes that go on for hours.) I try to give him various things that Vets have suggested (Pepto-Bismo, Gas-X, Benadryl, etc.) but he always wants to go out and eat grass. He also likes the exact type of grass in the photograph you have posted (what is the name of that grass?). Since I've moved to AZ from the California, for the most part we don't have that kind of grass here and I want to grow a pot of that for him. I appreciate that you have brought up the subject (it's so hard to find any helpful information about it) and a photo of the grass so I can grow it for him.
Thank you - I appreciate a site that talks about how to take better care of your dog - keep up the good work.

parlance said...

Hi, Zina. thanks for the feedback. It's great to know that the information I collect is helpful I'm definitely no expert, I just look around in books and on the Net for information that I'm interested in and then share it.

As far as I can work out, the grass that Penny was eating in the picture is prairie grass (bromus unioloides) and I have definitely seen her eating panic veldt grass (ehrharta erecta).
Did you go to the Wonderquest site that I had in the post? That had links to a couple of articles.

Anonymous said...

From watching my dog- a Dachsund-chihuahua (sp) mix- eat grass, I started wondering if maybe it had anything to do with the teeth/breath. The reason I thought of this is because I noticed that "Minnie" only eats the upper-most tips of long grass, and the way she turns her head when she is eating it suggests that she is positioning the blade of grass between certain teeth. Sometimes she even spits the piece of grass out, and she doesn't throw up what she does swallow. Just an idea... Anyway, maybe someone could suggest this to their vet at the next visit and get some professional feedback..

parlance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
parlance said...

Anonymous, that's a fascinating observation. I think my dog eats grass for different reasons at different times. I've noticed that same thing, that she will sometimes swallow the blades and sometimes she spits them out.
I'm going to try to observe what you've described. Thanks for commenting.