Why Do Dogs Eat Grass and Dirt?

If your dog keeps eating grass or dirt, there’s no need to worry - this isn’t uncommon behaviour by any means, even though it might seem quite strange.
why do dogs eat grass?
why do dogs eat grass?
why do dogs eat grass?

If you have a four-legged friend in your life, chances are that you’ve caught them grazing once or twice on their daily constitutional. For pups that do this, owners often wonder, why do dogs eat grass exactly? Over the years there’s been numerous old wife’s tales about the behaviour, with many believing it’s for the purpose of self-medicating – but is this true?

Why do dogs eat grass?

Dogs eating grass is very common, but there’s actually little evidence to tell us why they do it. Behaviourists and veterinarians have been perplexed by the behaviour for years, but some of their theories include:

1. Self-medicating

It’s likely that you’ve heard this one for an answer to why dogs eat grass. It’s widely believed by dog owners that if a dog feels nauseous, they’ll eat grass to make themselves vomit and then feel better. However, this still remains a theory. In fact, dogs vomiting after ingesting grass is quite rare, with less than 25 percent doing this and only a further 10 percent displaying signs of illness beforehand.

2. They like the taste of it

Another reasoning could be because they simply like the taste of it. Dogs are descended from wolves and as such, they’re natural scavengers – meaning that they might be grazing in your back garden as an opportunity to forage. Additionally, some veterinarians have suggested that dogs might eat grass to make up for nutritional deficiencies in their diet. This is supported by a study outlined by Fetch by WebMD, with a dog who ate grass every single day for seven years, then the moment it was switched to a high-fibre diet, it stopped. However, there’s currently not been enough studies on the topic to satiate if this is the reason behind why do dogs eat grass or not.

3. Eating grass due to boredom

If you’re just letting your dog out into the garden to play by themselves and not offering enough mental and physical stimulation, then your dog eating grass may be because of boredom. To try and reduce the behaviour, make sure you’re giving your pup enough opportunities to exercise, and get some toys for them to play with in the garden too. Puzzle games are excellent for mental stimulation, chew toys are great for boredom-busting and your dog is bound to love a ball game too!

4. Dogs might need grass in their diet

Another explanation for why do dogs eat grass could be down to the way they’ve evolved. This theory relates to the fact that wild canids eat all of an animal when they catch it. The animals that wild canids – your dog’s ancestors – would catch and eat were usually herbivores. This means that when the wild canids ate these animals, they might also have ended up eating a lot of grass and plants that were in the intestines of their prey.

Wild canids such as foxes have also been known to eat certain berries and other plant material, supporting the idea that dogs eat grass because it’s a part of their normal diet.

Why do dogs eat dirt?

Sometimes when your pup’s been munching on grass, you’ll notice that they’re sporting a muddy face too. Dogs that like to eat grass may also enjoy the odd sample of soil too, but why do dogs eat dirt? Are they the same reasons as why they eat grass?

Mineral deficiencies

Dirt contains minerals, so when you see them digging with their tongue in the dirt, they may be trying to supplement their diet with these. If the food you’re currently offering your dog isn’t rich in minerals, try switching to one that is and see if the behaviour continues.

They might be digging instead

Although it may look like your dog’s eating dirt, they might actually just be digging in it. If your dog smells something wonderful in the soil, they’ll use their nose to aid with the digging and to help with locating the item in question. If it’s in your back garden they’re doing this, they may be hunting for their own buried treasure!  

A lot of the reasons why your dog eats dirt are the same as why they eat grass too. These include behavioural issues, stomach upset and simply just liking the taste!

Is it okay for my dog to eat grass and dirt?

Grass eating is a normal behaviour for dogs and it’s not a concern unless they’re doing it excessively. If they start ingesting a lot and don’t seem okay in themselves or are repeatedly eating grass and vomiting over a period of a few hours, it’s time to contact your vet.

If your dog likes to graze in your garden, make sure that it’s not sprayed with pesticides or any chemicals that could be harmful to your dog. And, be on the lookout for poisonous plants too. It’s not unusual for dogs that love to munch on vegetation to sample other plants, some of which may be hazardous.

If you are still concerned about your dog eating grass, we would recommend that you discuss it with your vet, just in case. They’ll be happy to check your dog over for peace of mind, so you can carry on enjoying each other’s company with no worries.

Looking to find out more information about dog behaviour? Find out how to stop a dog digging next.

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If you’d like more information on your dog's eating habits or have any other queries, contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM.