Eating Grass: Normal or Abnormal?

by Nancy Kay, DVM

Does your cat or dog like to eat grass? If so, you may be wondering if this is normal or abnormal behavior. Either conclusion may be accurate, depending on the individual animal.

Some dogs and cats are natural born grazers. They seemingly love the taste and texture of grass. Given the opportunity, they will eat some daily without any apparent ill effects, and it is fine to let them do so. Perhaps they were cows in a previous lifetime!

For others, foraging on vegetation (grass, leaves, twigs) is a response to an underlying gastrointestinal upset. These dogs and cats typically have other symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Eating grass may actually induce vomiting, which, from the animal’s perspective, may be the desired effect. If your pet who normally ignores grass is suddenly ravenous for the stuff, a visit with your veterinarian is recommended.

Some overtly healthy appearing dogs and cats vomit only when they eat grass. This suggests an underlying allergy or sensitivity to such greenery, and, for these animals, grazing should be prevented.

Grazing Do’s and Don’ts
  • Grazing is fine as long as your pet is overtly healthy, and eating grass does not cause vomiting or abdominal discomfort.
  • Don’t let your pet graze where pesticides may have been applied. There is a known correlation between ingestion of pesticides and the development of certain types of cancers. If in doubt, keep your pet out.
  • Avoid allowing your pet to graze where fertilizer has been recently applied.
  • Don’t allow grazing if foxtails are present. This grassy plant grows in abundance west of the Mississippi. The foxtail heads are barbed, and can readily become lodged within an animal’s throat.
  • Consider growing “cat grass” for your strictly indoor kitties. This feline treat can be purchased at most pet stores.

  • Do you happen to have a grazer in your household?

    Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
    Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award

    Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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