Why Does Your Dog Eat Grass?

Healthy dogs Miami

Why Does Your Dog Eat Grass?

“Logan! Logan!  Quit eating that!  Logan come on!”  A few gentle tugs on the sweet pup’s leash, and I cannot get him away from a dirty patch of grass he’s chomping on.  After a moment of grazing, I finally pick him up and place him away from the plant, directing his attention elsewhere.  Recently he’s been eating any grass he can get his teeth on.  What is the infatuation with grass?  As a professional dog walker, animal lover, and potential pet owner I needed to find the answers.

I searched, “Why do dog eats grass?” and literally 6 million results popped up. After sorting through reputable sites, I found the top three reasons: boredom, nutritional deficiencies, or digestion issues, each with simple solutions were provided for each cause.

1. Boredom

Puppies or younger dogs may gnaw on grass out of boredom.  If grass eating is occurring when the dog is alone or not exercising, distract them with a chew toy or a more vigorous exercise routine. You alone know how much exercise your pup is truly getting!

2. Dietary Needs and Taste

Despite my assumption that dogs were carnivores, they are naturally omnivorous scavengers. One of nature’s many “garbage disposals,” they are known to eat any fruit or vegetable matter they find.  If you offer a dog a carrot versus meat, they will most likely eat both.  Dogs may eat grass as an actual food source or could be in need of essential nutrients, in most cases fiber, which grass is high in fiber content.  If you notice your dog munching on grass frequently, consult with your veterinarian about switching to a high-fiber dog food.  Keep in mind, your beloved pet may be eating grass because they like the taste.  They do not face any danger from consumption of grass, but be aware outside grass can carry chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides.  To be 100% safe consider buying a grass tray or growing your own herbs. Dog-safe herbs include oregano and basil, but always ask your vet how much your dog can have.

3. Upset Tummy

The most common rumor is if a dog has an upset stomach they are seeking the natural remedy of grass.  When “gulping” or ingesting grass quickly the blades can tickle the throat and stomach lining, which can cause the dog to vomit.  Or can it?  Some say our canine friends aren’t smart enough to self-medicate.  Others ask, “Do dogs eat grass to make themselves vomit or do they vomit because they ate grass?”  None of the above information has been scientifically proven.  All have been concluded by veterinarian assumptions on behavior conditions. Still looking for answers I went on a deeper search for scientific proof.

Eating Grass Is No Cause for Concern

I could not find any information on the causes of vomit, but according to Psychologytoday.com,  researchers have “concluded that grass eating is a common behavior that usually occurs in normal dogs and is generally not associated with dietary needs.”  The article suggested this habit was  inherited from wolves, dogs’ wild ancestors.  Research found grass in wolf stool samples:  “The plant material passes through the intestinal tract and the fibrous matter increases the intestinal contractions and wraps around the worms or nematodes which may be infecting the animal.  In this way, grass helps to purge the system of these potentially harmful parasites.”  This is not suggesting that your dog has a horrible case of worms if they are eating grass.  It is simply suggesting it is in their genes to eat grass to clean out their systems. For the full article reference http://www.psychology.com/blog-canine-corner, “Why Dogs Eat Grass — a Myth Debunked.”

I now feel confident if a pup is eating grass, no immediate concern is necessary.  If it’s an occasional habit, no harm done.  If it becomes constant consult with your vet in the case of digestion issues or possible unwelcome parasites.  Otherwise, I will let Logan chomp away on his backyard treat.

-Written by Meghan, one Equipaws Pet Services’ Brickell wonderful pet sitters.

7 Facts about Catnip for Curious Cat Lovers

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Catnip 101 for Curious Cat Lovers

Our cat sitters have all seen our cat clients go crazy for catnip, but what are we giving our furry friends? What is catnip and how does it affect Spot, Hemingway, or whomever your special kitty may be? What do you really know about this so-called “cat drug”? Here is Catnip 101 for any curious cat lovers!

1. What is catnip?

Catnip is a perennial herb called Labiatae, which is one of 250 herbs in the mint family. The ingredient in catnip creating the high is nepetalactone, an essential oil found in leaves and stems of this plant.  Just as humans feel a hallucinogenic effect by ingesting LSD or marijuana, cats feel a similar effect with catnip. The same feel-good pheromones released during sexual courtship between felines are the same released when cats smell or eat the catnip plant. It was once suggested for use as an aphrodisiac for the species, but the idea was unlikely because males and females respond in the same way to the drug. Cats will sniff, chew, lick, shake their head, rub their chin, cheek and body (most likely in that order).

 2. Is catnip safe?

The herb is non-threatening, non-addictive, non-toxic and safe to eat. If cats consume too much, an overdose can cause vomit or diarrhea.

 3. Do all cats get high?

Only 50 to 66% of cats will inherit the gene that reacts to catnip. The gene only needs to be inherited from one parent. Any group of cats, wild or domesticated, big or small, have the same behavioral reactions. Kittens will not respond to the herb for 3 to 6 months or until they reach sexual maturity.

 4. Where can you find catnip, and how do you store it?

Any local pet retailer or garden center will have access to catnip, fresh or dry. It can be homegrown, indoor or outdoor. Catnip is an invasive plant and spreads quickly, so be careful where you grow or plant in a large garden area. Catnip grows wild in temperate Asia, North America, and Europe. Also, be sure to store catnip in an airtight bag in the freezer. Catnip loses its oils and effect if not stored properly.

 5. Is smelling catnip better than eating it?

When smelling catnip, cats are likely to respond with hyperactivity, playfulness and sometimes can become aggressive. When eating catnip, cats will become more mellow and calm, feeling the ecstasy of the drug. Chewing bruises the plant, which releases more oils creating a calming effect. The effect lasts a short 10 minutes and the feeling can’t be resumed for another two hours. Also, be aware male cats may become more aggressive when they first ingest the herb.

6. Does catnip affect humans?

It’s not harmful to humans. People are slightly affected by catnip (although not in a hallucinogenic way). It can be used as a mild sedative or in tea, as it has the calming properties similar to chamomile. It is a natural mosquito and pest repellent, known to be stronger than the brand “DEET” (and most likely smells better). In addition, the plant provides some protection against aphids, corn ear worms, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, and mice.

7. Train Your Kitty:

Are your kitties scratching up the rug or couch? Catnip can be a useful for a training aid. Rub catnip on a scratching post to draw their attention from elsewhere. Frequent use in one area may help keep him away from your furniture. You can also buy toys that are meant to put catnip inside. This is a great distraction for cats!

As a pet sitters, we have seen every reaction in the book. Hopefully this helps you better understand the plant and the effects on your kitty. Let your cat enjoy the effects of catnip and use it to your advantage!