As a Vet, I get asked regularly by worried pet owners about their dog, or cat eating grass – especially if they are eating grass and then vomiting. It’s been a long-held belief that pets (especially cats) eat grass to “tickle their throat to be sick.”
But far more often, chances are your cat or dog is “just having a chew”. Wild dogs and cats did it, and eating grass is most often a perfectly normal behaviour, especially for puppies and younger dogs.
Some researchers even suggest that dog’s and cat’s don’t have a high enough IQ to “decide” to treat an upset stomach with grass – but like all research, there’s always more that needs to be done.
Pica, a medical term you might hear.
Pica is the medical term we use to describe pets eating things that aren’t considered “food.” Pica can indicate that your pet could be malnourished, but with the quality of pet foods in Australia, it is VERY rare to see a malnourished family dog or cat.
Over-feeding on the other hand is super common. Pica involving grass is very common and Vets consider it completely normal.
Some grass-eating statistics.
Some dogs and cats actually love grass as the roots/stems can be very sweet, or it just feels good to chew on. But let’s summarise some stats from a few studies we looked at in Vet school – there’s quite a few online reports if you wanted to delve a bit deeper. Fewer than 20% of cats and dogs are actually sick after eating grass, and of those, very few are doing it for medical reasons.
Even so, take precautions with your garden.
Please be extremely careful when using pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides on or near plant material which is accessible to your pets.
These can make your pets quite sick if enough of it is eaten or licked off the plant. Also if you are planting new plants in your garden please check carefully that they are non-toxic to pets.
Purple and red plans are big warning signs, so please double check before revamping your garden or indoor plants!
So what do you need to remember?
1. Dogs and cats eating grass are completely normal.
2. If your pet vomits after eating grass, keep an eye on it but don’t panic.
3. If vomiting is regular, getting a Vet check is recommended.
4. Some garden products or plants need to be avoided.
5. Remember to protect your pets against parasites.
If you find your pet is eating grass but is okay, then don’t panic. But if they are unwell, please speak with your local vet to diagnose the underlying problem.
… But remember that while eating grass is normal, be sure to see your local Vets if your cat or dog is regularly eating grass and sick, so they can diagnose the underlining problem.