Theories to explain this unusual behavior
While it may be alarming to see Fido or Fluffy nibbling on the front lawn or a houseplant, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern unless the grass or plant was recently treated with pesticide, fertilizer, or another poisonous chemical. Both dogs and cats from time to time may take an interest in grass or similar substances, each for different purposes that can actually benefit their bodies.
Dogs tend to self-medicate their bodies and regulate behavior through occasional ingestion of plants, as the diets they often receive in captivity are vastly different than what they would eat in the wild. Dogs are not simply carnivorous, and can be often seen hunting for roots and fruits. Since dogs evolved from wolves, in the wild, wolves and dogs may eat an herbivore prey that they have killed, and often first go for the stomach area of the carcass where they will find roots, leaves and berries.
In domestication, a dog’s diet often consists of commercial dog food, which contains synthetic preservatives, coloring and fillers. Constant intake of such substances often leads to dog aggression, when the dog’s discomfort exceeds tolerance levels. Over time, this grain-based, high-carbohydrate diet can lead to digestive upset and even diabetes. Again considering the evolutionary perspective, wild dogs consume only minimal quantity of grains, in the shape of already-digested paste and juices in the intestines of a seed-eating prey.
However, even though grass ingestion appears to have some redeeming qualities for an dog, it can sometimes lead to vomiting. Some veterinary experts suspect that ingestion could have been a catalyst for self-induced vomiting to relieve stomach upset. Whether or not it was intentional, it may have detoxifying properties for this very purpose.
Cats often ingest plants and grass for this very same reason—mainly to assist common bodily functions. Cats are avid groomers and seem to spend hours preening and licking themselves. Unfortunately, this usually means that they end up swallowing a lot of loose fur, which accumulates in their stomach to form matted lumps called furballs.
While furballs are usually vomited or emitted in feces as part of the body’s natural elimination process, a weak digestive system, modern diet, sedentary lifestyles, or inadequate nutrition can interfere with this process. To help stimulate this elimination, cats may use grass as a laxative or to self-induce furballs, as it acts a roughage to promote bowel movement or regurgitation. This not only helps promote overall health as bodily functioning is restored, but also relieves the discomfort associated with the blockage.
It may also be possible that the dog or cat just likes the taste! However, it is important to discourage ingestion of grass or plants directly after a meal, as unintentional regurgitation of dinner may result.
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