Why do dogs eat grass?

A New Answer to an Old Question

A simple Google search of the question, “Why do dogs eat grass?” yields well over a half million results. This is one of those questions that many have an opinion about, yet has stumped dog owners and veterinarians, with surprisingly little research done to provide a sound, scientific answer.

While there are several popular, “common sense” answers often given in the pet care community, online and in the real world, the most commonly held belief about this issue is that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting, thereby giving themselves gastrointestinal relief as needed. The problem with this line of thought is that a small minority of dogs vomit after eating grass. This has been observed anecdotally and in controlled scientific research.

Rather than regurgitate (pardon the pun) the Internet’s popular reasons for grass eating, we are putting forth another answer to this age-old question. This hypothesis comes from our in-house pet nutrition guru, Ken Cowan, National Sales Manager at BiologicVET.

He has some very interesting things to say.

“A dog’s stomach has a very acidic pH of 2, at rest, and becomes even more acidic after eating, in order to kill invading bacteria or pathogens. This means that the majority of commercially manufactured probiotics will not survive a dog’s stomach.

It is interesting to see that nature has placed good bacteria, that can survive the acidic pH of a dog’s stomach, on grass that dogs and other animals will munch on, such as switchgrass.

One of the strains of bacteria found on switchgrass is called pediococcus acidilactici. It will survive this harsh environment and help alter the pH of a dog’s intestinal tract to a pH which is less desirable for yeast and much more friendly to the existing good bacteria in the dog’s intestinal tract.

Similar strains of this bacteria are found on cabbage, which is why you only need cabbage, salt and water to make sauerkraut. Kimchi and Kefir are likewise excellent sources of this bacteria. They all balance pH in the intestinal tract creating an environment for the good bacteria to grow while preventing the growth of yeast.

It’s amazing how nature always comes through with an answer.”

While most dogs do not vomit after eating grass (despite what people often think), this behaviour still has a profound benefit for your pet’s intestinal health. The consensus these days is that a little bit of grass eating on an ongoing basis is a good thing and certainly not a behaviour to be concerned about, unless it appears suddenly and vigorously, which may indicate that something else is in play.