Why does my Labrador eat grass?

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A few years ago, I was walking my Labrador retriever in the neighborhood and all of a sudden, he stopped at a driveway of one of my neighbors and started eating some grass in their front-yard. That caught me off-guard as I had no idea as to why he would eat grass out of all things. Thus, I was extremely curious until I learned the real reason and I assume you also want to know what that reason is.

So why does my Labrador eat grass?

Well, a Labrador eating grass is certainly a normal occurrence which is caused by a number of reasons and they can be emotional reactions such as to anxiety and boredom, not getting enough fiber in the diet, liking the taste of the grass, an instinctive habit passed down by your Labrador’s ancestors and feeling ill and wanting to eat grass in order to feel better such as to soothe an upset stomach.

You see, Labradors are inclined to eat anything they find that looks edible (sometimes, even non-edible ones). Although, a Labrador is a carnivore, their tendency to eat grass has no limit. However, this is not only common to Labradors but many other dog breeds and the good thing is that it does not harm a dog.

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Here is an in-detail explanation as to why Labradors eat grass (According to my experience)

A reaction to bad emotions

Labradors eat grass when they are feeling mentally down such as being stressed, sad, anxious and bored. It is sort of a reaction to those emotions. Although, we can not exactly tell why specifically grass that they want to eat, it is believed that eating grass gives a dog some comfort to cope with their negative emotions.

When I first dealt with this issue with my Labrador, I used to think it’s kind of like humans eating ice cream to handle emotions. However, I found that when I react more and more to my Lab eating grass, he eats more and more. That made me realize that he uses eating grass as a way to get my attention.

Perhaps, it made his bad emotions go away when I give my attention and affection to him. Nonetheless, the next day, when I walked him outside, I wanted to try something. So I started giving attention and played with him before the doggo even got to try eating grass. You know what happened? He actually did not care about wanting to eat grass. Maybe, the guy was happier to play with me.

So yeah, my hypothesis was correct. Sometimes, a Labrador eats grass to get their owner’s attention (This is according to dog experts too)

Not having sufficient amount of fiber in the diet

At first, I was not aware that not eating enough fiber can cause my Labrador to eat grass but as I asked our family veterinarian, she said “yes, it may be the reason but since you feed your Labrador with dog foods which contains a lot of fiber, the dog should already be having enough of fiber”

But little did I know the brand I used was a high-protein and low-carb one. Plus, it is fairly low in fiber too. Not only that, I also fed my dog wet foods that do not contain much fiber (Along with dog food low in fiber).

In other words, I had not been feeding my Lab with sufficient fiber. Therefore, he has been eating grass to get his daily fiber intake (Yes, grass does have fiber in them).

Nevertheless, my doggo started eating less grass than it did before after I increased the fiber intake. Good thing is that it really worked.  So definitely, check whether all the nutrients are well-balanced in your Labrador’s diet, especially fiber and protein.

Liking the taste of grass

This is quite simple, yes dogs in general like the texture and the taste of grass even though they contain not much of a nutritional value whatsoever.

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When I first saw my Lab eating grass, he looked so excited to eat them as if they were his treats. It was just too obvious to me that he likes grass a lot.

So, I just had to find something better tasting than grass. What I did was whenever we go for a walk, I brought some treats with me and when he is going to eat grass, I would give a treat to him instead. That way, he would easily choose his treats over grass.

An instinctive habit passed down by your Labrador’s ancestors

We think Labradors are carnivores which means animals that eat meat. Yes, that is true but dogs in general, have ancestors that once lived in the wild and had to eat plant-based foods along with meat such as grass and berries. Over time, dogs have become domesticated but they still have the bloodlines of their ancestors that ate grass.

Therefore, your Labrador eating grass can also be a natural instinct. However, this is something I initially could not notice since I was speculating that it was a sickness or something else.

So to me, it was more like a hunch that eating grass maybe instincts and I had to use other methods such as giving treats when he tries to eat grass to ensure the doggo will not harm its well-being by eating too much grass.

Not feeling well and wanting to eat grass in order to relieve an illness

This concerns many pet-parents since vomiting can be a symptom of a number of minor and serious diseases even though it is a normal outcome of eating grass in this case but people easily misinterpret it as a symptom of a serious health condition.

However, what you need to understand is that eating grass can be a symptom of a sickness and therefore, the dog vomits. This is what most dog-parents get confused with.  However, if your Lab keeps on vomiting after eating grass, it is likely because he/she is suffering from an upset stomach.

Usually, my Lab gets better on its own within a day or two but normally, I would give some Pepto-Bismol since it helps the dog to get better. Firstly, you have to consult with the vet about a suitable dosage (On average, it is 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of the dog’s weight) and then, whenever, the doggo has an upset stomach, give a dose of Pepto-Bismol every 6-8 hours for 36 hour. With that, your Labrador should get better.

But if that does not happen and the Lab is getting worse, stop giving Pepto-Bismol at once (Also, do not give Pepto-Bismol for more than 48 hours anyway) and bring the doggo to the vet’s office. So that the vet will give proper treatments for the doggo to recover faster.  

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Should I stop my Labrador from eating grass?

No you do not have to force them to not eat grass as it is proven to be safe especially for dogs that are ill or having parasite prevention drugs.  It is believed to make a Labrador feel better once they vomited out the grass. However, ensure that the grass the doggo eats does not have herbicides and fertilizers and he/she does not eat too much of it.

How can I stop my Labrador from eating grass?

You can not fully stop your Labrador from eating grass but you surely can make your Lab eat less grass by doing a few things such as feeding more fiber as it makes the dog feel full and giving treats or a chew-toy whenever the doggo is around grass and tries to eat them.  

Plus, you can train the dog to chew on the toy on command and that way, when it tries to eat grass, you can call the doggo to chew on the toy.

Final Thoughts

It is typical that your Labrador eats grass due to several reasons such as instincts triggered by genetics, liking what grass tastes like and reacting to different emotional states. However, it can also be due to a combination of reasons too. For example, your Lab instinctively eats grass and since, it tastes good, he/she keeps eating until ending up vomiting which also, helps the dog relieve an upset stomach.

That was my Labrador’s case. A combination of reasons but once I treated every reason with proper actions, he started eating less grass and eventually, stopped completely. However, a lab may eat grass again from time to time.

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Supposedly, it is safe to eat grass but make sure that your Lab does not eat too much of it and get access to grass that has pesticides sprayed on or any other poisonous plants.

Featured image credit: Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

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