dvm (13)Legend has it that dogs and cats eat grass because they are ill and need to vomit or they are suffering from some dietary deficiency. Veterinarians from the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine designed surveys to question pet owners about their pets’ grass-eating habits. Owners of healthy dogs reported that 80 percent of dogs with access to plants had eaten grass or other plants. Only eight percent of dogs showed signs of illness prior to ingesting plant material, and only 22 percent of those vomited afterward. Younger dogs were more likely to eat plants, but less likely to appear ill prior to eating or vomit after eating the plant material.

The veterinarians concluded that in most cases, grass eating is a common behavior in normal dogs and has no correlation with illness. Additionally, most dogs do not appear to routinely vomit after eating grass. Data from the surveys also shows that cats are less likely to eat plants than dogs. Just like dogs, most cats do not routinely show signs of illness prior to eating plants and don’t regularly vomit afterward. Many ideas have been proposed for the cause of the plant-eating behavior but none have been proven. Most agree that it is an instinctual behavior and can be considered normal for most dogs and some cats.

However, any pet that vomits several times may have an illness that needs veterinary care. Any dog or cat that repeatedly eats grass and vomits afterward may be causing irritation to the stomach by eating too much grass. Warm spring weather will bring lots of succulent green grass that dogs and cats everywhere will be enjoying. If your pet has any unusual behavior or symptoms of illness, call your veterinarian.

Dr. Russell N. Ueckert has been providing veterinary care for animals in the Big Country for over 19 years. This article was produced in part with contributions from Veterinary News Network. For all of your veterinary needs look to www.bigcountryvets.com.