Should I Let My Dog Eat Grass? 8 Dangers to Be Aware Of

Discover what direct and indirect dangers lurk in the behavior of grass-eating in dogs.

Should I Let My Dog Eat Grass? 8 Dangers to Be Aware Of

Discover what direct and indirect dangers lurk in the behavior of grass-eating in dogs.

Even something as innocent as eating grass can pose several dangers to dogs.


Is It Okay for Dogs to Eat Grass?

Whether you should let your dog eat grass is something to seriously consider, as there can be several dangers associated with this innocent-looking practice.

These dangers can be various and may not necessarily apply to you, but it's good to be aware of them nonetheless, since most dogs will readily eat grass in specific circumstances.

In general, it can be said that there are two forms of grass-eating in dogs: the leisurely grass-eating behavior seen in dogs who are simply enjoying some greens, and the frantic grass-eating behavior seen in dogs who are sick.

Both forms of grass ingestion can lead to dangerous consequences, although the latter can be more problematic since dogs who frantically eat grass may not be very selective of what they eat and may consume large amounts.

Main Dangers of Eating Grass

While it is generally considered safe for dogs to eat grass, there can be several consequences that are rarely mentioned. These dangers are as follows:

  1. Ingestion of herbicides
  2. Ingestion of insecticides
  3. Ingestion of fertilizers
  4. Risk of blockages
  5. Risk of ingesting poisonous plants
  6. Risk of inhaling particles
  7. Risk of allergies
  8. Risk of ticks

We will take a closer look at each of these dangers and explore some proactive steps to minimize such dangers and recognize early signs of trouble.

1. Ingestion of Herbicides

Herbicides are meant to kill unwanted weeds and are a main danger for dogs who like to ingest grass.

The main problem seen is when dogs walk on the recently treated grass and ingest some of the herbicide-treated grass. Dogs may also ingest the herbicide indirectly by walking on the treated grass and then licking their paws.

Several brands of herbicides may contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs.

In general, herbicides are specifically formulated to kill weeds and therefore carry a wide margin of safety around pets, but they can cause problems when ingested in large amounts.

Nowadays, herbicides are widely used in private yards, public areas and grassy areas managed by homeowner associations. When recently applied, several companies will post signs of the yawn being treated, but not always.

Whether or not a dog ingests toxic levels will depend on the amount consumed and the size of the dog.

Toxic Ingredients in Common Herbicides

Commonly used herbicides, according to the Pet Poison Helpline, may contain the following ingredients:

  • Glyphosate: Exposure may cause, for the most part, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Chlorophenoxy: Exposure to large amounts or concentrated formulas may cause tremors, difficulty walking and, more rarely, muscle spasms.
  • Benzoic Acid: Exposure to large amounts or concentrated/industrial formulas may rarely lead to myotonia, ataxia, and tremors.
  • Pyridine, Dinitroaniline and Benzamizole: Exposure may lead to gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, etc.).

What to Do If You Think Your Dog Ingested Herbicide

If your dog has walked on recently treated grass, wipe his paws immediately, suggests veterinarian Dr. Gabby.

If your dog has rolled in grass treated with a herbicide, give your dog a bath with dish soap. This soap is effective in removing oils and chemicals from a dog's fur and is often used to wash aquatic birds' feathers from oil spills.

If your dog has ingested grass that was sprayed with a herbicide, give your vet a call and determine whether the amount ingested could pose a danger.

Be ready to provide details such as your dog's weight, how much was ingested and what type of pesticide, along with the list of ingredients.

Signs of Herbicide Toxicity in Dogs

General signs of herbicide toxicity will vary from neurological to cardiovascular and gastrointestinal. Following are several signs of potential trouble:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Wobbliness
  • Shaking
  • Tremors
  • Drunken gait
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Breathing problems
  • Seizures
  • Death

Use Herbicides With Caution

In the future, it is important to be mindful of any chemicals that are used around your home and to keep them out of reach of your dog.

If you need to use a herbicide or other chemical, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and to keep your dog away from the treated area until the chemical has had a chance to dry or be absorbed into the ground.

If you have any concerns about your dog's health or behavior, it is always a good idea to speak with your veterinarian.

2. Ingestion of Insecticides

Insecticides are used for controlling a wide variety of insects, and a variety of types may cause harmful consequences on dogs. They are often used in private yards to control garden pests and are often included in rose and flower care products.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the two most commonly used insecticides added to gardens are imidacloprid and tebuconazole. Both can cause to mild gastrointestinal irritation causing vomiting and/or diarrhea.

SLUDGE in Dogs

Carbamates, on the other hand, can cause what are known as SLUDGE symptoms, SLUDGE is an acronym that stands for salivation, lacrimation (tearing of the eyes) urination and defecation. Other signs include problems breathing, tremors, high or low body temperatures, seizures and even death.

3. Ingestion of Fertilizers

Fertilizers are used to help plants grow, but they contain chemicals that can pose a danger to dogs.

Most fertilizers contain a ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (potash), which are not typically considered highly toxic. But in dogs, they can potentially cause gastrointestinal effects (nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) within 10 hours of ingestion.

Fertilizer Ingredients That Are Toxic for Dogs

Following are some common ingredients in fertilizers that can cause problems in dogs:

  • Bone Meal: Dogs ingesting small quantities may develop vomiting and diarrhea. Larger ingestions may cause foreign body obstructions due to the fact that bone meal coagulates in the dog's digestive tract. Induction of vomiting within 60 minutes is important to prevent this complication.
  • Blood Meal: Ingestion may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis.
  • Iron: ingestion may lead to vomiting and diarrhea, with large ingestions causing vomiting of blood, presence of digested blood in stool (melena), lethargy, high heart rate and liver and kidney problems.
  • Urea: Large ingestions may result in methemoglobinemia, where too little oxygen is delivered to the cells.
Eating grass frantically can be a sign of digestive upset.

4. Risk of Blockages

Many dogs eat grass when they are feeling sick and subsequently vomit. However, not all do. If your dog ingests a large amount of grass and doesn't vomit, this can become problematic, as grass isn't digestible by a dog's digestive system.

If too much grass accumulates in the stomach, it can cause a blockage.

On top of this, consider that if your dog isn't feeling well, they will be less selective of what they eat. This could mean your dog ingesting other non-digestible things as well, such as leaves, sticks and mulch (some types of mulch are also toxic to dogs, such as cocoa mulch).

5. Risk of Ingesting Poisonous Plants

We think of grass as a pretty innocent thing to eat, but there can be several poisonous plants mixed within the grass.

For instance, consider mushrooms. Mushrooms being short and often small, aren't readily easy to find. As your dog eats grass, he may inadvertently ingest mushrooms.

You may think, "OK, what's the deal? I can identify them and see whether they're poisonous." However, think again. Mushrooms are very challenging to identify, reaching beyond the scope of the majority of pet owners and veterinarians, points out the Pet Poison Helpline.

There are also several plants that may camouflage in tall grass. For instance, sago palms produce very toxic seeds that may fall on a lawn, or wild cyclamen or autumn crocus may be growing amidst the grass. Both of these are listed by the ASPCA as poisonous to dogs.

6. Risk of Inhalation

Sniffing around and eating grass seems like a rather innocent doggy pastime, right? Well, until your dog ingests or inhales a foxtail.

Even if you never heard about foxtails, you have likely stumbled upon them at one time or another. Foxtails are grass awns that have a barbed seed at the end, which can become embedded in skin, fur or clothing.

They are particularly dangerous for animals because they can migrate into their bodies and cause serious injury or infection. The seeds can work their way into a dog's paws, ears, nose, and other body parts, and they can be difficult to remove once they become embedded.

If a dog inhales a foxtail, it can become stuck in the respiratory tract and cause serious problems. Symptoms of a foxtail in the respiratory tract may include coughing, sneezing, gagging, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge.

In some cases, the foxtail may be able to be removed through the nostril or mouth, but in other cases, it may be necessary to perform surgery to remove it.

Foxtails are common in dry, grassy areas and can be found in many parts of the world.

7. Risk of Allergies

Some dogs become allergic when around grass, just like humans. This may occur from just walking around grass and inhaling allergens. Pollen is one of the most common triggers for allergies in dogs. It includes tree, grass, and weed pollens.

When we humans think about allergies, we often imagine a runny nose, itchy eyes and lots of sneezing, but in dogs, the main symptom of allergies turns out to be itchiness (especially localized at the dog's face, feet, and underarms).

However, sometimes runny eyes and a runny nose can also occur in canine companions, points out board-certified veterinary dermatologist Dr. Jon Plant.

8. Risk of Ticks

When your dog heads outside to eat grass, most likely he's around grass that is tall. Ticks thrive in tall grass and other areas with dense vegetation.

This is because ticks rely on contact with animals or humans to obtain their blood meals, and tall grass provides the perfect environment for them to wait for a host to pass by to attach themselves.

Once attached, ticks can harm dogs in several ways. First and foremost, ticks can transmit diseases to dogs through their bites, such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

In severe cases, these tick-borne diseases can prove fatal to dogs.

Be Careful When Removing Ticks

On top of potentially transmitting diseases, ticks are equipped with mouthparts that are designed to anchor the tick firmly in place while it feeds. Once anchored, ticks can be difficult to remove. Improper removal can cause inflammation, infection, and scarring at the bite site.

Does Eating Grass Provide Any Benefits to Dogs?

Unless treated with herbicides, insecticides or harmful fertilizers, eating grass is not in itself a bad habit provided that the dogs are otherwise healthy and acting normally. Many dogs simply seem to love the taste of fresh grass.

According to Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital, eating grass may be an easy way for dogs to add roughage to their diet, helping to keep their digestive tract flowing.

However, everything in moderation. While ingesting a small amount of grass is fine, and many dogs love the taste of fresh grass, eating too much may act as an irritant causing the dog to vomit. And in some cases, excessive amounts can even potentially cause intestinal blockages.

With this in mind, if you are worried about your dog's grass eating, below are several tips.

6 Tips for Reducing Grass Eating in Dogs

If your dog is prone to eating grass a lot, or you are concerned about some of the above mentioned dangers, consider these following tips.

1. Have Your Dog See the Vet

If your dog is eating grass frantically, consider the possibility of some underlying medical problem. One common culprit is nausea or some other form of digestive upset such as gastroesophageal acid reflux.

2. Try a Diet Change

Sometimes, dogs who crave grass are suffering from some type of nutritional deficiency. Discuss this possibility with your vet. Your vet may recommend switching to a different dog food to help alleviate the problem.

In some cases, the dog simply craves more fiber. A diet that is higher in fiber can decrease the temptation to eat grass as a way to compensate. Again, check with your vet for specific dietary recommendations.

3. Keep The Grass Short

Dogs are more likely to eat grass when it's long and easier to pick up. Short grass is less likely to attract dogs, although a determined dog will still feel compelled to eat some.

On top of making it harder for your dog to eat grass, keeping grass short will lower the chances of ticks.

Ticks are most commonly found in areas with high moisture content, and they like to hide in tall grass, leaf litter, and other moist, shaded areas. By keeping the grass short, you can therefore lower the chances of creating an ideal tick habitat.

4. Train Your Dog to "Leave it"

The leave it command, along with the drop it command, can be a life-saving cue. Train it so that you can redirect your dog's grass-eating quickly. Make sure to praise and reward with a tasty treat for complying.

5. Use a Leash

For cases where you want your dog to not ingest excessive grass, it may help to keep your dog on a leash when taking him outside. With the leash on, you'll have better control of your dog, and you can also quickly redirect with your "leave it" cue and praise and reward him quickly.

6. Keep Your Dog Mentally Stimulated

Provide your dog with food puzzles and chew toys for your dog to chew on. Scatter some treats around at home so that he goes on a fun "treasure hunt." This can help satisfy your dog's natural urge to explore and chew while also providing some mental stimulation which may indirectly reduce his desire to eat grass.


  • Pet Poison Helpline: The grass is always greener, common fertilizer herbicide-exposures in pets
  • Pet Poison Helpline: Mushrooms
  • Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital: Why Dogs Eat Grass - Should You Be Concerned?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2023 Adrienne Farricelli

(Excluding for the Headline, this article ("story") has not been edited by MiBiz News and is published from a web feed or sourced from the Internet.)