There is no greater test of a dog owner’s love and devotion to their canine companion than when they have to pull a clump of undigested grass out of their dog’s back end.
As true dog owners, we have all been there at some point in time and I don’t have to go into the gory details of the experience – but if you have not been blessed with this duty, not to worry. Your time will come and it is then and only then that you know that you have passed the test and can consider yourself a true a dog lover.
For those of us who have stood there, watching our dogs scoot around in circles trying to dislodge the offending matter themselves without the use of opposable thumbs, we ask ourselves and sometimes ask our dogs the question while we begin to search for a twig, a leaf or a poop bag to assist them: “Well, why did you eat the stuff in the first place?”
It is not uncommon for dogs to consume grass. They eat it for a variety of reasons and not all of them are because they are sick in some way.
When a dog is unwell or has an upset stomach they often turn to grass as a way to help them reduce the discomfort in their stomach rather than to induce vomiting. A dog has the extraordinary ability to vomit at will, no coaxing needed. With a few timely convulsions of their abdominal muscles they can regurgitate their entire stomach contents in seconds to either inspect them, get rid of them, share them or eat them a second time.
They have this ability because it is how they feed their young. Once a puppy has stopped nursing and is ready for solid food, they are offered the chewed up and easy to eat contents of their mother or father’s stomach. This may sound gross, but it is how all canine species feed their young and your dog does not have to have a litter of puppies to do it. Nature gave all of our domesticated dogs this wonderful gift of free-will vomiting as a token reminder of their wild wolf heritage.
As I mentioned, when a dog eats grass and vomits, it’s not so much the grass that is making a dog vomit, it’s because the grass itself is absorbing, neutralizing or somehow capturing the offending stomach matter that needs to be expelled. And there is a particular kind of grass a dog eats when it does this. The grass is course, thick and fibrous.
When a dog is not sick it may still consume grass. When they do, the grass they choose is soft, fine and tender. The same type of grass a horse, cow or a cat would consume and it is for the exact reasons, to improve digestion, nutritional value, for added fiber and of course taste. Some grasses just taste good to dogs, like a really good salad tastes to us!
For the most part there is not any concern to be had for a grass eating dog unless your dog becomes voracious. This could be a sign of an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed. It could be something as simple as intestinal worms or as serious as pancreatitis or worse.
Dogs are typically able to tell the difference between grasses that will benefit them one way or another, so providing them with grass the way some people do with cats isn’t necessary. Your dog can sniff out places to graze on its own. But do be aware of pesticides and herbicides used in public parks that can pose health issues if consumed.
The grass normally makes its way out of your dog’s digestive tract easily but on occasion, well … we have to help them out. Some dogs are perfectly fine with the assistance but others may be quite troubled with you poking around under their tails.
This little issue is one of the reasons that the Stand for Examination command is taught in all my new dog owner programs. A solid Stand for Examination helps a dog become desensitized to people probing around their pooper.
But when the day comes that you are confronted with the unenviable task of helping your dog out, the easiest way is to use a poop bag then grab the offensive matter as close to your dogs rectum as possible and gently pull it out. Tada!
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.