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Salad Bar for Everyone

 
 
Paper Trained
by
Scott Sandeman, D.V.M.
 
Does Emmie the retriever stop half way when fetching her tennis ball in the backyard to nibble some blue grass?  Has Simon the Siamese found the basil plant in the kitchen? If so, they have a lot company at the salad bar.  Both cats and dogs are known to nibble on greenery when the mood strikes them and often without any ill effects. Why they do it however, is not entirely clear.
Most authorities believe it is an unessential part of a natural diet and completely normal. Wild canids like coyotes and wolves, are known to eat their entire prey including the stomach and its contents-usually grass and plants that the victim ate. While biologically they may not need it, they seem to enjoy it-kind of like sour cream on a baked potato.  Without wild hare and mice in the diet of domestic pets, grazing on grass may fill that void.
Some pets will eat grass only when they are sick or have a stomach ailment.  While there is no doubt that eating an excessive amount of grass can cause vomiting, there is little research that dogs and cats innately stimulate themselves to purge potential toxins they may have eaten.  In fact, it’s a good idea to restrict their access to grass when a gastrointestinal upset is imminent to minimize vomiting.  Restricting outside grazers from the yard after herbicides or fertilizers is also a good idea.  These chemicals are most likely to cause an upset tummy and not be toxic unless consumed in large amounts.  Of course, some indoor and outdoor plants are toxic and pets should be restricted from coming in contact with them.
Since most cats and dogs enjoy eating grass, many owners will grow a small container of wheat or barley and allow a few nibbles daily.  If your pet seems to be eating more than a normal amount of grass or plants or vomiting is associated with this activity, always consult your veterinarian for advice.

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