Beware of Dogs Eating Grass
“Some dogs just like to eat grass,” Dr. Whitaker, our veterinarian, said. “Some dogs eat grass because of a vitamin deficiency, and sometimes dogs will eat grass to help them vomit whatever is upsetting their stomach.”
This had been my experience, too.
However, last Tuesday evening, June 6th, our 6 1/2 year-old, fourteen-pound male dog, Thriller, walked around the entire back yard, eating copious amounts of grass. (This should have been the first warning sign.) I thought, Oh no, if Thriller’s got an upset tummy and he’s eating that much grass, he’ll be getting me up all night. He didn’t. (This should have been the second red flag.) Our other dog, Bubbles, was fine.
The next day, Wednesday, June 7th, Thriller acted normal throughout the day, and chowed down his dinner like he always does. That evening, around 7:30, he vomited most of his meal. I thought, Good, now he’ll feel better. My husband and I went to bed at 10:30, and Thriller woke me up around 11:30, 12:30, and again at 1:30 to go outside, where he had diarrhea and more vomiting. I realized he was getting worse, so I awakened my husband, and we took Thriller to the Doggie ER, where he had an x-ray and a blood test. After three hours, the ER doc said Thriller’s tummy was slightly enlarged, which was probably due to gas and prescribed Metronidazole Tablets, which did help ease his discomfort. When we arrived home, he laid down and slept for a little while. He woke me again at 5:30 and 6:30 to go outside.
Later that afternoon, Dr. Whitaker called. “How’s Thriller?” He’d received a copy of the blood tests, which were all normal.
“He doesn’t seem to be in pain, but he won’t eat.” (Another major red flag.)
“Well, if he doesn’t eat by tomorrow afternoon (Thursday), bring him in. That means something else is wrong, and I’ll need to check him.”
Thriller slept through the night, but on Thursday morning, he was lethargic, his eyes were glazed, and he wouldn’t eat his breakfast. I was also concerned that he was dehydrated, so I immediately took him to the Vet’s. On the way to the exam room, we weighed him, and he’d lost almost two pounds. Dr. Whitaker took more x-rays and blood tests.
“Thriller’s got an unusually large tummy.” He pointed to a large mass on the x-ray. “There’s something obstructing his stomach. He probably ate a sock.”
“No, he didn’t,” I said. “He ate a ton of grass.”
“That means he has a food allergy. Does Bubbles eat grass too?”
“Yes, but not as much as Thriller.” I reminded Dr. Whitaker about the dogs’ diet, which was Science Diet chicken WD (canned) and Science Diet ID (kibbles), which he’d previously prescribed.
“When a dog eats that much grass, that’s a reaction to food,” he explained. “First, we’ll make him comfortable by giving him fluids through an IV, then we’ll need to induce vomiting to empty his stomach. If that doesn’t work, then we’ll need to open his stomach and remove the mass.”
Oh, no. Poor Thriller. I’m the kind of pet guardian who hates to leave her animals at the vets. Throughout the day I was in contact with Dr. Whitaker, and Thriller had upchucked about half of the accumulated grass. When I returned later in the afternoon, Dr. Whitaker showed me another x-ray.
“Some of the grass has migrated into his intestines. His intestines should be small, like these.” He pointed to the less bloated areas. “The good news is he definitely feels better. He’s engaged, interested, and interacting with our staff. But he’s not out of the woods yet. You can take him home tonight, but if we can’t get the rest of the blockage out tomorrow, then we’ll need to operate, so don’t feed him.”
I brought Thriller home, and he was famished. Since he hadn’t eaten for two days, my husband and I hated not feeding him. I relented, and my husband gave him a finger-tips’ worth of canned dog food. (On the kibble bag, there was a notice saying the recipe had been “improved.” This was another major red flag.)
First time out Friday morning, Thriller pooped, and the refuse was all grass. (FYI: healthy dog poop looks like a tootsie roll.) Thriller returned to the Vet’s, and throughout the day, Dr. Whitaker and I spoke on the phone. They did the same routine, and Thriller was able to release most of the mass. And the latest x-rays showed the grass was moving through his intestines. The upshot: Thriller was okay and could come home.
Dr. Whitaker changed their diet to Royal Canin, duck and potato, canned and kibble. They also get 1/2 of a Pepcid AC every morning for ten days to help calm their tummies. Since they’ve been on this new diet, neither has eaten grass.
Below is their picture. Thriller’s on the left, and Bubbles, our 7 year-old female, is on the right. They’re called “Teddy Bear Poodles,” which are pure-bred poodles with teddy bear haircuts.
Both were kept in kennels and pens and used for breeding. When we rescued them, 2 and 1/2 years ago, they huddled in a corner, trembling. They’d never been socialized, were terrified of people, and Thriller showed signs of being abused. Now, they’re happy, healthy, and walk around the local outdoor mall giving kisses.
What I learned: a little grass is okay, an occasional upset tummy is not unusual, but a lot of grass could be a symptom of food allergies, and needs to be investigated immediately. I don’t know about you, but when one of my animals does not feel well, I become very stressed. Please feel free to share this blog: perhaps our experience can help someone else detect their pet’s food allergies sooner.
Warmest Regards, Michele I. Khoury, author of Busted. To read more blogs, please go to www.michelekhoury.com.