Pet Grass

You've seen it when checking out at the pet store but, if you're like me, you really didn't pay much attention to the display of pet grass.

My dog, Zero, loves to munch on the lawn when we are outside and I never really thought much of it. And I've heard friends complain that their cat loves to gnaw on houseplants. But why do our furry pets opt to make the random salad out of our lawns or houseplants?

Dogs are cats are primarily carnivores, but they do still need the nutritional benefits found in plants. In the wild, for example, canines will consume their prey (usually a herbivore) in its entirety. This means everything, including the organs which contain plant matter. Gross, I know. It's hard to think of Fido munching on Thumper's innards, but nature. Cats are similar in their dietary choices.

So what's the deal with pet grass?

Pet grass typically refers to wheat grass or barley grass. While there are some minor differences in benefits, they are close enough to talk about generally as "pet grass."

There are a number of reasons why our pet opts to nibble the greens. One great reason is that it offers a great source of amino acids, vitamins, chlorophyll, enzymes, and fiber. It also may help with providing antioxidants, organ cleaning breath freshening, digestion support, helping with constipation (pets need fiber, too!), odor control, increasing energy, and antiseptic properties. In cats, pet grass helps control hairballs. Another reason is to fight boredom (yes, Fido and Fluffy can be guilty of eating their feelings, too).

So grass seems to be good for our pets, so why not just let the much on the green stuff in the yard or the houseplants in the window? With grass, we just don't know what our dogs are getting when they start eating it. Many yards are treated with chemicals to control weeds and fertilize the lawn. Even if you don't treat your lawn, there is a chance that some of the chemicals used by neighbors have drifted and settled on your grass. Another concern is that we just don't know what other critters (or pets) have wondered into the yard, using it as a rest stop, and your dog might ingest hookworms or other parasitic pets. Then there are the toxic mushrooms you may have missed.

Houseplants are a concern because even the prettiest plants have the potential to be toxic to our pets (and kids). Like toddlers, our pets don't usually ask permission before exploring (and eating) items in their surroundings. Yes, there are pet (and people) safe plants.

Offering pet grass to your pets is easy and so much safer. Wheat and barley grass can be grown indoors in small containers (check out these options in adorable cat and dog bowls),  you know it hasn't been exposed to chemicals, there are no parasites or poison mushrooms, and it is also kid safe. In fact, you could trim a little off the top of the grass for Fido and Fluffy to put into your green smoothie. 

This sounds amazing, right? So what's the catch?

One of the most important things to remember is that there is too much of a good thing. Keep in mind the size of your pet and the amount of pet grass they are consuming. You can monitor consumption by trimming some greens and sprinkling it over their food, making the grass accessible at random times during the day so they can forage, or grinding the grass and letting it soak in its juices to mix in with their food or water. If you opt for sprinkling cuttings or grinding the grass to put in food or water, remember that a little goes a long way.

Do not give human supplements of wheat or barley grass to your pet. As much as we love sharing with our furry family member, human supplements may be toxic for them because of additives included in the formula. Also, considering the size difference in humans and pets, dosage is also very difficult to gauge. It's best not to risk it.

And finally, do not allow your pets to eat pet grass that's mature or gone to seed. Younger grass, or sprouts, is the best option. Barley seed especially can cause problems. Barley seeds are arrow-shaped and designed to attach themselves to people or animals passing by, helping with spreading the seeds (think cockle burrs).

The seeds have sticky and clingy fibers that can burrow into just about anything, including your pet's skin where they become lodged. The seeds can also get into your pet's nose and ears, between their eyes and eyelids, and between toes. If the seeds are not removed immediately, they can burrow further into the body and possibly reach the animal's internal organs. If your pet has encountered grass seeds, it is important to contact your vet as soon as possible.

As always, do your own research to determine if adding pet grass is the right option for your pet. And if you have any questions or concerns, please contact your vet.

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