Don't Eat That! What Dogs Eat Outside The Bowl: Should We Worry?

Don't Eat That! Charles DeLuvio

This article addresses some curious eating habits of dogs, and asks, "How worried should I be?"



We’ve all heard it, or said it, so many times. We see our dogs about to ingest something unspeakable, or simply unfathomable, and we try to make them stop. Why do they do it? Are we not feeding them enough? And how bad is eating the nasty stuff they just found on the ground for them, anyway?

Well, according to the experts, it depends. As with so many subjects concerning man’s best friend, there’s still a little mystery out there.



Ever see your dog munching on grass, and wonder “I thought only goats did that. Aren’t dogs carnivores?”

Well, actually, dogs are opportunistic scavengers, which, put simply, means they’ll eat anything they come across if it fills a nutritional need. (1)

Why Do They Do It?

In times past, dogs would consume prey they had just killed, alone, or in conjunction with human hunters, with undigested plants still in its stomach. (2)

This met needs for vitamins and minerals they weren’t getting otherwise. But you don’t get undigested plants in a can of dog food. So, dogs may just be filling a need by eating grass instead. Also, eating grass can help a dog with an upset stomach vomit. (3)

Should I Let Them?


Why not? Think of it as a side salad! You should only worry if your dog is eating off of lawns recently treated with pesticides, or if their behaviour changes suddenly to include more grass eating than normal. Pesticides aren’t good for anybody, and the latter could be a sign of a more serious stomach problem. (4)

2. Gardens


Everybody knows “that” dog, the one that just can’t keep out of other people’s gardens. Aside from mending fences with the neighbours, there may be good reasons to keep your dog out of your garden, too.

Why Do They Do It?


Remember, dogs are not strict carnivores, like cats. Some of those flowers are mighty attractive, too!

Should I Let Them?


Only if it’s your garden, you are not using chemicals in it which could be harmful, and you’re sure there are no harmful species in your garden. Some flowers, such as Tulips, Daffodils, Azaleas, and Amaryllis, are toxic to dogs. Check with your vet, or consider enclosing your garden. (5)

3. The Other Guy’s Food


Sure, it’s funny watching your dog steal food from that smart-aleck cat. But is it good for him?

Why Do They Do It?


Some dogs are obsessed with food, and, like a lot of people these days, will gladly keep eating until well past the point at which they should stop. If it’s there, a lot of dogs will eat it.

Should I Let Them?


No way. Many dogs can benefit from controlled, calorie-restricted diets, which go right out the window if they start eating cat food on the side. For some dogs, for example, large-breed puppies, the effects can be long-lasting. Specially formulated foods aimed at these dogs help to reduce the likelihood that they’ll develop common large-breed problems like Hip Dysplasia and Osteochondritis, later on. (6)

Try separating your pets at mealtimes, and controlling leftovers. (7)

4. Trash and Recycling


Do we really have to ask about this?

Why Do They Do It?


It may be unsavoury to you, but the aroma of anything food-related in the garbage smells like a ringing dinner bell to many dogs.

Should I Let Them?


Of course not. Next to the fact that it creates an awful mess, remember that there may be a lot of things in there that are strictly off-limits to dogs. Like chocolate, stone fruits, and bones (see below). Properly secure and stow your garbage. (8)

5. Bones


This one seems harmless enough, right? And don’t we all use the expression “Give the dog a bone”? Well, maybe we shouldn’t. Considering what type of bones to give your dog is very important.

Why Do They It?


Ask any hipster diner addicted to marrow: There’s a lot of good stuff in bones. They also act as sort of natural toothbrushes for dogs. (9)

Should I Let Them?


If they’re cooked, absolutely no way. Cooking bones creates brittleness and fragility which can lead to the bones breaking into shards inside your dog. This can result in expensive surgery, or one more dog dying a painful and unnecessary death. (10)

If you do give your dog bones, they should be uncooked, and appropriate to the dog’s size. Ask your vet, and only get your bones fresh from a local butcher. Consider a high-quality chew toy or dog treats instead.  (11)

6. Poop


Nothing like saving the best for last, is there? But we can’t talk about bad eating habits without broaching the subject of the old recycled dinner, can we? Some dogs will eat their own poop, that of other animals, even humans. Gross!

Why Do They Do It?


The jury is really out on this one. It’s been theorized that, much like in recent “poop transplants” in humans (yes, that’s a thing), dogs eating feces are replenishing their supply of helpful Clostridium Difficile bacteria to aid in digestion. Or, making up for an iron deficiency. But only a minority of dogs do this, so the question would be, why don’t they all? (12)

Should I Let Them?


Blecch! No! Remember their bad habits the next time they go to give you an affectionate lick. A hygiene situation made bad already by dog’s other uses for their tongues doesn’t get any better when they eat poop. Bacteria and parasites resulting from this bad habit can endanger the whole household. (13)

Veterinarian Dr. Ken Tudor suggests identifying the animal in the household your dog enjoys eating poop from, and put MSG in their food. (14) For some reason, this seems to work. And, don’t worry, all that panic about MSG has long since been discredited. It’s in tomatoes, for the love of Gilligan!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this venture through the weird eating habits of dogs.

Sources: 1,2,3,4  5,8 6,7 9,10.11 12,13,14



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