Come fall, and the surrounding deck up the best way they can, with colorful leaves scattered everywhere. Walking past the woods, you will feel delighted by the crunching sounds of the red, yellow, and orange leaves. It’s a perfect pictorial treat, indeed.
Now, say your dog accompanies you for the walk and gets as excited as you about seeing the leaves. It may even go a step further and start eating the leaves.
Perhaps, he is curious about his surroundings. As we know, dogs perceive the world through their nose and mouth. So, that’s his way of understanding and knowing the world around him.
Yet, your dog eating leaves may be more complex, though. There could be a more serious reason associated with it. Read on to know more.
Is It Good for Your Dog to Eat Leaves?
The answer is a blend of a YES and a NO. Leaves aren’t harmful to dogs. Eating it won’t be life-threatening unless the plants are poisonous or treated chemically. Also, it will be fine if they consume leaves in small amounts occasionally.
If eaten excessively, the leaves can result in an intestinal blockage. Puppies would be at a greater risk than their adult counterparts.
Some leaves may contain pesticides or other harmful chemicals. When ingested, the toxic chemicals in the leaves will get into your dog’s system. Your dog may fall ill, and it can even prove fatal for your dog in extreme cases.
Though all plants aren’t toxic, some are. The list includes water hemlock, tomato plants, black walnut, and Japanese yew. So, if you have any of these plants in your backyard or the vicinity, you must take extra caution when taking your dog out for a walk or play. In fact, for the plants in your garden, you can prefer guarding them with a fence so that it’s out of your dog’s reach.
The bottom line is that occasionally, a few leaves going into your dog’s tummy is okay if he can digest it well. But, too much of it may result in adverse effects.
Why Does Your Dog Eat Leaves? 7 Possible Reasons
Your dog could be fascinated by the smell, color, and texture of leaves. Your dog’s diet may lack certain nutrients, so it substitutes them by having leaves. Your dog may be feeling nauseous, and the list goes on. So let us get into a detailed analysis of why dogs eat leaves.
1. They Are Bored
A bored dog will resort to destructive activities. They will bite or chew whatever they get at hand, from your favorite wallet to your shoes.
They may even dig when they enter the yard and or garden. If trees are nearby, they may also be engrossed in chewing them. That’s because they have nothing to do and need a task to keep themselves busy.
So, the question is, how would you know that your dog is chewing leaves because he is bored? Well, he won’t just chew leaves, but anything he gets at hand. He will even indulge in barking and whining excessively. Increased restlessness is another indication that your dog is bored.
Suppose your dog shows associated symptoms, like the ones mentioned above, alongside eating leaves. In that case, it means that it’s probably feeling bored.
2. They Have Nutritional Deficiencies
When dogs eat store-bought food, some of the nutrients may go amiss. Some of the commercially manufactured food is often high on fillers. They are low in nutritional content.
Chances are that your dog doesn’t eat his meals well and is deprived of the essential nutrients. So, when he doesn’t get a balanced dose of protein., fiber, vitamins, and minerals, he will try substituting it by feeding on other things. It may not always be edible items, though.
Leaves are high in minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Of late, if you see your dog too obsessed with eating leaves, it may mean your dog needs more nutrients. To compensate for the lack of vitamin or fiber in the diet, your dog may have taken to consuming leaves. You should check on the food you are providing your dog. Also, get in touch with the vet if the need arises.
3. That’s How They Were In the Wild
It’s one of the possibilities highlighted through studies as well. Researchers state it isn’t that domestic or pet dogs that only eat leaves. Their wild counterparts also do the same. It’s particularly true when they aren’t able to eat meat regularly.
Dr. Andrea Rediger, a veterinarian, mentioned the omnivorous nature of wild dogs in one of her articles. Their knack for eating leaves and other plant material is instinctive. She even said that domestic breeds follow their wild counterparts in this regard.
It could be that whenever you take your dog out, it will be tempted to eat leaves whenever it spots them. Yet, if this habit becomes an obsession, you must curb it immediately.
4. Perhaps They Have Pica
Boredom and nutritional deficiencies are two of the many reasons behind pica in dogs. Pica refers to the trait in dogs where they consume non-edible substances or those devoid of any nutritional value.
Other causes of pica include liver problems, pancreatic disease, gastrointestinal disease, anemia, etc.
The reasons may be behavioral, like stress, anxiety, and boredom. So, excessive eating of leaves may mean that your dog has pica. It needs to be intervened medically, then.
5. It Could Be a Digestive Problem
If your dog has gastrointestinal problems, he will feel bloated. To relieve uneasiness and discomfort, your dog may eat grasses or leaves to induce vomiting. It would calm him to a certain extent.
Now, how will you know that your dog is experiencing nausea? Well, he will show several signs. These include increased drooling, excessive licking, swallowing, chewing, and even disinterest in eating. If nausea becomes a regular occurrence, then you need to talk to a veterinarian at once to detect the root cause behind the problem.
6. They May Suffer From Intestinal Parasite
Digestive disorders can even occur when dogs suffer from intestinal parasites. It could make them sick. It will even have an upset stomach, alongside other gastrointestinal problems. To calm himself, your dog may eat leaves or grasses. Does your dog’s vomit or stool contain worms? Then you will have to take him to the vet at once.
When your dog is infected with worms, he will lose weight, have a distended abdomen, and appear lethargic. His coat may also be losing its shine.
7. He Enjoys Doing The Same
It’s as simple as it could be. Your dog or pup enjoys jumping on leaf piles and eating a few. Your dog perhaps likes the color and texture, and no wonder, puts it into its mouth immediately.
But, before you conclude that he is doing it for fun, you need to verify the same and rule out that there isn’t a serious cause behind this behavior.
What Should You Do When Your Dog Eats Leaves? 5 Possible Solutions
Most of the time, your dog will eat leaves if he is stressed, bored, or not healthy. So identifying the main cause is the need of the hour. Once you are done with that, it will be easier for you to find an appropriate solution.
1. Rule Out Any Medical Condition
Suppose your dog doesn’t leave an opportunity to chew leaves or grasses whenever he gets to the garden or outside. In that case, you need to monitor his health simultaneously. If he drools, licks, or is restless and doesn’t want to eat, it indicates he is sick. That’s the first thing you must do before considering anything else.
2. Exercise Your Dog Well
A well-exercised dog will seldom get bored and resort to destructive activities. Moreover, if eating leaves has become a habit, you can use appropriate strategies to distract your dog.
Does your dog get tempted to nibble at the leaves in your backyard whenever you take him there? You can throw a ball at him and ask him to fetch it. Once he does that, reward him with a treat. Repeat it.
In this way, you can get your dog to forget about the leaves, at least for now, if not permanently. However, it would help if you thought of a new trick each time to prevent him from getting attracted to the leaves.
3. Keep Him Busy
If you see other signs of boredom in your dog alongside eating leaves, then you will have to find ways to keep him engaged. Besides walks and outdoor games, stimulate your dog indoors too.
Does your dog chew leaves, clothes, or other things of less utility out of boredom? Well, you can get non-toxic chew toys for your dog. Food puzzles are another great option. The more your dog remains busy in these activities; the easier it will be for him to get over outside distractions.
4. Give Him a Balanced Diet
If lack of nutrition is the reason behind your dog’s eating leaves, you will have to talk to your vet about it. Finding suitable substitutes for the missing nutrient will help in this regard.
If your dog loves the texture of leaves, you could add many more veggies to his diet, like carrots, celery, and peas. In this way, he will develop an interest in plant-based foods. He will then be less fascinated with leaves. However, before making any changes or addition to your dog’s food, it is important to talk to the vet once.
5. Train Him to Follow Commands
It is important to train your dog to follow commands right from the time he is a puppy. It will make him more obedient and disciplined. Teaching them the ‘No’ command at the earliest is immensely important. Once they’ve mastered that, implement it whenever your dog is about to eat a leaf or do anything unpleasant.
Also, you would need to divert their attention to other things that interest them. For example, when you spot your dog eating a leaf, stop your dog by saying a firm “No.” Then take the leaf off his mouth gently.
What to do when your dog has eaten leaves?
As mentioned, a small amount of leaves occasionally isn’t bad unless they are toxic. Suppose you find your dog showing symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, or even drooling excessively. In that case, chances are that it has consumed a toxic plant. It could be that your dog has eaten too much of the leaves. Take your dog to the vet at once before the symptoms aggravate.
Can your dog die if he eats leaves?
Leaves don’t kill dogs unless the plants are toxic. Even if your dog eats a few leaves of a toxic plant, it could affect its health. In such cases, if your dog does not receive medical treatment immediately, it may prove fatal.
It’s important to supervise your dog closely when you take him out. Seeing your dog eating something that isn’t a part of his regular diet could be stressful. Making him wear a leash is a mandate too.
Remember, leaves aren’t harmful to your dogs until they don’t overeat. However, keep track of the toxic plants in your home or neighborhood. By doing so, you can control your dog’s activity when outdoors. It will help you take precautions and prevent your dog from getting into serious trouble.’
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.