Dog Chewing on Plants

Whether you have a new puppy or a curious labrador, you’re likely to run into your dog chewing on plants. Why does my dog chew on plants? Backyard and indoor plants can be tantalizing treats for our four-legged friends, and you might worry if what they’re chewing on is safe. Are there safe plants dogs chew on? Are there toxic ones? Learn why dogs chew on plants, signs that they may have eaten something toxic, and some common plants that are OK — and not OK — to eat.

Why Might Your Dog be Chewing on Plants?

When you think of wolves in the wild, you probably imagine hunters of big game and other meaty food options, making them a carnivore, right? However, wolves and dogs are both omnivores. Many wild dogs and wolves will eat not only muscle and meat tissue, but also the contents of the animal’s stomach, called chyme. Wild wolves and dogs will also snack on wild berries, fruits, and other plant matter when game is lean.

Dogs explore the world through their mouths, much like a toddler does. Puppies tend to chew to not only satisfy growing teeth, but to also learn more about their environment. Plants may just be one of the curiosities they sink their teeth into. Adult dogs also chew on objects to help decrease stress, get out excess energy, and reduce frustration. Woody plants and grasses can be a great way to get this energy out.

There is also speculation that grass may help aid digestion, which is why it’s one of the most common plants dogs chew on. Some dogs can eat grass with no issue, while others will be running to vomit it back up a short time later.

Signs Your Dog Has Eaten Something Toxic

An overly curious dog may chew on a plant that isn’t safe to consume, leading to toxicity. This can cause a variety of symptoms that are a sign you should seek veterinary care. If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, or you suspect they ate something toxic, this is a medical emergency that should be seen by your vet or local emergency clinic right away.

Signs of toxicity include lip or facial swelling, vomiting and diarrhea, drooling, blood in the stool or vomit, and tender abdomen or changes in appetite. In severe cases, your dog’s pupils may become dilated or they may act confused. Severe toxicity can also lead to muscle twitching, seizures, and even coma. In cases that aren’t treated right away, symptoms can progress to kidney and liver failure as the body fails to remove the toxins.

How To Keep Your Dog From Eating Toxic Plants

There are many ways you can keep your dog from ingesting a toxic plant. These involve keeping the plants (or your dog) out of the way, and providing more enticing safe alternatives to chew on.

Keep Plants Out of Reach

The easiest way to keep your dog from eating a toxic plant is to keep it out of reach. Fence off areas that contain potentially harmful plants. Raised beds, tall borders, and regular fencing are all great ways to do this. If you have a dog that likes to jump, you may want to add chicken wire or hardware cloth around shorter plant beds for additional protection.

Indoors, keep your plants on a high shelf out of the way of your dog’s regular path around the house. Some dogs have been known to counter-surf, so make sure plants on counters or tables are pushed far enough back out of reach. Indoor greenhouses, cloches, and other covers that let in light and air but keep your dog out can be used to display plants without the risk of being eaten.

Keep Your Dog Away From Toxic Plants

Alternatively, keeping your dog physically away from harmful plants can help. If you’ll be in an area where there may be toxic plants, such as a hiking path, keep your dog on leash at all times. Pet boots are another good way to keep your dog safe on hikes. They can protect the feet from sharp seeds and harmful plant oils that your dog may lick or ingest when cleaning their feet or fur.

A tie-out in the yard can give your dog room to roam without full access to harmful areas of the yard. Using X-pens, baby gates, and other blocking objects indoors can keep your dog out of rooms where you keep your houseplants.

Provide Safe Alternatives

If your dog has plenty of other things to chew on, they may ignore your plants altogether. Provide safe alternatives such as a chew toy like a Kong or Nylabone that can be filled with treats. Natural chews made from deer antler or yak milk can also be a great alternative chew toy that may satisfy your dog’s needs.

Offer other plants such as cat grass (not just for cats!), catmint, or natural plants that can be eaten. While these can be a great way to distract your dog, remember that offering other chews isn’t foolproof — it’s best to keep harmful plants out of the way entirely.

Common Plants Dogs Chew On

While every dog is an individual, and some dogs, like Labrador Retrievers, like to taste everything, there are some plants that may be more commonly chewed on. Here are some safe, and not-so-safe plants dogs chew on:

Grass – Safe

While grass isn’t toxic to eat, it can cause some side effects, most commonly vomiting and digestive upset. It’s been debated for years why exactly dogs eat grass. Some speculate it could be a way for dogs to gain nutrients that they wouldn’t otherwise get. Others propose that the blades of the grass are eaten specifically to cause GI irritation and vomiting, helping your dog relieve their upset stomach.

If you do notice your dog eating a lot of grass, or drooling after doing so, you may want to keep them outside for a few minutes. They’re likely about ready to vomit the grass back up, and it can be a bit of a mess to clean!

Dill, Basil, and Rosemary – Safe

Most herbs we add to foods are also safe for dogs to eat. While most dogs won’t seek out the herbs themselves, a curious puppy may be inclined to munch on your herb garden when left unattended. Luckily, these plants are safe to ingest and won’t cause any harm. However, with any herb or plant that has a high oily content, prolonged exposure can lead to contact dermatitis. You may notice your dog has red bumps or is itchy if they’ve been laying down in your herb patch.

Be aware that while the plant may be safe, essential oils made from these herbs are often not safe. Essential oils are a concentrated version of the oils contained within a plant. These high concentrations are often a much larger dose of the ingredient than your dog would normally get by eating the plant. In high enough doses, essential oils can cause toxicity symptoms such as drooling, nausea and vomiting, confusion, and more. Seek out veterinary care if you see these signs.

Wheatgrass – Safe

Humans enjoy shots of wheatgrass as a way to keep their digestive tract moving, along with a few other minor added benefits. Dogs may enjoy it in a similar manner. If you have cats in your home, you may have planted some “cat grass” for them. This is often actually just wheatgrass!

Your dogs can enjoy similar benefits to their feline friends, and may enjoy a nibble from time to time. Not only can it help with digestion, it makes for a fun chew toy! Plant some in their own “canine” garden along with a few other pet-safe plants, or offer a nibble or two when making your own green smoothies.

Marigolds – Safe

Marigolds are often planted for their looks, but they are great insect repellants as well. Marigolds are also edible and often found in flower salads and other dishes. Curious puppies and older pups may try to nibble on these plants. Luckily, marigolds are also non-toxic to dogs, and are safe to be gnawed on and ingested.

Tomato Plants – Toxic

Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, along with potatoes, peppers, and true nightshade. All of these plants are toxic to people and pets, especially the leaves and stems. The tomato fruit, while less toxic, may still cause digestive upset and other issues for your dog. Some dogs have been known to steal tomatoes right off the vine without any issues, while others may experience digestive symptoms from just a bite or two. You also want to avoid feeding your dog tomato-based products such as sauces, which contain toxic ingredients such as garlic and onion.

If you notice your dog has nibbled on the leaves or stems of a tomato plant, seek out veterinary care. Signs of toxicity include GI upset, including vomiting, acting out of sorts, drooling, and dilated pupils.

Aloe Vera – Toxic

People use aloe for a number of reasons, from soothing burns to drinking the juice as a digestive aid. However, aloe can be toxic if ingested by dogs. The main ingredient of aloe vera, saponin, is what causes the toxic reaction. While some owners have safely given aloe juices to their pets, it’s best to avoid giving them to your dog as they can cause the same strong laxative effects as they do on humans.

Signs of toxicity include GI upset, shaking, tremors, and potential seizures or coma.

Ivy – Toxic

English ivy is another toxic plant dogs chew on. This invasive plant can grow on the sides of houses, along fences, and is common in many backyards. While it’s not common for your dog to chew on, puppies exploring their environment may inadvertently take a bite or two. If your dog eats ivy, you may notice symptoms such as drooling, abdominal pain and hunching or protecting the abdomen, and vomiting or diarrhea.

Tulips and Daffodils – Toxic

Tulips and Daffodils are beautiful spring bulb flowers. Some animals, such as squirrels, even enjoy digging them up to munch on. However, it’s best to keep your dog away from the bulbs and the growing part of the plant. All parts are toxic to dogs, including the leaves, stems, and flowers.

In addition to GI problems, these plants can lead to cardiac problems, seizures, coma, and even death. If you suspect your dog has eaten a tulip or daffodil, it is best to seek care right away.

Bamboo – Mixed

True bamboo, the kind pandas eat, is safe for dogs. The hollow stalks can also make for a good chew toy or treat. That said, this is not to be confused with lucky bamboo, the type you see in stores and in people’s homes, or other types of bamboo, such as Heavenly Bamboo. While these plants look similar, they’re highly toxic to dogs and should be avoided.

Dogs love to explore the world with their mouths, and the plants dogs chew on are no exception. Luckily, there are many safe plants to satisfy your dog’s chewing needs. Avoiding toxic plants, and knowing what your dog is chewing on can help keep them safe.