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Autumn brings crisp air, warm sweaters, and crunchy leaves perfect for fall hikes with your dog. Your pup may love to play and jump around in fallen leaves, but what if they eat them? In small quantities, most leaves are not harmful to dogs, but it's always best to know what kinds of trees and plants surrounding your home you should keep your dog away from and when to consider this behavior abnormal.
Why Does My Dog Eat Leaves?
Dogs are omnivores, says Nikki Graham, DVM from Nottingham Animal Hospital in Hamilton, N.J., so they eat both meat and plants. While non-domestic dogs may eat leaves and grass to supplement their diet, your dog should be getting all the nutrients they need from their daily meals.
While leaves and grasses do contain a lot of fiber, they are low in nutritional value. "It's possible that your dog is eating leaves to attempt to fill a gap in their diet," says Graham, so if you notice your dog eating leaves or grass, consider consulting your veterinarian and adding fiber to your dog's diet in a different, more nutritious, way. This can look like a change in kibble, adding fiber supplements, or adding dog-safe vegetables like carrots, cooked pumpkin, or celery.
A lack of fiber is not the only reason your dog may be eating leaves. Some dogs eat leaves or grass in order to make themselves vomit to alleviate nausea. If your dog experiences nausea frequently, you should take them to see your veterinarian because it could be indicative of a more serious health issue.
Pica, a condition in which a dog experiences a compulsive desire to eat non-food items, including leaves, can have many causes, including dietary needs, boredom, or underlying medical issues. If you notice your dog frequently eating inedible items, even if it's just leaves, bring them to a veterinarian to get checked out!
The Dangers of Dogs Eating Leaves
According to Graham, in most cases eating a few leaves will be harmless to your dog. However, she says, certain plants are toxic to dogs, so it's a good idea to know what kinds of trees and plants surround your home.
Specifically, says Graham, chrysanthemums can cause an upset stomach and drooling, autumn crocuses—not the spring crocus—can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney and liver failure, and Japanese yews can cause tremors, seizures, and, in some cases, can be fatal. Other plants you should keep your dog away from include black walnut trees and tomato plants.
While most leaves that fall from trees are safe for your dog, be wary of areas with heavy pesticide use, as these chemicals can be harmful for your dog if ingested. Graham says that even if leaves come from a "safe" plant, eating too many can cause intestinal blockages, which can be serious.
How to Keep Your Dog From Eating Leaves Off the Ground
To keep your dog safe, Graham recommends keeping a close eye on your dog when they are outside to ensure they are not eating too many leaves. If your dog is regularly eating leaves, consult your veterinarian to see if the issue lies in diet or another medical issue. If your dog is eating leaves because they are bored, the best thing you can do is find activities they enjoy such as increasing playtime, providing fun, interactive toys as a distraction, and setting up playdates with other dogs!