Have you ever raked up an enormous pile of leaves just to run and leap into it? It’s a blast, right? And it’s hilarious when our dogs get the zoomies and bolt through it! But have you ever caught your pup munching on those leaves? I mean, it’s not something they usually do, but is it dangerous? What should you do if your dog eats the leaves?
So, Is It Ok for Dogs To Eat Leaves?
While it’s not exactly normal for your pup to munch on leaves, chomping on one or two leaves is usually not the time to panic. That said, some leaves can cause stomach upset, a few can cause major issues, and the pesticides on the leaves could make your dog sick — or cause cancer later in life.
If you see your dog eating a few leaves, a quick call to your veterinarian is always a good idea to put your mind at ease. The questions your veterinarian will ask likely will depend on the types and amounts of leaves eaten. Try to figure out the types of trees and plants to give your veterinarian an easier job in guiding you.
Check out what's toxic in our list of poisonous plants reviewed by Veterinary Technician Saleema Lookman.
What If My Dog Eats Dry Leaves?
The crunchy leaves on the ground probably fell quite some time ago since they’ve had time to dry out. They’re usually super brittle, and when your dog eats them, they can choke or even get scratched internally from the sharp edges. Also, since they have been on the ground longer, they’re more likely to have latched on to toxins and mold. Even if you didn’t see these on the leaves, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Don't panic if you see your dog eating leaves, but give your veterinarian a quick call.
What If My Dog Eats Freshly Fallen Leaves?
Unfortunately, toxins aren’t the only concern when dogs eat freshly fallen leaves.
Leaves that have just tumbled from trees are still pretty fresh and not as brittle as dry leaves. But this makes issues like intestinal blockages — when a substance gets stuck in your dog’s gut and can’t “get out” — more likely. And hey, just because they’ve recently hit the ground doesn’t mean they’re toxin-free. Trees can be sprayed with pesticides too.
What If My Dog Eats a Lot of Leaves?
If your dog eats tons of leaves, it’s time to make an appointment with the veterinarian. (If they’re showing any signs of illness, take a drive to the emergency veterinarian’s office.) Before you get to the doggy doctor, take a mental note of how many leaves your dog ate. Of course, you don’t need an exact number, but your veterinarian might ask for an approximate amount to get an idea of how serious the problem is.
Questions to Ask the Veterinarian
When you’re speaking with the veterinarian, it's hard to think of questions. We've got you. According to Saleema Lookman, a Registered Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of experience, here are the questions you should add to the list:
- How quickly is treatment needed in situations like this where the dog is eating leaves?
- What can we do to prevent it?
Ms. Lookman, RVT, continued to explain that, most times, there’s a 2-hour window for making a dog vomit toxic substances or foreign objects before it moves past the stomach. Making sure you get your dog into the veterinarian within that time frame is important if there’s a chance of toxic ingestion.
As a canine behaviorist that also works as a nutritionist, additional questions I would recommend include:
- Do you think my dog's diet is causing them to look for more nutrients?
- Is there a particular supplement you'd recommend to fill in the nutritional gaps?
- What steps can I take if this is a behavior problem?
- What should I watch for after my dog eats leaves?
Why Do Dogs Eat Leaves?
Eating leaves isn't exactly typical for most dogs, so if your dog's snacking on them often, it's time to look for an underlying reason.
Deficiencies in Their Diet
Instinct guides dogs. To us, what they do can seem completely bonkers sometimes, but there's always an underlying reason. If you’ve noticed your furry friend suddenly munching on leaves, it might be their way of telling you they’re missing something in their diet or need more stimulation. It’s kind of like how we crave certain foods when our body is asking for more nutrients. I mean — leaves aren’t exactly tasty doggie treats — but maybe they’re trying to compensate for something they’re not getting from their regular food.
If you're curious or concerned about what's lacking in your dog's diet, there's this cool test from Parsley Pet. It’s super simple — you send in a hair sample, and they’ll analyze it for 48 different nutrients and toxins. The report they send back will give you a clear picture of what your dog’s getting plenty of and what they might be missing. Plus, they’ll even guide you on how to fill the void in a healthy way.
Have you ever seen your dog munching on grass like it's a newly discovered gourmet meal? Usually, they do it to help themselves throw up if their tummy's upset. Leaves can have a similar effect. But here's the thing, while a leaf or two might help them get that icky feeling out, chowing down on a bunch can be a whole different story and not in a good way.
A bored dog can become a mischievous one. When left to their own devices and with energy to spare, dogs often start looking for their own version of fun. This could mean turning your favorite shoe into a chew toy, rummaging through the trash, or, as you’ve noticed, munching on those tempting leaves.
An Underlying Health Issue Called Pica
When your dog is constantly munching on stuff that isn't food, veterinarians have a name for it: pica. This is a compulsive urge to eat non-food items. With our canine companions, while leaves might not sound too bizarre, it’s still in the same ballpark. It’s their version of indulging in odd cravings, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it and chat with your veterinarian if you think it’s becoming a habit.
How Can You Stop Your Dog From Eating More Leaves?
Before you can take the steps to prevent your dog from eating more leaves, you need to figure out what's causing them to do so. As a general guideline, here's what you can do once you determine the cause:
- For nutritional deficiencies: I’ve had a bunch of clients with deficiencies. To fill in the gaps, I recommend a diet with variety. Most of the time, this is when pet parents look at alternative diets. Offering different foods can help fill in the gaps in your dog’s diet. Think about it — eating the same food every day would keep us going — but would it keep us healthy and supply our bodies with what they need?
- Nausea: Internal parasites can cause your dog to be nauseous. Check your dog’s poop to see if you notice anything weird and ask your veterinarian whether you should provide a stool sample for testing. While it might sound gross, it’s a good starting point. Sometimes, you might spot these pesky intruders right away, but most of the time, parasites aren’t visible to the naked eye. If you have even the slightest suspicion, or if your dog’s behavior seems off, it’s best to play it safe. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian and explain what’s happening.
- Pica: Boredom, nutritional deficiencies, an underlying medical problem, or habit can cause Pica. Before you dive into the behavioral possibilities, get them checked out by the veterinarian to see if there are any health conditions causing the problem. If they’re cleared from medical causes, try to add more daily physical activity, give them fun chew toys, and make sure they have plenty of fun mental exercises, like puzzle toys.
- Boredom: A tired dog is a happy dog. A bored dog is trouble. The trick is to find out what makes your dog’s brain and body active and incorporate more of that into their day. Whether it’s a game of fetch, a new toy, or interactive puzzles, adding these elements to their routine can make a world of difference in curbing unwanted behaviors, like leaf eating.
- Training: Training your dog with commands can be a lifesaver, especially when they're about to get into something they shouldn't. If your dog isn't already familiar with it, introducing the "leave it" command is a great idea. By mastering this command, your dog will learn to halt and move away from anything you deem off-limits.
Stopping Leaf-Eating Quickly
Nipping leaf-eating in the bud quickly is key. Think about it: as pet parents, our major goal is to instill positive habits and prevent our dogs from picking up the not-so-great ones. The earlier you spot and address leaf-eating tendencies, the less chance it has of becoming a regular thing for them. Dogs are eager to please, so clear and immediate feedback helps them understand boundaries. By setting clear expectations right from the start, you’re guiding your dog in a direction that not only ensures their safety but also strengthens the bond you share. After all, they genuinely want to make you happy and thrive on your praise and affection.