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How do dogs self-medicate?

Your Dog's Amazing Ability to Self-Medicate

Dog self-medicating with grass

If your dogs are like mine, you've probably noticed times when they're munching on different grasses in your yard, on walks, in new surroundings. You may have wondered, like me, if your dog might not have been crossed with a cow!

Let me assure you he's not! And what he's doing is far more fascinating than you might think.

Zoopharmacognosy: self-medication in dogs

What he's doing when he eats this grass is called zoopharmacognosy. Zoo for animals, pharma for medicine and cognosie for knowledge. It's basically a super fancy word that just means animals heal themselves. A dog, or any other animal, that eats something that is not part of its normal diet is self-medicating.

If you watch your dog very closely, you'll notice that he doesn't just eat any random grass, but actually selects grass types very carefully. He might do this to clean his digestive system, to clean his teeth, or even to control worms.

Scientists studying this have discovered that whatever substance the animal eats will become super tasty if, and only if, its body needs a particular healing compound found in that substance. Once their body no longer needs it and is healed, the plant ceases to be tasty and no longer appeals to them. Fascinating, isn't it?

Nature is so well done

It's innate, meaning the animal is born with the ability - it doesn't have to be learned. Dogs have retained this skill from their wild ancestors. It's not surprising, because anything that's very useful for survival isn't easily lost, and dogs haven't been domesticated for that long when you think about it in evolutionary terms.

Dogs eating grass to self-medicate

We can indeed use this skill that our dogs have to tell us what they need when they are not well and to guide us in choosing the aromatics they need, such as essential oils and hydrosols.

Instead of deciding for them and guessing, we can strike up a conversation with our dog and learn a lot more about what's bothering him. So, now that you have this new information in hand, start observing your dog - he has so much to tell you! Watch your dog eat grass... and be fascinated!!!

If you want to try offering oils to your dog on your own, download my handy guide on how to offer oils to your dog!

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