November 21, 2017

A High Fiber Diet Responsive Case in a Poodle Dog with Long-Term Plant Eating Behavior

In an article by BT Kang, DI Jung, C Park, EJ Woo, and HM Park in 2007, they studied a case of an 11-year-old male miniature poodle with a recurring plant eating behavior. Once the dog turned 4 years old, the dog ate grass while on walks and then would proceed to vomit after. The dog ate grass only once a day, but vomited after every time. The dog ate grass from different areas when on the walk.

Once being taken to the veterinarian, many different tests were run on the dog to test for abnormalities, such as urine analysis, ultrasonographic examinations, gastrointestinal (GI) functions, and more. There were no significant abnormal findings in the dog for any of the tests given. Vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms related to food allergy. Since no food allergy was present through the different tests, the veterinarians decided to put the dog on a hypoallergenic diet for 8 weeks. However, there was no change in the dog’s plant eating behavior and vomiting.

There were multiple hypotheses about why the dog was eating grass including to attention seeking behavior, reinforced behavior, anxiety, compulsive disorders, and more. These behaviors were ruled out because of the lack of a specific response from the owners and the behavior occurred regardless of the owners' attention. Through the behavior examinations, anxiety and compulsive disorders were also eliminated. Overall, there were no abnormal behaviors with the dog’s social interactions between him and his owners, other humans, and other dogs.

Then, the scientists hypothesized that the dog was eating plants as a dietary supplement to make up for a deficiency or as a way to relieve digestive problems.  The scientists suggested to change the dog’s diet to a high fiber diet. The diet was adjusted over 1 week. Only 3 days after the change in diet, the dog stopped eating plants and vomiting. For 13 months, the dog has not shown any plant eating behavior accompanied by vomiting.  It was concluded that the dog had a deficient diet in fiber and was eating plants in order to gain more fiber. The vomiting most likely occurred due to eating large volumes of low digestible foods as well as fertilizers or herbicide that possibly irritated the GI tract, leading to vomiting. After this specific case, the scientists were unclear about how the poodle knew that it needed more fiber and that plants were a good source of fiber.

Kang BT, Jung DI, Yoo JH, Park C, Woo EJ, Park HM, 2007. A High Fiber Diet Responsive Case in a Poodle Dog with Long-Term Plant Eating Behavior. The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 69(7): 779-782

Original article:

Reviewed by Hannah Cohen