Why do dogs eat grass?

Dog laying on grassWhy do some dogs not only like to lie on the grass, but also eat it?

Everyone seems to have a theory about why dogs sometimes eat grass, but nobody really knows for certain. Some people think dogs eat grass to get more fiber in their diet.  But since modern commercial diets contain enough fiber, that theory has been dismissed by many.

Another theory is that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting when they’ve eaten something bad. This is because people observe their dogs vomiting after eating grass. However not all dogs vomit after eating grass.

Andrea N. Johnston, DVM, DACVIM, a clinical instructor in internal medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says that even specialists like her don’t really know. Maybe dogs just like it.

In general, it’s considered that eating a little grass isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it really doesn’t provide much roughage or nutrients.

One caution on grass consumption:  fertilizers and chemicals that may be on the lawn. Another concern is parasites that could be in the dirt and grass.

If you want your dog to have more greens, Dr. Johnston recommends simply feeding them some fresh or cooked vegetables.

Just remember that every dog is different and if your dog is frequently eating grass and vomiting, it wouldn’t hurt to ask your vet about it to make sure he or she doesn’t have some underlying medical condition.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Canine Ear and Hearing Problems

February 5, 2013 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare, Service Dogs · 1 Comment 
Morgan getting an ear exam from his vet, Dr. Armendariz.Morgan getting an ear exam from his vet, Dr. Armendariz.

Sometimes Whistle’s shakes his head and scratches his ears. This makes me wonder if his ears are bothering him.

Cornell University Hospital for Animals sees lots of dogs with serious ear disorders.  While most ear infections can be remedied easily, some are only treatable with complex surgeries. In a recent issue of their newsletter “Dog Watch,” they discussed canine ear disease.

One condition treated by an operation when it is in its advanced stages is a chronic infection called otitis externa, a painful condition that can lead to partial deafness if left untreated.

Just like our ears, dogs’ ears are delicate equipment. Deafness can be congenital or acquired. Noise trauma, or certain antibiotics or anesthetics can sometimes cause deafness. Just like us, canines can also gradually have their hearing affected by aging, particularly if they are eight years or older.

How can you recognize the early signs or ear problems?

An affected dog might:

  • Shake its head persistently and
  • Scratch at one or both ears.
  • Fail to react to voice commands
  • React as if ears are painful when touched

Upon inspection you might notice:

  • Inflamed or swollen skin on the underside of the ears
  • Foul-smelling discharge in outer ear canal.

A trip to your veterinarian, where he or she can use an otoscope to look inside the dog’s ears, might be necessary to diagnosis the condition.  A microscopic examination of what is in the ear canal might also be needed to pin down the type of infection and medication needed.

I took Whistle to see to his veterinarian for a check-up. Luckily in his case, the ear scratching and head shaking were not indications of anything serious. My vet suggested that I used a mild ear cleanser specifically designed for dogs and a cloth to keep his ears clean.

Does my dog need vitamins?

October 31, 2012 · Posted in Dog Food/Nutrition, Doggie Healthcare, Service Dogs · Comment 

You may take supplements even though you eat well, so does that mean your dog should take vitamins and minerals also?

Canine nutrition is an evolving field but today’s high-quality dog foods generally make nutritional supplements unnecessary.  So says the DogWatch newsletter from Cornell University.  They asked Kathryn Michel, DVM, professor of nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania about the topic.  Her advice?

Some dogs may require certain nutrients under certain conditions that are not provided in a commercial diet.  For example, a dog with joint pain and arthritis might benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin, but this may not help all dogs.

Other supplements can pose a risk. Dr. Michel warns that people should not give their dogs the same supplements they take in the same doses.  Fat soluble vitamins in particular, such as A, D, E, and K, are stored in the body and can become excessive. Too much calcium can also be dangerous.

Giving your dog a general vitamin-mineral supplement designed for dogs is not necessarily harmful, but not all the experts are convinced they will necessarily help your dog.  Some say more studies are needed and that your dog may not be harmed by them, but you might be spending money unnecessarily.

Vitamin deficiencies are uncommon in the U.S. these days since dog food companies have formulated blends that will take care of “typical” dogs.  But if your dog is a working dog, very athletic, or a puppy, they may have special requirements.

Things to look out for in balancing your dog’s diet can include too many treats or a homemade diet which may not be giving your dog the nutrition he or she needs. If your dog is lethargic, weak, or has a coat which isn’t healthy looking, make sure to consult with your veterinarian to rule out nutritional deficiencies.

I give Whistle a vitamin E every day.  What do you give your dog?


Vitamin image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Canine Lifetime Health Project

July 11, 2012 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare · 1 Comment 
Canine Health Project

I am always interested in new studies that can support my assistance dog’s overall health and well-being. The Morris Animal Foundation has started a huge new project which will study dogs over the course of their lives in an effort to learn how to prevent and treat diseases facing dogs.

Just as the Framingham Heart study observed people through their lives, beginning in 1946, and led to increased knowledge of heart disease, the new Morris project is hoped to improve knowledge about dogs’ health. It is expected to provide information which will lead to new tests, diets and therapies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of health conditions in dogs.

The first study will be for Golden Retrievers. This breed was chosen for study because more than half of them die of cancer. Although the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is restricted to Golden Retrievers, results from this study will benefit all dogs.

To be eligible, dogs should be under 2 years old at time of enrollment and have a three-generation pedigree. The study is expected to run from 10 to 14 years and enroll up to 3,000 dogs.

“This is truly the biggest scientific effort that Morris Animal Foundation has ever undertaken,” says Dr. David Haworth, Foundation president and CEO. “And the benefits for advancing animal health will be huge.”

You can participate with your dog. Just go to www.CanineLifetimeHealth.org to learn more and sign up. You can sign up for the Golden Retriever study or other upcoming studies.

Cancer and Early Detection – Conducting Routine Exams at Home

September 26, 2011 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare · 2 Comments 

I don’t know about you, but I am acutely aware of the sobering statistics related to large breed dogs and cancer. I try to examine Whistle on a daily basis just to make sure that he has no undetected lumps or bumps. And, if I do find something, I make sure to make an appointment right away with Whistle’s veterinarian for his professional opinion and assessment.

I came across a helpful article in a recent issue of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s DOG Watch that I wanted to share with you regarding the importance of early detection of canine cancer.

Did you know that “it has been estimated that cancer is the cause of death in 50% of dogs over the age of 10 and that 25 to 30% of all dogs will be stricken with the disease at some point during their lives, regardless of their age”?

I don’t want to be an alarmist but I think we can definitely take some proactive steps to protect our assistance dogs. As we all know, the sooner a cancer is diagnosed, the better our dog’s chances that the cancer can be stopped and an assistance dog’s life can be saved or extended.

The folks at DOG Watch stress the importance of owner awareness to such physical symptoms as: “an open sore that won’t heal; an unusual lump or swollen area that doesn’t go away; mysterious bleeding from the mouth or anus; troubled breathing; difficulty in urinating or defecating; uncharacteristic lethargy; reluctance to exercise; sudden weight loss”. They also recommend that young dogs receive a yearly physical but dogs older than eight should have a physical at least twice a year.

Whistle is my third assistance dog. I have noticed that each of my assistance dogs’ health changed between the age of 5-6. After age 5, I began monitoring their health a little closer and regularly scheduling a physical exam with our vet every six months. The cost has been relatively low because he is just conducting a physical assessment in his office however it gives us a base line to monitor Whistle’s health as he becomes a senior working dog.

I routinely groom my assistance dog by brushing their fur at either the beginning or end of the day. Not only is this a good bonding exercise but it also gives me a chance to physically scan Whistle’s body for any lumps or bumps, changes in his skin or other physical signs of potential health concerns.

Dealing with health issues is never easy but I feel it is my responsibility to be vigilante with Whistle’s health care maintenance and overall wellness. Conducting routine exams at home with your assistance dog can be just what the doctor ordered!

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (October 2011) “Early Detection of Canine Cancer”. DOG Watch. 15(10): 1.

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