Archive for Thursday, November 3, 2005

Shedding light on dog behavior

November 3, 2005

One of the perks of acquiring an advanced degree and owning a business is having every magazine under the sun sent to your post office box. As humans, we are so gah-gah over our pets that we have periodicals such as "Dog World" and "Cat World," or just plain "Horse."

Recently while resting my brainium, I happened to open up an edition of "Dog World," hoping to find inspiration for an article. There it was. The perfect little expose on "Why do they do that?" This article covered a list of some of the more unusual things dogs do that many, both scholar and layman alike, have tried to explain. I thought I'd take a stab at a few listed. I hope you won't be too bored.

Last week Mr. Behind, came in with Scooter because of some behavior he'd noticed. Seems ol' Scoot had been dragging himself along the floor periodically. Mr. Behind wondered what that meant. Believe it or not, as a D.V.M., I have a routine exam for ol' Scooter.

First, we must orient ourselves with the patient's rear aspect. Then, we observe for tapeworm segments either alive or dried, stuck to the hair of the dog. If present, we have immediate cause to worm the pooch.

Next, we look deeper for fleas or signs of skin allergies, both of which would cause serious pruritus or itching and therefore "scooting" along the floor to relieve ourselves. Removing the fleas, and possibly administering relief through a cortisone injection would aid this situation.

Finally, one needs to check the anal glands (two paired sacs much the same as a skunks) to see if they are infilled. These normal glands are usually relieved when Scooter relieves himself, but at times, professional relief may be needed to express them to relieve scooting. Unfortunately, if one does not seek help, an anal gland abscess may form requiring medical and/or surgical attention.

"Wow, Doc. He was only scooting. I never thought there was so much to it," said Mr. Behind.

I get many inquirers about grazing. I think it is true nearly all dogs eat grass from time to time. Many believe dogs eat grass just to vomit. I tend to disagree.

The author of the article seemed to think dogs seek out grass and other fibrous material like sticks and such out of frustration once experiencing discomfort. Once consumed, these irritants set up a real witch's brew for a gastroenteritis or bellyache. I truly feel our dogs enjoy a salad once in awhile. Being able to more thoroughly digest vegetable fiber, it would make sense that they are just supplementing their diets.

If you think a dog has worms if he eats grass, probably the converse is true. The dog eating grass will get worms. Usually, worm larvae are present in dew moisture on grass.

Copropagia, or stool eating, is something that we tend to get asked about a lot, especially with puppies. This one is a troubling behavior to me. Many dogs gobble up cat feces if they can get to it. I truly believe that is a delicacy to a canine. I know, you think I'm weird now, remember I'm the one you bring your puppy's stool into for routine analysis. No wonder we referred to our parasitological professor as Fecal Bill. Some have postulated dogs consume dung out of boredom, especially in confined puppies. Who knows? Maybe it tastes good the second time around. Only pooch knows, and he's not talking.

Did you ever wonder why your dog begins to pant for no good reason? There you are all comfy and sprawled out on the floor, and ol' Rex opens his mouth and begins to pant right in your face. Talk about gag-a-maggot-breath. Panting is a normal form of thermo-regulation that is cooling down. Just as we cool when we sweat, panting serves to cool down our dogs. It's the equivalent to removing your sweater.

We live near a cow lot and occasionally our dogs go over and roll in manure. Then they prance around like nothing is different, rubbing up against you. How about the dead animal carcass ol' Fido just cannot wait to rub thoroughly into like it is the new cologne craze!

Truly, this behavior must date way back to instinctive hiding, just like some of us deer hunters sprinkle doe-in-heat or skunk scent or fox scent on us to cover up our own body odor that would normally give us away.

There are many theories why dogs engage in above eluded behaviors. You may disagree with me and have your own theories. The truth is only our dogs know for sure.

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