Long ago, I realized that there is no such thing as a typical day in practice for me as a companion animal veterinarian. I once quipped to my staff, that our appointment schedule is only a suggestion of how the day might go! Yes, we schedule appointments for wellness visits, surgeries, dental procedures, rechecks for previously treated conditions, and diagnostics procedures such as X-ray examinations, laboratory draws, etc. but it is the “things that come up” which can really make the day challenging, and unpredictable. One thing for certain, it is seldom boring or routine. We thrive on problem solving and serving our clients and patients.
Today I would like to cover some of the more common and uncommon questions and situations which present at our clinics. Of course, vomiting and diarrhea cases are common and we sometimes hear that it must have been something he/she ate. Yes indeed, dogs and cats often ingest inappropriate things. This is called pica and can include bones, garbage, spoiled food, lizards, and frogs, and of course fecal material found on the ground. Fortunately, dogs and cats vomit readily when they eat inappropriate or spoiled materials and that is a good thing. It gets the offending material out before much damage can occur. Grass is often ingested by dogs and cats and we are often asked why? My standard answer is that eating grass is normal behavior, it usually causes vomiting and it is mostly a harmless event. Of course grass with recently applied lawn chemicals can be a different story! I recently read an article by a respected veterinarian who offered six reasons why dogs eat grass:
- Dogs eat grass when their stomach is upset, they eat to purge themselves.
- It could be a way of easing an upset stomach or gas.
- They may be trying to eliminate intestinal worms.
- They may be lacking some nutritional deficiency in their diet.
- They enjoy grass!
- It is a trait they inherited.
There is probably some unprovable truth in all these theories, but I stick to my guns. Grass eating and the subsequent vomiting is a common, normal canine and feline behavior. Dogs and cats are not ruminants, they cannot digest grass. If it stays down, it will pass through the gastro-intestinal tract green and undigested.
A second common presentation is that “my dog must have worms because he is dragging his anal area on the carpet”. This myth is based on the fact that human pinworms can cause itchy anal area in children. Dogs and cats do not get pinworms but of course can and do get a variety of parasites but it is not usually a cause of anal itch. It is usually caused by anal sac issues or dermatitis of the region.
We are often asked to check for ear mites because a dog or cat has itchy ears. While ear mites are common in feral and outdoor dogs and cats, they are quite uncommon in well cared for indoor pets. Itchy or painful ears are usually a bacterial/yeast infection, often secondary to allergies.
Lastly, I would like to comment that most hair loss in dogs (alopecia) is not due to mange. While Demodectic and Sarcoptic mange do indeed cause hair loss and very itchy skin; the more common underlying causes are allergies and secondary infections. I have written about common skin issues previously for Osceola Woman Magazine and I invite you to check their web site for these articles.
The veterinarians and staff of Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel: 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel: 407-518-0880) are available to answer your questions about any pet health issues. We are here to help and to serve.