Top 10 Dog Questions Answered

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Every week we receive thousands of questions from dog owners, on hundreds of topics from medical issues to training.

Pet owners from all over the world often have the same questions as you, so check out the ones we get again and again - you might find exactly what you need to know!

Why do dogs wag their tails?

Think dogs that are wagging their tail are always blissfully happy? It's a common perception, but it turns out that it's likely wrong. Most behavioral experts believe that tail-wagging is merely a sign of strong emotion. In lots of dogs it usually equates to happiness, but it can also mean the dog is concerned or cautious about a new situation. Some dogs wag their tails when they're feeling threatened.

For this reason, you should always approach an unfamiliar dog with caution, even when it's wagging its tail. Kids should be taught this as well, and should be told never to approach any dog with outstretched fingers that can be easily bitten. They should also be instructed to ask permission from the owner before approaching any dog.

What common foods are poisonous to my dog?

Most people know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. It contains a compound called theobromine, and with a large enough dose this chemical can cause seizures, coma, and even death in dogs. Dark chocolate has far more theobromine than milk chocolate. White chocolate has no theobromine, because it's not really chocolate. Coffee has the same chemical and is also toxic to dogs.

Other foods that are dangerous to dogs include raisins and grapes (both can cause kidney failure), macadamia nuts (they cause weakness, stumbling, vomiting and elevated temperatures), the artificial sweetener xylitol (ingestion of sugar-free gum and other treats causes severe and life-threatening drops in blood sugar and liver failure), garlic and onions (sufficient amounts can cause anemia), and foods that are very high in fat, such as sausage (may trigger a severe bout of pancreatitis).

Why do dogs eat poop?

A recent study revealed that this is the most frustrating behavioral problem that dog owners deal with. There are lots of theories out there as to why they seem to enjoy this disgusting pastime, but the most widely-accepted is that they're trying to reclaim digested protein.

But let's not focus so much on why they do it, but what to do about it. It starts with training as a puppy. Accompany your puppy outside always, and pick up stool as soon as your dog defecates. If he shows interest in stool (his or another dogs) give a firm "no!" and redirect his interest to something else, like a toy. As he grows up make sure that your yard stays free of stool. Food additives, such as one called For-Bid, that contain MSG are often successful in making the stool's taste unappealing.

Why is my dog's eye red?

While not every case of "red eyes" is the sign of a serious disease in dogs, it carries with it enough of a concern to warrant a trip to the vet to ensure that it's not. Glaucoma, which is a disease that causes increased pressure inside the eye, often starts with just redness of the sclera (the white part of the eye). Glaucoma can progress rapidly, and not only is it intensely painful, left untreated loss of vision can occur.

The vast majority of redness in eyes is due to simple conjunctivitis, or inflammation and/or infection of the sack around the eye. Typically, this occurs due to irritation from an allergen in the air, or a contaminant such as smoke. Dogs can also pass bacterial conjunctivitis between them.

My dog has a lump. What is it?

Most of the lumps and bumps we find in our dogs aren't cancer. However, it's nearly impossible to tell this for sure by just looking at a lump or bump, especially if it's under the skin - which most of them are. Most of the time we want to take a small sample of the material inside the lump and look at the cells we retrieve under a microscope, in order to identify what they are. Sometimes we still can't tell, and the lump has be removed and a biopsy performed in order to obtain a diagnosis.

Your dog has 5 sets of lymph nodes that can be felt on the outside of the body. They are under the jaw, on the front of the shoulders, under the armpits, inside the groin, and behind the knees. It's important to determine if the lumps you're feeling on your dog could be lymph nodes, because enlarged lymph nodes can be a sign of severe infection or cancer.

How can I crate train my puppy?

Crate training is a great way to ensure that your puppy is safe and secure when you leave him alone.

Start as soon as you bring your new puppy home. Purchase a crate that will accommodate him as he grows, and use boxes to take up the excess space. Remove them as he gets bigger. Give him an interesting toy once he's in the crate that he only gets when he's there.

Be committed, and always put your puppy in the crate when he's alone, so that he doesn't get mixed signals. Leave the door open once he's trained, so that he can still go into it and use it as a retreat.

Why does my dog eat grass?

Dogs enjoy a little vegetation from time to time. Especially in the spring, when the grass is new and sweet, dogs are tempted to nibble on it. Although we don't completely understand the reasons why dogs eat grass, ingesting a small amount is likely normal, and not inherently harmful.

If your dog is eating grass excessively, and especially if he's vomiting afterwards, there's likely an underlying problem. Dogs that eat grass frequently need to be examined, and need diagnostic tests to determine if there's an underlying problem, such as gastrointestinal discomfort, that's spurring this behavior. A dog that eats a substantial amount of grass is at risk for a grass impaction, since it's difficult for them to digest large quantities.

Why is my dog coughing?

This question is the same as asking why a dog is vomiting. Coughing can be a symptom of many diseases, and you have to determine what the underlying cause is in order to effectively treat the disease.

Causes of coughing in dogs include infectious diseases, such as the very-common contagious disease known as "kennel cough", heart disease, parasites like heartworms and lungworms, collapsing trachea (very common in small and toy breeds), and cancer. X-rays are a good start to figuring out why a dog is coughing, since different diseases produce different patterns.

Why is my dog chewing its feet?

Although I've occasionally seen dogs chew their feet because they have arthritis pain, and some dogs chew their feet due to behavioral reasons, the most common cause of foot-chewing is allergic disease. It makes sense when you think about it: since so many allergens are plant-based, and dogs walk on grass, if they're allergic to grass their feet will be irritated. And chewing and licking feels good to dogs, so they lick their feet when they are irritated.

Foot chewing and licking can also go along with food allergies. For this reason, we'll often recommend a change to a hypoallergenic diet when a dog is licking its feet. Sometimes this takes care of the problem, but unfortunately most allergic dogs have an environmental allergy, and the food doesn't always solve the problem.

What vaccinations do puppies need?

Most veterinarians consider a dog's lifestyle and risk for disease before recommending vaccinations. "Core" vaccinations for puppies are against parvovirus, distemper virus, and rabies. The parvo and distemper vaccines are typically combined into one shot. Puppies need a series of 3 of these vaccines to be fully protected, and they are typically given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age.

Vaccination against rabies is also critical, and in most areas of the U.S. it's required by law. Puppies need one vaccination against rabies at 16 weeks.

Depending on the area where the dog lives, veterinarians often recommend vaccination against the disease leptosporosis. It's carried in the urine of wildlife, and it's becoming more and more prevalent. Puppies need to be vaccinated twice to be protected, typically at 12 and 16 weeks.

Even though infectious tracheobronchititis (AKA "kennel cough") is almost never a life-threatening disease, many daycare and boarding facilities require it, and depending on how much exposure the dog will have to other dogs veterinarians often recommend it. There are several different forms of this vaccination - injectable, oral, and intra-nasal - and depending on which kind the vet prefers the vaccination schedule is different.

Written by PetCoach Editorial September 12, 2018
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