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Common Googled Questions

Computer DogHappy Spring! For a lighter note this month, we are sharing with you the answers to some of the most searched about questions about dogs and cats. The answers were provided by veterinarians at DVM 360: Dr. John Ciribassi, Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, and Dr. Ernie Ward. Enjoy!

1. Why do dogs eat grass?
 -The short answer is we don't know. Most veterinarians agree that grass eating seems to be a way for dogs to relieve gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, parasites or possibly infections. Another theory is that dogs are craving micronutrients found in leafy plants. Finally, dogs may eat grass simply because they like it. If your dog is eating grass every day or large amounts, ask your veterinarian to check out your dog immediately. —Ernie Ward, DVM

2. Why do dogs chase their tails?
 -Other than for grooming reasons (injury to tail or anal area as well as managing external parasites), it is abnormal for dogs to consistently chase their tails. It can occur as an attention-getting activity or can escalate to a compulsive behavior, in that the dog engages in the behavior with reduced ability to discontinue to the point where it interferes with normal activities. Compulsive behaviors are similar to obsessive compulsive disorders (OCDs) in people; one theory is that it results in increased endorphins in the brain, thus acting to reinforce pleasure for the behavior. —John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB

3. Why do cats purr?
 -Purring occurs as a result of vibration of vocal cords due to neurological stimulation from brain activity. The purpose of purring is uncertain but it does seem to be associated with pleasurable activity. However, cats are also known to purr when ill or injured, which lead some to believe that the frequency of the vibration of the vocal cords can be associated with greater healing. Purring also is reinforcing for people when they are petting cats and therefore can act to increase the amount of petting. —John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB

-Cats generally purr when in contact with someone; a favored owner stroking, nursing a kitten, or greeting a familiar partner-cat. Positive experiences also elicit purring, rolling or rubbing, being in a warm familiar environment or about to fall peacefully asleep. —Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, DAVBP (feline practice)

4. Why do cats have whiskers?
 -They are very sensitive sense organs and tell a cat a lot about his position in space and what is going on around him. They appear to be particularly useful in low light and darkness, times when other organs cannot collect as much information. —Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, DAVBP (feline practice)

-Whiskers are known in the veterinary anatomy world as vibrissae. Most cats have these long, stiff hairs projecting from their jaw, muzzle and above their eyes. Whiskers are highly sensitive and help inform the cat about surrounding objects, air movements and more. Whiskers may also be used to gauge whether a cat can slip into a tight space. You can also tell if a cat is nervous or scared if the whiskers are pointing forward at a potential threat. Whatever you do, don't trim or pluck whiskers because they serve an important information source for cats. —Ernie Ward, DVM