From DVM 360 Magazine
The 10 most-searched questions about dogs
We know you’ve “Googled” when it comes to your pet. In fact, Google released the 10 most-searched
questions pet owners asked about their dogs last year. So, instead of leaving the answers to a Google
algorithm, here are some veterinary experts to answer your queries so you can get to the bottom of
questions like, “Why are dogs’ noses wet?”
Google is a great tool, but if you ever have a question regarding your pet, never hesitate to contact us. We’re
here to answer the serious to merely curious questions—we’re happy to do it! In the meantime, see how Drs. John
Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB, and Ernie Ward, DVM, answer your most pressing questions about Fido.
1. Why do dogs eat grass?
Most veterinarians agree 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. —Dr. Ward
2. Do dogs dream?
We’ve discovered that dogs and
humans share many similar characteristics
when sleeping and possibly
dreaming. For most dogs, dreaming
should occur about 20 minutes
after they begin to doze. You’ll
notice shallow, irregular breathing
followed by muscle twitching and eye movements behind
closed eyelids. The real question is what do dogs
dream about? —Dr. Ward
3. Why do dogs howl?
Howling is a non-specific behavior.
Howling can occur when a
dog is distressed, feeling territorial,
stressed in a situation that they
cannot get out of, or responding to
persistent noises such as the sound
of a siren. Finally, I imagine it is a
fun activity for some dogs—kind of like singing in the
shower. —Dr. Ciribassi
Wolves primarily howl to alert an enemy pack they’re
ready to rumble or guide a lost member home. Dogs
howling when you leave may be an attempt to get you to
return. Howling at other dogs may signal, “Get lost!” or
“I’m over here!” —Dr. Ward
4. Why do dogs have whiskers?
Whiskers function as sensory organs.
Touch, air currents and vibrations can
stimulate the whiskers. They also can
function as communication in that dogs
that are emotionally aroused can move
their whiskers forward or backward
to signal to another dog either fear or confidence during
encounters. —Dr. Ciribassi
Most dogs have these long, stiff hairs projecting from
their jaw, muzzle and above their eyes. Whiskers are highly
sensitive and help inform the dog about surrounding
objects, air movements and more. You can also tell a dog
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 dogs. —Dr. Ward
5. Why do dogs chase their tails?
Other than for grooming or injury
reasons, 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 that interferes with normal
activities. Compulsive behaviors are
similar to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in people
and one theory is that it results in an increase in endorphins
in the brain thus acting to reinforce pleasure for the
behavior. —Dr. Ciribassi
6. How do you clean dogs’ ears?
Cleaning ears regularly can help minimize infection
since dry, clean ears are less likely to become infected.
Place a small amount of a quality cleaning agent in the
ear and massage the base of the ear. Allow your pet to
shake its head then wipe out the discharge using cotton or tissue on your finger. Do not place
anything into the ear unless directed
by your veterinarian. I recommend
cleaning a normal ear (not complicated
by allergies or infections) about
one to two times per week or after
baths. —Dr. Ciribassi
Start by gently cleaning the outer
ear with a clean cotton ball and veterinary-approved ear
cleaning solution. Be sure to remove any debris and dead
skin from crevices and folds. Using a clean cotton ball, push
as far into the ear canal as you can comfortably reach with
your small finger. Be sure not to stuff the cotton ball so deep
you can’t retrieve it. Remove the cotton ball and repeat until
there is no more dirt or debris observed. —Dr. Ward
7. Why Are Dog Noses Wet?
Dogs’ noses act as sweat glands
and can become wet as a means of
discharging heat. In addition, nasal
cavity discharge will accumulate on
the nose. Clear discharge can occur
with temperature changes and
also with some allergies. Discolored
discharges usually indicate possible
infection, neoplasia, foreign body or bleeding disorder in
the nasal cavity and should be evaluated as soon as possible.
Wet noses increase a dog’s ability to smell. Scientists
believe the thin layer of mucous on a “wet nose” helps trap
scent chemicals that are then licked off and processed by
a dog’s special olfactory (smelling) glands located in the
roof of its mouth. Wet noses are also the result of specialized
sweat glands. Dogs can only perspire from the pads of
their feet and noses. —Dr. Ward
8. How do you stop dogs from digging?
Dogs dig because it is fun or for exploration. This is a
normal behavior, but will escalate
if unmanaged. Don’t allow dogs
in areas unsupervised where they
have dug before, block off problem
areas, be in the yard to prevent
digging and engage your dog with
activities. You can provide a digging
box or area with sand or dirt that
your dog can easily dig in. You can encourage its use
by burying favorite toys (first shallow then more deeply)
in the box. —Dr. Ciribassi
9. How do you introduce dogs
to … (babies, cats, etc.)?
The first rule of introducing dogs
to babies or new pets is supervision.
Next, take it slow. Keep the parties
separated and allow them to see,
hear and smell the visitor. Back off at
any sign of anxiety, fear or threats. If a new baby is at the
hospital, try bringing home a blanket with the newborn’s
smell for your pet. Make sure to keep food and prized
possessions away during introduction. Once everyone is
acclimated to each other, carefully allow direct contact.
After a short period, take a break and start over in five to
15 minutes. Regardless of how long you’ve had your pet
or how nice it is, never allow unsupervised interaction
between an animal and baby. —Dr. Ward
10. Why do dogs bury bones?
Animals frequently create food
caches (hiding spots for valuables they
can later access when safe or normal
food supplies are no longer available).
Even though you may supply all the
food your dog may want, it is difficult
to break a natural, instinctual behavior. —Dr. Ciribassi
When dogs bury bones, they’re making an instinctual
deposit to protect a future meal or prized possession. Thousands
of years ago, scavenging dogs weren’t certain where
or when their next meal would be. If they scored a big find,
they’d hide leftovers for leaner times. Burying food kept it
dark and cool, an early version of refrigeration. —Dr. Ward
Dr. John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB, founded the animal behavior
specialty practice Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants
with locations in Buffalo Grove, Bensenville and Chicago, Illinois.
Ciribassi is a board certified veterinary behaviorist.
Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM, a veterinarian, author, speaker and media personality,
has dedicated his life and career to promoting a healthier lifestyle for
people and pets.