Pet talk
Columns, Pet Talk

Pet talk

June 28, 2017

By Maneka Gandhi

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka explains why dogs lick their owners?

Why do dogs lick their owners?

Dogs lick their pack members and us for many reasons. Sometimes we have tiny food particles that they can taste, and beyond that, dogs enjoy the salt on our skin. Mothers lick puppy anuses in order to stimulate them into passing stools. When dogs don’t want to follow an order, they stop and start licking themselves. Licking can be a healthy stress reliever for scared and nervous dogs. Dogs lick senior pack members to show submission. Dogs lick other dogs to tell them all sorts of things: everything from “I’m hungry” to “I submit to you” to “Let’s be friends.” They do this with people as well, but we’re typically not as good at interpreting the message. If your dog is licking you with intensity, take a look around and see if something is amiss. Maybe the water bowl is empty, or the door is closed and he wants to go out. Chances are your dog needs something.

This is the most common reason that domestic dogs lick, and tend to be the kind of licking most pet parents want to change. Licking for affection causes your dog to release pleasurable endorphins that calms and comforts him, but sometimes it can just get too much for people. If you want your dogs to stop, ignore them and walk into another room whenever it begins. Eventually they will learn that licking causes you to leave, which isn’t what they want.

Should dogs be given an anti-flea or tick bath every time they are given a bath?

If you have found fleas on your pet, a great way to get rid of them is with flea shampoo. The first sign of a flea attack is when your dog, or cat, starts scratching itself all the time. Then you should inspect it as soon as possible, to find out if it’s time for a flea bath. Look for fleas, especially behind the ears, under the chin and above the tail. Flea dirt is also often found on the belly of the animal.


When you look for flea shampoo, try to find one that works on both, living adult fleas and flea eggs. Fleas need to be eliminated on all stages of their lifecycle, or else they’ll just keep coming back. Flea shampoo that only kills adult fleas is probably a little cheaper than the one that does both, but I don’t think it’s worth it because you just end up repeating flea baths instead. Another thing that varies in flea shampoo products is the active ingredient. Most commonly used is pyrethrin, which is an insecticide. If you have a medium or a large pet, your best choice would be to go with a flea shampoo that contain pyrethrins. This will ensure you get rid of all the fleas and flea eggs. If, however, you have a small pet, a puppy or a pet with bad health, I recommend using a shampoo that contains natural ingredients only.

Flea shampoo is a great way to get rid of fleas on your pet, but it’s not the only solution. If for some reason it doesn’t work on your pet, or if the pet dislikes flea shampoo, you can always try something else. Such as collars, and sprays. When you use flea shampoo to bathe your pet, start from the top and work your way down. This is important to make sure the fleas won’t travel upwards and hide, in places like your pet’s ears. It can be difficult to wash the head, but please avoid getting shampoo in the eyes. After you have applied flea shampoo to the rest of the body, let it sit for a couple of minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Also remember to get rid of all the living fleas and flea eggs in your home.

My dog goes crazy the moment a banana is peeled. Is it alright if I give a little banana with his food?

Yes, bananas are safe for dogs. They are a good source of potassium, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fibre, biotin and copper. Bananas are low in sodium and cholesterol but, due to the sugar content in bananas, dogs should only eat them as a treat, and not as a regular part of their diets.


Bananas fed in excess can lead to constipation. From practical experience, some dogs love bananas and some hate bananas. As long as bananas are just a snack, not the whole meal, and the dog isn’t allergic to the banana, then there’s no reason not to feed them.

My dog swallowed a chewing gum. Should I be concerned? Or will he pass it out with his stool?

Depending on the type of gum he finds; your dog can become very ill after eating some. Any chewing gum can be a choking hazard, but sugar-free chewing gums containing xylitol — a sugar-alcohol — which can cause hypoglycaemia or liver damage.

Hypoglycaemia, or decreased blood sugar, can occur when your dog eats more than 70 milligrams of xylitol per kg of body weight. Liver damage occurs if your dog eats more than 500 milligrams per kg. That may make it seem like Fido would need to eat a lot, but a stick of sugar-free gum can have up to 0.4 gram of xylitol in it. If Fido is a small dog, less than two sticks of gum could trigger hypoglycaemia.

If your dog eats enough gum, you may notice signs of hypoglycaemia develop quickly. A dog’s body, unlike other mammals,’ produces insulin in the presence of xylitol. You may notice your dog stumbling, falling over, having seizures, or go into a coma. Immediate treatment is necessary to prevent further complications.

Scientists haven’t been able to determine why liver damage occurs. It can take more than 12 hours to notice signs of liver failure, including yellow or icteric gums, or depression. Your veterinarian can run blood tests to evaluate your dog’s liver enzyme values, which may indicate dysfunction. Decreased platelets and elevated phosphorus levels may be found in testing. Not every dog that develops low blood sugar will develop liver damage, and not every dog with liver damage previously showed signs of hypoglycaemia.


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