In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka tells about the reasons why cats may eat grass and its effects
My dog has started drinking a lot of water recently. Should I be worried?
Generally, water intake will vary a little with diet. If dogs are fed wet food, they may drink less, while dogs that are fed dry food, or salty treats, must make up water intake and seem to drink more than expected. However, this water intake is still physiologically normal. If your dog is drinking excessively (polydipsia), it is possibly because he is losing excess amounts of water for any of a number of reasons. While a number of diseases result in excess water intake and urine output, the most common of these diseases include kidney failure, diabetes mellitus and Cushing’s disease.
An uncommon cause of dogs drinking more is called psychogenic polydipsia. It is a behavioural condition with a physical manifestation of excess thirst. Primary polydipsia is used to describe excessive water drinking that is not due to illness or psychosis: bored puppies or water loving breeds may tank up on water occasionally, or consistently. Sorting these out can be a real challenge for your veterinarian. The first, and most important, step in addressing excessive drinking is to diagnose and confirm the underlying condition with your veterinarian. Many of the conditions, associated with excess thirst, are very serious and must be addressed as soon as possible:
• Kidney disease.
• Diabetes mellitus.
• Hypercalcemia (high blood calcium).
• Pyometra (uterine infection in unspayed females).
My dog has started to chase cars and trucks. What should I do to stop this behaviour?
Training tips to help stop car-chasing:
1. First of all, never chase the dog, that only encourages him to run more.
2. Trying to lure your dog with a treat seldom works, either. The dog will generally snatch the treat and bolt again, before you have time to grab the collar.
3. Firmly call your dog in a tone that is not playful. This will get your dog’s attention almost immediately, as he recognises the name. He may not come to you right away, but getting his attention as quickly as possible is a key first step in the right direction.
4. Start at home, with your dog on a lead. Keep commands simple using single words. Throw toys for him, and immediately command him to “leave”, or call him to you. If your dog does not respond, you can enforce your command with a firm tug on the lead. Practice this routine until he responds properly. It is very important during training to offer a reward every time he responds quickly and correctly. It is just as important to make it clear, by a firm tug on the lead, that he has not responded correctly or fast enough every time he fails to listen. It may seem like your dog is never going to get it right, but patience and consistency will reward you and your dog.
5. Next get a friend to run, cycle or drive past you and your dog. Practice commanding your dog to “stop” or “leave” if he attempts to chase. Continue to practice until your dog no longer chases, or stops, 100% of the time when given a simple voice command. Always reward the correct behaviour and never reward failure to adhere instantly to your command.
6. Sometimes dogs chase cars because they have pent up energy. Try to take your dog for a walk whenever you get the opportunity, to help squelch that need to run and burn off energy. When walking your dog, make sure he is always on a leash, no exceptions. When beyond the boundaries of your home, a dog should know that certain behaviour is required; a leash helps the dog learn control.
7. Get your dog to chase you. Dogs love to play with their owners, and this will give both of you great exercise and yet another opportunity to burn off energy, and bond.
What NOT to DO
Do not expose your dog to moving traffic, or physically beat him.
Do not purposely let your dog take off after a car and then allow him to hit the end of a long line at a dead run. This could cause severe damage to your dog’s neck and vertebrae.
Do not attempt to frighten your dog off chasing cars by intentionally “bumping” him with a car, or throwing something out of the car window at him. You could end up seriously injuring or killing your own dog.
Whenever my dog sees dirt he starts eating it. What should I do?
The reason for him/ her eating dirt can be:
Bad Food: Your dog’s dirt eating could actually be a search for minerals, vitamins or even good probiotic bacteria, that he isn’t getting in his diet.
Chronic Health Concerns: That search for vitamins and minerals could also be a sign that your dog has a medical condition, like inflammatory bowel disease or hypothyroidism.
A less serious cause is simply that your dog is going after something tasty, like chicken or hamburger grease under a grill.
Behaviour Issues: Humans exhibit strange habits out of stress and boredom — hair twirling, knuckle cracking, overeating, etc. Same goes for our pets, who are designed to be active and outdoors, and who don’t always get all the stimulation they require.
To control this behaviour
1. Make sure your dog has adequate physical exercise every single day. Dogs that are well exercised are more relaxed and they get into far less trouble.
2. Consider training. Training gives a dog something to think about, and sometimes reduces behaviour problems.
3. If you catch your dog getting ready to eat dirt, stop the chain of behaviour by replacing it with something that’s acceptable for him or her to chew, or a non-compatible activity, like running and playing ball.
4. Keep a variety of acceptable and safe chew toys around that your dog can easily find. There are several interactive toy options where you can hide a treat, and your dog might enjoy working towards that goal.
5. Control the environment. If there is no dirt, she can’t eat it. If the dirt eating is coming from one small area, consider covering it to discourage the dog from eating the soil.
Additionally, talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of deworming. Gastrointestinal parasitism may be a cause, or an effect, of dirt eating.
Why is my cat eating grass? And what should I do?
Cats eat grass due to a variety of reasons:
To supplement their diet: Grass juice contains folic acid, a vitamin that supports cats’ growth and helps increase oxygen levels in their blood. If your cat is grazing, it may be because he or she is battling a dietary deficiency and is in search of this vitamin boost.
For natural laxative benefits: Eating grass helps your cat have regular bowel movements, something that’s especially important for digestive tracts sometimes clogged by fur. While broad grasses seem to have a laxative effect, narrow grasses are suspected to help a cat settle an upset stomach.
It relieves an upset stomach: You may notice that your cat vomits shortly after eating grass — he or she is actually doing this on purpose. Cats don’t have the necessary enzymes to digest a large amount of grass, which is why it can make them sick. But in the process of throwing up, your cat also clears his stomach of fur, feathers, parasites or bones, which can irritate the digestive tract, or even cause more lasting illness.
Not only is there no evidence to suggest that grass will harm your cat, but many experts theorise munching on those long green blades can be beneficial for your cat. Cats regurgitate when they eat grass, because they lack the necessary enzymes to break down vegetable matter.