Pets 2014: Ask the Vet

Local veterinarians answer some of your questions.

Why do dogs and cats eat grass? 

Most pets occasionally eat some kind of plant material. Most probably just think it tastes great! Studies show that eating grass is not usually associated with illness in dogs and cats, but is probably a trait inherited from their wild ancestors. Some pets may vomit if they eat too much grass or if they have sensitive stomachs. Any grass-eating dogs and cats should be kept away from chemically treated lawns and toxic plants. Owners always ask if grass causes their pets to throw up. Some animals are already feeling ill, eat grass, and then vomit. This does not mean that the grass caused the nausea and vomiting, but the vomiting itself should be addressed with a veterinarian to determine the cause.

Dr. Kelley Cole Stanko
Underhill Animal Hospital

What causes tear staining in dogs and can it be treated? 

Tear  staining can be frustrating and not cosmetically pleasing, especially in  light-colored dogs. Normal tears are a rust color from porphyrin pigments,  which contain iron; they will overflow and run down the face because of  excessive tear formation or abnormal drainage. Causes could include corneal  ulceration, eyelash disorders or blocked nasolacrimal ducts. However, if no  source is found, then the staining may be difficult to treat. Some  over-the-counter products contain low doses of antibiotics that may decrease  the amount of porphyrin pigments. However, oral antibiotics should not be used  for extended periods due to possible development of bacteria resistance.  Excessive tearing usually is not associated with bacteria or yeast infections  unless problems develop from excessively wet skin. Bottom line: The face area  should be kept clean and dry. And keeping the hair short around the eyes is  also beneficial.  

Dr. Daniel Priehs
Animal Eye Associates, Maitland

Should a pet owner hand-feed a baby bird?

Generally people should not try to hand feed a pet baby bird until it is out of the nest. This will occur between 10 and 16 weeks depending on the species. After that, babies should be partially eating on their own and can be hand fed while transitioning to a pelleted diet with fruits, vegetables and some nuts. It is very important for babies to have maternal care and contact early in life to mature mentally and identify as birds, not humans. If babies are fed by humans from the egg, they don’t imprint on their own species and have a hard time adjusting as they age. Yes the layman can hand feed during the weaning process, but they need to know the risks involved, which include aspiration, damage to the bird’s crop, and infection. Hand feeding during the weaning process also helps baby birds become comfortable with humans. 

Dr. Robert Hess Jr.
Winter Park Veterinary Hospital

What is ringworm and can I catch it from my pet?

Ringworm (dermatophytosis) is a skin disease caused by a fungus, not a worm. It can affect cats, dogs, other animals and people. Long ago, it was thought that a parasite (worm) was responsible, but it is now known that ringworm is caused by a type of fungi called dermatophytes, which infect tissues containing keratin. Keratin is a protein produced by skin cells, and the outermost layer of skin cells contains keratin. Hair and claws/nails are also made of keratin. Therefore, ringworm is a contagious fungal infection that can affect the skin, hair and claws. People can become infected with any of the three most common types of ringworm from contact with infected pets, and pets can become infected from people as well.

Dr David Vilallonga
Animal Hospital at Baldwin Park

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