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The information provided on the show is for general information purposes only. If you have a health problem, medical emergency, or a general health question, you should contact a physician or other qualified health care provider for consultation, diagnosis and/or treatment. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-diagnosis or treatment based on anything you have seen on the show.

If you have a pet, you know very well that gross or awkward situations occur fairly regularly with our furry friends.When they do, it can be even more embarrassing figuring out what’s wrong, and so Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, a chief veterinarian with over a decade of experience in emergency medicine, joined us at The Social to answer all the questions you were too nervous to ask. Having treated thousands of sick and injured furry patients, she’s got all the answers – and nothing is off-limits.

Read her advice below, and be sure to watch the video above for even more tips from Dr. Greenstein!

EAR INFECTIONS

If you have a dog with an ear infection that just never seems to go away, you’re not alone. These patients represent the third most common reason behind a trip to the vet behind dental and obesity issues. According to the Banfield 2019 State of Pet Health Report, outer ear infections make up 16 out of every 100 vet visits, and this number is on the rise. Even though they can cause pets a lot of grief, think of yeast ear infections as a symptom – they arise secondary to something else, which is why we think of ear infections as stemming from a combination of factors.

It surprises most owners that ear infections are often a manifestation of underlying allergies. These allergies can be to food, the environment, the season, among other things. This is why your vet may discuss switching diets to help manage this constant problem. Ear drops may help a little to control the overgrowth of yeast that naturally lives in the ears and on the skin, but if the underlying cause isn’t identified and targeted, it will be hard to keep this problem truly under control.

STINKY EARS

Airflow and floppy ears create a warm, humid environment and conformation of the ear is a risk factor for odor and infections. Although no dog’s ears smell like roses, if the odor is more than just bad, it may be a symptom of an ear infection, A.K.A Otitis Externa. This can manifest as a strong, often yeast-like odor, excessive scratching, head shaking, redness or discharge from the ears. If you’re unsure whether a funky smell has crossed the line into an early ear infection, go to your vet and have an ear exam done. From there, they’ll be able to detect if there are any abnormal growths in the ears, inflammation, and an ear swab to check for yeast cells, signs of infection, or nasty bacteria requiring ear drops to treat.

DOGS HUMPING PEOPLE

Assume this behaviour has nothing to do with hormones – which is the most common scenario – your veterinarian will want to know if it coincided with any other anxiety-based behaviors or if there were any other changes in the home that could be considered stressful for the dog. These can include a new baby, new pet, new guests, change in routine, and less exercise. If it’s the occasional humping, it’s not a concern – however, depending on the size and persistence, this could be a behavior worth changing. Identify any other triggers for the behavior in addition to getting closer to the ground; it helps to video the scenario to also watch the owners’ reaction to the behavior which might be accidentally making it worse.

Using a leash and head halter, vets first try to avoid a stimulating situation like crouching and make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and environmental enrichment as an outlet. They can try to prevent the behavior by teaching him to sit, making sure he’s calm when the owners try to kneel briefly and rewarding him with treats for non-mounting.

If vets notice arousal levels increasing, they will try to redirect the behavior by stopping play or crating and letting him displace the feelings by giving him a distraction like a toy and rewarding him for socially appropriate behavior. If you’re getting frustrated, or the humping is increasing in frequency or intensity, or he’s starting to show aggression, such as growling, ask your vet for advice or a referral to a board-certified veterinary behavioral specialist.

LICKING PLASTIC

There are a number of theories when it comes to why some cats are obsessed with plastic. For starters, it’s like sensory overload! Vets and researchers have offered many explanations that center around the sound, smell, and taste, but they’re not entirely sure. Some types of plastic bags contain chemicals related to stearates, derived from animal fat and newer eco-friendly biodegradable bags are being made with derivatives of corn starch; they may be lured in by the smell or taste of these chemicals Also, grocery bags are a symphony of smells from foods that were carried inside, which likely adds to the appeal.

The crinkly sound and movements that drive people crazy may appeal to cats in that they could simulate small prey or remind them of an interactive toy. If the love of plastic becomes obsessive, talk to your vet about the potential that the behavior has escalated into a compulsion and your vet can help you with some ideas to get the plastic situation under control. Remember, licking or trying to ingest or bury their heads in plastics is beyond dangerous – risks range from intestinal blockage to suffocation! This isn’t a habit vets want to encourage.

CANINE ANAL GLANDS

Dogs and cats have two grape-sized glands (sacs, actually) on either side of their anus, which are essentially a type of scent gland. They produce a fishy-smelling liquid that adds a pet’s scent signature to their poop, which is part of the reason why pets spend such a weird amount of time sniffing each other’s butts. They are designed so that a small amount of that fluid gets released a little every time your pet poops or can come out in a burst in certain situations of increased pressure down there, like when they’re scared or excited. A certain amount of emptying is normal and what we want, and theoretically a very small amount should come out with most poops.

If you notice a constant excessive fishy anal gland smell, or more importantly if you notice ‘scooting’ behavior, which is rubbing or dragging their bums across the floor or ground, have your vet assess the situation and help express the glands with a rectal exam. In some cases, bulking up the stool with a higher fiber diet helps to get the secretions flowing as planned. However, added fiber alone may not be enough in cases where the fluid is super thick and gooey, if scar tissue exists from past impactions, or if an abscess is present. Note that a dog or cat’s anal glands don’t necessarily require regular expression at the vet’s office if they’re emptying normally and your pet isn’t showing any signs of blockage, infection or an abscess.

POOPS PER DAY

When it comes to poops, it’s not just about what’s normal it’s about what normal for your dog. The fecal output is related to age, life stage, size of dog, breed, feeding routines and especially, diet. Numerous medical conditions like colitis, infections, organ diseases, and cancer will impact poop as well. Vets expect healthy dogs to have at least one bowel movement per day, but three isn’t concerning – in fact, it’s quite common. Stool volume reflects the digestibility of a diet, and it is ideal for pets to be eating as digestible a diet as possible, making it a pretty fundamental measure of food quality. Digestibility means how much of the food and its nutrients and minerals are digested and absorbed into the body. The rest is just waste – poop.

Dogs on highly digestible diets have lower fecal volume, less gas, and less stinky poops. When evaluating your dog’s diet, vets like to see digestibility of well over 80%, but it’s crazy to note that food manufacturers are not required to put this on their label and some won’t share it with owners. If they can’t answer that question, it might be time to talk to your vet about a more suitable higher quality appropriate diet.

BAD GAS

While dog farts are never going to smell daisy-fresh, we can think of them in a similar way to poops, because they are often a rough indicator of digestive health. If your dog’s gas is next level and he’s otherwise healthy, we would want to take a closer look at his diet. Similar to poop quality, the more digestible a diet is, the less flatulence we would expect. Diets higher in certain kinds of fiber can be associated with gas as well, but it shouldn’t be nuclear.

If you’re concerned or notice other signs of digestive upset like diarrhea, loss or appetite, or vomiting, your vet may want to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical concern that’s contributing.

ADOPTION INFORMATION:

If you’re interested in adopting Jon Snow, Myrcella and/or Daenerys or want to see all of the animals currently available for adoption, visit the Ontario SPCA website at ontariospca.ca.

Tackling pet obesity one treat at a time