Vet tips: Jan. 18, 2013 |
Mace Dekker, DVM
Special to The Union

Vet tips: Jan. 18, 2013

Editors Note: Grass Valley Veterinariay Hospital's Mace Dekker, DVM will answer questions regarding pets each month in the Vet Tips. Have a question? Submit it to, attention Dr. Dekker.

Why does my pet scoot?

Most of the time it is because of an anal gland problem.

Dogs (and cats) have glands next to their anus that are meant for giving off scent. These anal glands are normally expressed when they defecate.

However, sometimes they become over-full, and become irritating to the pet. This in turn causes them to drag their bottom on the ground, trying to relieve the irritation. Sometimes these glands can become so large that they become infected, and rupture to the outside causing an abscess to form – if your pet is dragging its backside across the floor you could offer toilet paper, but more likely it needs to be seen to have its anal glands emptied.

I see a common lump in dogs, and occasionally in cats. Should I always have every lump checked by my vet?

This is a more challenging question, because it's easy to get it wrong. Often lumps that we see on our pets (most often dogs) are benign, and do not need further attention.

Sometimes, however, what may seem benign can be more sinister and need urgent attention.

In dogs the most common lump we see is called a lipoma, or 'fatty tumor.' These lumps are abnormal growth of fat cells under the skin, which almost all of the time stay local and do not invade other organs. Think of them as 'love handles' for your happy Lab. They feel 'squishy' and can become very large, and may need to be removed because they get in the way of normal movement.

In cats lumps are much less common. As a result they are more of a concern to us. Most often they are the beginnings of an abscess (if they go outside) from getting into a heated discussion with another cat in the neighborhood.

A guideline is that if you find a lump that is changing rapidly, or has a strange texture or feel to it, it needs to be checked.

This can often be a quick sample of cells that can be evaluated under the microscope to see if there's something to worry about. Otherwise it can probably wait until your pet's next checkup.

Why do pets eat food that doesn't seem fit for them at times?

Dogs (and sometimes cats) have the knack of finding the darndest things to eat sometimes. A possible reason for this is that they are by nature hunters.

As a hunter they want to mask their scent, and if they smell strongly of something other than themselves they can approach prey more easily without being smelled. This also the reason why they will roll in dead things on the road.

When I look at my couch potato boxer, however, I suspect that she gets into the garbage/ cat litter/ dead stuff in the woods for the same reason I eat fast food and chocolate – it smells good and it seems like a good idea at the time, even if it isn't good for me.