Jon Klingborg

The DiVot Code

      While conducting some ‘field research’ for my latest article, I was fortunate to stumble upon a secret society that knows the answer to one of the world’s most perplexing mysteries.  For years, The Knights Fescue have closely guarded the truth, but they let me into the inner circle and now I can finally explain “Why do dogs eat grass?”

     Insisting that we meet on his turf, the Chief of The Knights Fescue gave me directions to his hidden fortress—the Temple of Sod.  It was located in the old, seedy side of town.  The Chief Knight was dressed in green and wore a ceremonial blade around his waist.

            When I asked why dogs eat grass?, the Knight answered, “Because they don’t have thumbs.”  He went on to explain that dogs understand their world based on how it feels in their mouth. Dogs test everything for pressure, taste, and texture. Since they can’t pick things up with their paws, everything ends up in the mouth!

            “But some dogs will chew on grass to make themselves sick.  Why is that?”

            The Knight leaned forward and spoke in hushed tones.  “That’s not exactly true,” he said.  “Dogs can actually throw up any time they want.  It’s as easy as wagging their tail.”  I couldn’t believe it!

            “Really,” he continued, “they can control the muscle up and down their esophagus—so when they want to throw up—they just do it.”

            “Yet, all dog owners have seen their pet eat some grass and then become sick.”

            The Knight germinated on this for a moment.  “Yes, we have to weed out the fact from the fiction. Some dogs will eat grass to try and settle their stomach.  This is a lot like a person who will eat a few crackers to curb nausea.”

            “Why do so many dogs have upset stomachs?”

            “Usually, it’s because they ate too quickly or too much. Sometimes, it’s because they ate some people food or cat food!”  I liked this Knight . . . he was down-to-earth.

            “Is there a special nutrient in grass that helps settle the stomach?”

            “No, grass is about 80 percent water and about 20 percent fiber. It doesn’t have much nutritional value—particularly when you only have one stomach!  Dogs and people digest their food the same way—when is the last time you saw a person eating hay?”

            “Are dogs eating grass out of some instinctive need for more fiber or vitamins in their diet?”

            “Ha ha,” he laughed, “you do have a fertile imagination.  No, dogs can’t sense the nutrients in grass any more than you crave bran muffins when you’re constipated. Or do you?”  Though his piercing look could have mowed me over, the cutting edge answers were beginning to grow on me.

            The Knight continued, “Let me plant this idea--- when it comes to eating grass, dogs are pretty simple. If the grass smells good, has a nice texture, or tastes good, then they are going to eat it.  Dogs eat grass for the same reasons that people chew gum—it gives them something to do. ”

            A bell chimed in the Temple of Sod and I knew that our interview was at an end.  Without another word, the Knight Fescue jumped on his riding lawn mower and puttered away.

           

           

            

Wanda Weaver is one of my most interesting clients

    Wanda Weaver is one of my most peculiar clients. Last week, she charged into the clinic with her three dogs—Stinky, Scruffy, and Itchy.

    “Doctor, please help my dogs with their shedding, it’s just terrible.”     

    I looked at her half-bald dogs and nodded in agreement.  “Even though most dogs will lose their summer coat this time of year, it looks like your dogs may have a health problem.”

    “That’s what I was thinking.  Last year wasn’t this bad.” 

    I remembered things differently—last time I saw her dogs, they were completely bald.   “Actually, your dogs lost all of their hair last summer. We treated them for that.”

    “I know.  And I want them to lose all of their hair this year, too. Can’t you make them shed more?” asked Wanda.  

         Now, I was confused.  “Don’t you want them to stop shedding?,” I asked.             

     “No, I want them to lose their hair—all of it—I  weave blankets and couch covers out of dog hair and I need more raw materials!”

         “Oh,” I said, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice.  Wanda really did want her dogs to go bald. For an instant, I saw the world through Wanda’s eyes and worried about myself-- If you can understand a crazy person, does that make you crazy?

         Her dogs looked miserable, and I decided that I had to help them regain their hair coat, even if it meant upsetting Wanda.  

         Stinky was the first to be examined.  “He has red and oily skin and a dull, coarse hair coat,” I showed Wanda.

    “Stinky is always getting dirty, so I bathe him two or three times a week. The funny thing is that he smells even worse within a few days.”

    “What kind of shampoo do you use on him?”

    “I know that human shampoo is too drying for a dog’s skin, so I don’t use that.  Instead, I picked up something at the supermarket. The bottle said it was for dogs with sensitive skin.”

    “I’m afraid that Stinky has developed a skin infection and that is why he smells so bad.  The shampoo probably has soaps in it that are removing the natural oils that keep bacteria on his skin in balance.  Here’s a special medicated emollient shampoo that will restore the skin’s natural balance and then he will stop stinking.”

    She put Scruffy on the exam table.  “He is my most finicky dog and will only eat cheap dog food and table scraps.”  Scruffy was fat and had a lot of dandruff.  It is ironic that the ‘finicky’ dogs are always the fattest—he must be eating something to get that fat!

    “Scruffy’s diet lacks the fish oil and vitamins that he needs to have a healthy hair coat.  If you buy a better dog food, you’ll see improvement within a month.”  

    “What if he doesn’t eat it?”

    “In all my years, I’ve never seen a dog starve himself just because he didn’t like the menu—and I don’t think that Scruffy will be the first.”  Scruffy gave me a dirty look; his gravy train was over.

    Itchy had been quietly licking her paws while I examined the other dogs.  “She is always licking or scratching something,” said Wanda.  Since, Wanda purchased a good flea control product from the clinic, I knew that Itchy’s problem wasn’t related to flea bites.  

    After several questions and an exam, it appeared that Itchy had developed allergies.  The pattern of hair loss and the areas where she licked were the best clues.  I gave Itchy a treatment that was going to help her feel better and stop licking within a few days.

    Two months later, Wanda came in to show off her dogs. I barely recognized them, because they each were completely covered with shiny hair.

    “Doctor, look what you’ve done!” she said to me.  

    “Yes, I’m sorry Wanda, but I couldn’t let your dogs go bald, it just wasn’t healthy.”

    “I know that you’re responsible for their beautiful hair coats, but I’m not mad.”

    “You’re not?”

    “No, just think how nice next year’s crop of dog hair is going to be!”