Arlington Pet Hospital, PLLC 
East Memphis Pet Hospital




   Dr. Davis, Dr. Bean Allen, Dr. Laros-Beard, Dr. Hezel, Dr. Rahm & Dr. Fenton

 Arlington (901) 317-4412    East Memphis (901) 317-4414


Home : Pet Health Center : FAQs : 


Q: Why do dogs chase their tails?

A: Dogs chase their tails for a number of reasons, some physical and some behavioral. A dog may chase his tail if he is itchy, has fleas, or is having anal gland problems. Some dogs receive positive reinforcement for tail chasing from their humans and may repeat the process to get attention. (Most dogs love to make people laugh.) In extreme cases, a dog may chase his tail so frequently that it's considered a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. One theory is that tail chasing is a way to alleviate stress if the dog is feeling unsure about a situation. Unfortunately, dogs who bite and snap at their tails can actually injure them. These dogs often exhibit other compulsive behaviors such as flank or paw licking. In severe cases, anti-anxiety medications are used to treat problem tail-chasing behaviors.

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Q: How can I tell if my pet has fleas?


A: To check for fleas, look at the warmest parts of your pet, such as the underside where the back legs meet the body. Even if you don't find an actual flea, you may find evidence, such as eggs or "flea dirt." Fleas live off the blood of your pet and flea dirt is the partially digested blood they excrete.

It's easy to tell flea dirt from regular dirt. Just put some on a flat surface and add a drop of water. If the dirt turns red, you know it is flea dirt. Another thing you may or may not find is flea eggs, which are white and about the size of a grain of sand.

To deal with a flea problem, you absolutely must treat every pet in your household. You need to treat the pets, the house, and the yard at the same time. If you don't, the fleas just relocate.

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Q: Why do cats purr?

A: A purring cat is generally a happy cat. The cat purrs both when she inhales and when she exhales. One theory as to why cats purr is that the mother cat's purring is a physical sensation that the kittens can feel to help them find mom so they can nurse. Although cats can't meow with their mouths closed, a kitten or cat can purr with her mouth closed, so the kitten can purr and nurse at the same time.

 Not all purrs are happy purrs, however. Some cats purr when they are injured or dying. Other cats purr when they are afraid or distressed. Deep purrs may indicate that your kitty is in pain. Sometimes cats also purr when they are anticipating something good, such as food.

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Q: What is heartworm?

A: A worm called Dirofilaria immitis causes heartworm disease. Part of the worm's life cycle involves living in a mosquito. The infective larvae of the worm are injected into the animal when an infected mosquito bites the dog or cat. Heartworm is most common in tropical areas where the most mosquitoes live, but it is present in almost all areas of the United States and parts of Canada. If you've seen mosquitoes, you should ask about heartworm preventatives.

Although both cats and dogs can get heartworm, it's most common in dogs. The worm lives in the blood vessels of the infected animal so heartworm is diagnosed using a blood-screening test. Preventatives can be given monthly, daily, or as an injection that is done by once every 6 months. It is important to discuss the type of chemicals that are contained in the pills or injection because certain breeds of dogs react to certain types of heartworm medications.

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Q: My dog has bad breath. What can I do?

A: Most dogs have some degree of "doggie breath," which most people are used to living with. But bad breath can indicate serious illnesses such as diabetes and kidney disease, so if the smell seems especially nasty or different than usual, you should take your dog into the veterinarian for a check up.

The best thing you can do to help doggie breath is to keep your dog's teeth clean. Ideally, you should get his teeth cleaned professionally at least once a year by a veterinarian. Periodically, look at the teeth to see if there is tartar buildup on them.  If you start when the dog is a puppy, you may be able to train the dog to let you brush his teeth as well. Periodontal disease can lead to heart problems, so keeping your dog's teeth clean is about more than a shiny smile!

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Q: Why do my dog's ears smell?


A: Many dogs vomit when they are taken on rides in a car. Of course it helps to not feed the dog before hitting the road, however some dogs will vomit up anything that remains in his tummy almost as soon as he gets in the car. Rolling down a window partway can help so the dog can see and smell outside. It's also possible to condition your dog to become more accustomed to car rides. Behaviorists believe that most carsickness revolves around fear, so if you can get your dog used to traveling, by taking short trips, you can cure carsickness. Depending on the dog, this process may take a lot of short trips leading up to longer trips, before the dog reliably won't get sick.

If no amount of conditioning seems to work, you also can ask your veterinarian about giving your dog Dramamine before a journey

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Q: My cat won't use her litter box. Help!


A: "Inappropriate elimination" is not an uncommon problem in cats. Any time your cat exhibits a new behavior problem, you should rule out medical reasons first. These problems could be anything from urinary tract infections to kidney problems to thyroid diseases.

After medical problems are ruled out, it's time to look at behavioral reasons. For example, the cat may hate the litter box because you never clean it. Or if you have other pets that terrorize the cat, he may be afraid to visit the box. In that case, you need more than one box. A good rule of thumb is to have as many litter boxes as you do cats, plus one

If the cat is urinating on vertical surfaces, he may be spraying, not just relieving himself. In this case, get the cat spayed or neutered. Be sure to clean up all areas thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner. The cat will continue to use an area as a litter box if it smells like one to him.

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Q: At what age should pets be spayed or neutered?


A: For the most medical benefits, dogs and cats should be spayed or neutered before they reach sexual maturity, which is usually before they are six months old. Some veterinarians also will spay or neuter pets much earlier. Getting a dog or cat fixed anywhere from seven to 16 weeks of age is termed "early age spay/neuter" and is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In female dog and cats, spaying before the first heat cycle virtually eliminates the risk of mammary cancer. Every heat cycle increases the risk, and half of mammary cancers are malignant in dogs. Unspayed females also risk developing pyometra, a type of uterine infection, and of course, may suffer complications from pregnancy. Animals that come in with fractures, gunshot wounds, prostate problems, and testicular cancer are almost invariably unneutered males.

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Q: Why do my dog's ears smell?


A: He may have an ear infection, which is common, especially in floppy eared dogs. Many ear infections give off a particular peculiar odor. Ear infections often develop when moisture remains in the dog's ear. This environment is ideal for the bacteria and yeast to grow.

Some dogs are more likely to get chronic ear infections than others because of their breed or their activities. For example, floppy eared basset hounds and Labrador retrievers who like to swim often get ear infections. Dog also may be prone to infections because of health problems such as allergies, parasites, or a hormonal imbalance such as hypothyroidism. Some dogs that live in particularly humid environments also may be prone to infections.

Dogs with ear infections are generally prescribed antibiotics that are put in the dog's ear. To prevent recurrence, a drying agent may also be used to keep the moisture level down in the ear canal

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Q: Why is my dog scratching and chewing himself?


A: Dogs often scratch and bite themselves to the point of self-mutilation. This problem can stem from relatively common medical problems or psychological conditions. Allergies are a common reason dogs scratch and bite. Your dog could be allergic to food, fleas, or some element in his environment such as molds, dust, or grasses. Treating allergies can be a complex process and you should consult with your vet for specific advice. In general with allergies, you attempt to either avoid the allergen or manage the symptoms.

Hot spots or "acute moist dermatitis" are another problem that may cause intense itching. These red, inflamed areas are caused by a bacterial infection. Other skin infections, ear infections, or various parasites and mites can cause itching as well.

Some cases of self-mutilation actually are a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. For example, acral lick dermatitis is the term for a repetitive, compulsive licking disorder that leads to skin damage, infections, and lesions on the legs or feet.

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