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Why Does My Pet Do That?

Ever wonder, “Why does my pet do that?”

Don't just shrug off his behavior. Veterinarian E'lise Christensen says he might be tipping you off that he's sick. Even a cute little action like tilting his head could be a sign of something more.

"A lot of dogs actually tilt their heads when they hear an interesting noise,” Christensen said. “But if you notice your dog doing that persistently or if he's doing it and scratching his head, you might want to get that checked out because that can be a clinical sign of an ear infection, a problem with the brain, a problem with balance, etc."

Click here to watch a video of Christensen discussing “What Your Pet is Telling You”

If your pet is chewing on his paws, you should also pay attention. "Really when we are thinking about that type of behavior, we’re thinking about what could be going on with this dog’s skin,” Christensen said. “He could have an infection in his nail beds, could he have been stepping in something that made his paws uncomfortable?" Christensen said.

And don't leave cats out. Christensen said when cats urinate outside the box it could be a sign of something serious.

"There are a lot of different reasons why cats might do that,” she said. “First of all, you need to take your cat to the veterinarian to see that there is no urinary track infection, urinary stones, problem with the kidneys, different types of endocrine problems, diabetes. There are all sorts of medical issues that can cause a cat to do that."

But there are odd animal movements that are simply benign, like scooting. "Dogs have what are called anal glands and they are on their back ends and they can actually get impacted and filled up and be uncomfortable and sometimes you will see these guys scooting along the floor to try to relieve some of that discomfort." Christensen said.

And while eating stool may be nauseating to humans, it is normal behavior for dogs.

“I think this is very surprising for most people because, to us, it’s just disgusting,” she said. “But it’s normal, especially in female dogs, because mother dogs eat the feces of their young to keep their nest clean."

What about eating grass?

"It turns out that eating grass is a pretty normal dog behavior,” Christensen said. “Some dogs do it when they are not feeling well, but for the most part healthy dogs without any signs of illness or even any vomiting eat grass especially when they are young."

Christensen cautioned that pets naturally try to hide their symptoms as a defense mechanism, so owners should be on the look out. Here are some common symptoms suffered by pets that are not feeling well:

— Diarrhea

— Unexplained or sudden weight loss

— Significant loss of appetite or increased appetite

— Vomiting

— Pawing at ears or shaking head

— Lumps on body

— Significant fur loss (not just shedding, which is normal); dull, patchy coat

— Persistent sneezing or coughing

— Abnormal discharge from the eyes or nose

— Stiffness or weakness in any joints; pet moves with difficulty

— Straining to urinate or defecate. Inability to urinate is an emergency, get your pet to the vet immediately