Why Does My Dog…?

why does my dog

At ZippiVet, we get asked the same questions by dog owners every day. You wouldn’t believe how many times we hear, “Why does my dog…” As dog behavior experts, we’re always glad to help!

Why does my dog have whiskers?

Whiskers, the long, coarse hairs protruding from a dog’s muzzle, jaw and above its eyes are filled with nerves that send sensory messages to a dog’s brain. A dog’s whiskers serve as receptors for important information about the size, shape and speed of nearby objects. This helps dogs “see” objects more clearly, even in the dark. Being able to feel vibrations in the air also helps dogs sense approaching dangers.

Why does my dog howl?

Howling is another way dogs communicate, along with barking and shrieking. Dogs howl for a few key reasons:

1) For attention

2) To alert their owner to danger

3) To make contact and acknowledge other dogs

4) In response to high pitched noises or sounds.

Why does my dog eat grass?

There are several theories for why dogs eat grass. Dogs don’t actually have the means to digest grass. They lack the enzymes needed to break down the fibers and it has little to no nutritional value. One reason for eating grass may be due to a feeling of nausea. It is possible that dogs learn this is a temporary solution for stomach irritation. Grass eating is a common behavior of normal, healthy dogs. If your dog seems sick or vomits more than occasionally (whether associated with grass eating or not), you should see a veterinarian.

Why does my dog lick?

Dogs lick their owners, other dogs, and themselves for a variety of reasons ranging from love and submission to a possible medical condition. Some of the more common reasons your dog might be offering up canine kisses include:

1) You taste delicious. As gross as it sounds, sweaty, salty skin can be intriguing to dogs, who often explore the world with their mouths and are comforted by the scent of their owners.

2) You inadvertently reward the behavior. Once licked consider your own behavior –  Did you reach down and pet or scratch your dog? Offer the dog food? Say something to them, even like “Stop licking me, would you.” These are all forms of positive reinforcement.

3) When a dog licks, it releases endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), which adds to the reward.

4) Your dog might be licking to show submission, especially while licking another dog’s muzzle.

5) Dog’s skin allergies or some anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder come out in licking. If you notice your dog obsessively licking themselves, a person, or an object (i.e. bed sheets), see a veterinarian, who may recommend medical treatment or a consultation with a behavior specialist.

Why does my dog pant?

With our many hot days in Austin, local dogs are typically panting to try to cool down. Pugs or Bulldogs with short snouts naturally pant more than other breeds, There may be other causes for panting in dogs, including:

1) When dogs are excited or are engaging in heavy exercise (like running or playing fetch) they will pant, much like a human can become out of breath after a vigorous run.

2) Dogs do not sweat like humans do so they pant to keep themselves cool. If it’s very hot outside or if the dog is dehydrated, it can be much harder for them to breathe, thus they will pant heavily to cool down. Read more about heatstroke in our blog.

3) When a dog is in pain they may pant excessively, especially if what they have just experienced is traumatizing.

4) In older dogs in particular, panting is a sign of other ailments. Signs of heart failure, lung tumors, and even choking in a dog will include heavy panting, breathing difficulty, and coughing. Read more about caring for senior dogs in our blog.

5) A dog that has eaten something poisonous may pant, as well as drool, vomit, or become lethargic. See your vet immediately to treat poisoning.

Why does my dog eat poop?

Coprophagia (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh) is the scientific name for this nasty habit. There are both behavioral and physiologic reasons why some dogs view dung as a delicacy. Mostly it is about exploring their world and common among puppies, who typically drop the habit at about nine months of age. It is, however, a normal, natural behavior at some canine life stages. Mother dogs will lick their puppies to urge them to eliminate, and clean their feces for about the first three weeks. Dogs’ eating their own poop is harmless, but consuming that of other animals may cause health problems if the stool is contaminated with parasites, viruses, or toxins. We discuss parasites, including those that spread to people and how to treat them in-depth in a recent blog.


At ZippiVet, no questions are considered silly. Helping you to care for your dog is our top priority. Our Pet Wellness Exams offer plenty of time to get all of your nagging questions answered too. ZippiVet makes it easy to schedule an appointment in North Austin or our new location in South Austin.


Free Ways To Save Your Furniture From Cats

cat enrichment

It’s a known fact that cats are natural hunters and like to be active. Cats typically do not run or fetch as much as dogs, but a busy cat is a happy cat. Bored cats can get into your stuff, scratch up your furniture and just generally cause a big mess. To keep your cat healthy, keep it entertained and out of trouble when it’s home alone.

Why Do Cats Need Enrichment and Stimulation?

By nature, cats have finely-tuned senses and agile bodies:

  • A cat’s ears can move independently and hear sounds that a human’s cannot.
  • They have binocular vision and the ability to see in what we think of as total darkness.
  • Cats can detect odors that people never smell.
  • Healthy cats can jump five-to-seven times their own height and can often be seen walking on their tiptoes to be both stealth and speedy.

Indoor cats were not meant to be sedentary and eat mountains of food. Cats were born to move. They crave entertainment (and most do not enjoy movies, TV and live music like their human companions). Remember, cats are hunters and even the laziest housecat won’t lose those natural instincts.

Bad Things Can Happen When Cats are Bored and Home Alone

A boring environment can contribute to problems such as destructive behavior (e.g. scratching the furniture and/or eating plants), intercat aggression, anxiety and even depression in cats.

When they are under-stimulated, cats may develop a number of stress-relieving behaviors:

  • Chewing inappropriate items
  • Picking on companion pets
  • Retreating into isolation
  • Overeating or losing their appetite.

What Can You Do to Entertain a Cat?

Fortunately for cat owners, it’s pretty easy and cheap to keep a cat stimulated. You’ve probably got plenty of free cat enrichment toys laying around the house.

Boxes you already have handy:

  • Empty boxes are beloved by cats: from shoe boxes up to larger shipping boxes, let them explore, hide in and sleep in them.
  • Cut holes into empty pizza boxes and insert cat treats in to make a fun toy.

Paper items:

  • Scrap paper or aluminum foil can be made into a ball the size of a golf ball. Some cats enjoy chasing and putting these balls into various boxes to play with. Try putting one in a dry bathtub to chase around.
  • Cats like paper grocery bags. Leave one or two open on the floor, and they’ll have fun searching them and running in and out to investigate and hide in. (Remember to remove the handles so your cat doesn’t get caught in them. Don’t use plastic grocery bags, they are a suffocation hazard.)
  • Paper towel rolls, even with some paper left on them can keep your cat from getting into trouble.

Plastic playthings:

  • Plastic tubs and milk crates give your cat both a jungle gym and a retreat spot.
  • Balls made of plastic like ping-pong balls and practice golf balls are entertaining for cats.
  • Save the plastic milk caps for your cat to bat around as well.

Scratching posts and pads:

  • Carpet remnants are an inexpensive way to keep your cat from clawing up furniture. Place remnants near the furniture they target and sprinkle a little catnip on the carpet to ensure your cat’s attention.

Items that aren’t safe for cats include the following:

  • String, yarn, ribbon and dental floss.
  • Paper clips.
  • Pins and needles.
  • Rubber bands.
  • Plastic bags and those from the dry cleaner.

During the the long, hot days of summer, keep your cat well entertained, safe and hydrated with a bowl of fresh water at all times. Use a cat feeder if you will be gone for many hours. We make it easy to schedule an appointment to be sure your cat is ready to enjoy an Austin summer!

Read Your Cat’s Mind: Why Is My Cat Meowing?

why is my cat meowing

Cats are mysterious creatures. One of the chief delights of having a cat is watching it find new ways to be silly and weird. Kitties can also be very vocal. Chances are, you’ve heard your cat being quite noisy and wondered, “Why is my cat meowing?” There are lots of reasons for why cats meow. Some cats are chatty kitties and may meow for anything from hunger to simply saying hello, while other felines may be more the strong, silent type – but it’s important to pay attention to these seemingly random noises as meows can tell you a lot about your cat’s health. 

Though the reason your cat may be meowing can vary greatly, it’s important to know that when cats do meow it’s to communicate with YOU. While dogs are pack animals who depend on communication to interact with each other, cats are solitary animals and developed vocalizing largely to communicate with humans (when they do meow at other cats it’s usually to avert them). So what are they saying? Here are a few reasons your cat may be meowing.

Illness or pain

If you notice your cat’s meows suddenly becoming more frequent, louder or at unusual times, they could be signaling to you that they are hurt. Cats can be very good at hiding the fact that they are sick and meowing may be their way alerting you that they aren’t feeling well.  Observe your cat closely for additional signs of illness including loss of appetite, lethargy, withdrawal or hiding and change in temperament.


As your furry feline ages, you may notice that they are becoming disoriented or having trouble with their eyesight or hearing. This can cause your cat to meow loudly when they are confused, frustrated or just plain lost.


Cats do not deal well with change and anything from moving to a new house, introducing a new pet or family member to the household, or even just moving around the furniture can cause some cats to be stressed out. Increased meowing may be a sign of just how displeased they are with the situation. Make sure to try to relieve their anxiety as much as possible by carefully introducing them to any new members or ensuring their comfort with familiar objects.


If you happen to be late to dinner time, your kitten may be ready and waiting at the food bowls with a chorus of meows to chide you. Like many animals, your cat thrives on routine and if you aren’t feeding them at the same time expect an angry kitten. Make sure you are feeding your cat plenty of food for their weight and activity level and maintaining a routine.

Just chatting

Sometimes you may just have a chatty cat. Whether they are saying hello or responding to you when you talk to them, some cats just love a good meow.

If you feel that your cat is meowing excessively from illness, pain or troubles with age make an appointment with ZippiVet immediately. Meowing from pain could alert your vet to a variety of problems – from thyroid and kidney illnesses to teeth or mouth issues. The vets and vet techs at ZippiVet will be able give your cat a full check up and provide solutions to any health issues as well as provide recommendations for aging and stress issues. 

Your Pet’s Fear Of Thunderstorms And Fireworks–How To Help

Ah, the sounds of summer are in the air with 4th of July fireworks and thunderstorms! These loud noises can make some pets anxious and stressed–not understanding that they are actually safe. If your four-legged friend suffers from this type of fear, keep reading. Our tips can help your pet feel less stressed from his or her firework and thunderstorm anxiety.

Noise phobias are more common in dogs, but cats can also demonstrate signs of fear or anxiety related to noise. To help your pet this summer – and prepare for the Fourth of July – follow our guide to managing your pet’s fear of thunderstorms and fireworks. Continue…