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Animal Doctor: It's natural for dogs and cats to eat grass

Animal Doctor: It's natural for dogs and cats to eat grass

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Dear Dr. Fox: My dog likes to eat grass, and sometimes she doesn't chew the grass very well. Long grass blades show up in her stool, and sometimes she throws it up. Is the reason for the grass-eating a vitamin deficiency? I feed her white rice, boneless chicken and various veggies (sweet potatoes, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash and carrots), plus a little cottage cheese or yogurt. When I got her, she had been eating grain-free Purina, but she also ate a lot of grass back then and threw it up. Her stool test came back negative for worms. — S.G., Osceola, Indiana

Dear S.G.: It is natural for dogs, and cats, to eat grass. For cats, I advise sprouting wheatgrass. Dogs should be allowed to eat a few blades of couch grass, also known as dog's grass. In traditional herbal medicine, people take couch grass root by mouth for constipation, cough, bladder inflammation, fever, high blood pressure and kidney stones. It is also used as a diuretic for water retention.

I have observed dogs and wolves eating couch grass leaves, which stimulate peristalsis — evacuation — and can also induce vomiting, often with the release of yellow bile. This may be natural gut-function, health-maintenance cleansing and may indicate some digestive or internal parasite problem.

Our dog especially likes to eat goldenrod leaves on our walks. This herb is used to reduce pain and swelling (inflammation), as a diuretic to increase urine flow and to stop muscle spasms. It is also used for gout, joint pain, arthritis, eczema and allergies. We may never know what heightened sensory awareness enables animals to select certain plants and soils to eat to make themselves feel better.

You were wise to have your dog checked for internal parasites because they and other irritable-gut and digestive issues could be a trigger to eat grass. In an otherwise healthy dog, I would put regular grass-eating down to health-maintenance behavior. But as a precaution, be sure there are some whole grains in the diet — switch from white rice to whole-grain rice, for instance — along with some digestive enzymes, such as 1 teaspoon of canned, crushed, no-sugar-added pineapple for a 30-pound dog.

DEAR READERS: The front-page article in July 30's Minnesota Star Tribune, "Routine vaccines may cut virus risk," cites a report from the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic that was not peer-reviewed. It stated that "vaccines for everything from influenza to measles may provide partial protection against COVID-19." I was relieved to read the precautionary note that "people who seek up-to-date vaccinations are simply healthier or more likely to follow public health guidelines that reduce their risks."

I was relieved because it has been found that some vaccinations may actually increase risk of coronavirus infection. A study by Dr. Greg Wolff published in January in the peer-reviewed journal Vaccine, entitled "Influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference among Department of Defense personnel during the 2017-2018 influenza season," reveals that influenza vaccination may increase the risk of infection from other respiratory viruses -- a phenomenon known as virus interference. While influenza vaccination offers protection against influenza, natural influenza infection may reduce the risk of noninfluenza respiratory viruses by providing temporary, nonspecific immunity against these viruses.

Dr. Wolff asserts, "On the other hand, recently published studies have described the phenomenon of vaccine-associated virus interference; that is, vaccinated individuals may be at increased risk for other respiratory viruses because they do not receive the nonspecific immunity associated with natural infection. Examining noninfluenza viruses specifically, the odds of both coronavirus and human metapneumovirus in vaccinated individuals were significantly higher when compared to unvaccinated individuals."

As a veterinarian with a doctoral degree in medical science, I am not an anti-vaccine proponent, but rather advocate that the precautionary principle be applied. We must recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic is anthropogenic, and calls for greater disease surveillance and prevention of diseases transmitted from animals.

Coincidentally, Rochester, Minnesota, is home to both the Mayo Clinic and the University of Rochester, where I gave a lecture several years ago on the public and environmental health consequences and inherent animal cruelty of agribusiness's animal farm factories. Prior to my lecture, the university's main bookstore had been told by "the powers that be," according to my apologetic graduate student host, not to carry any of my books.

Science loses its credibility when it serves vested interests, and the current anti-science political ethos in the U.S. seeks to silence the informed who speak truth to power.

** ** **

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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