By popular demand, I will finally answer my sister's oddball veterinary questions from last week's post on the subject of "strange things pet owners want to know but are scared to ask their vet." So many of you commented or e-mailed me with your pressing need to KNOW, that I cannot possibly refuse. Even my mother wants an answer to the saliva viscosity thing.

So here goes:

1. What makes dog saliva so slippery? It’s amazing when Madison drools while waiting for food. The intensely thick and slick puddle can take a person down — no banana peel needed.

I think I've also overheard that it's the world's best natural lubricant. Truly, however, I have no answer, other than to note that cat saliva is also incredibly viscous. Maybe someone else out there knows...?

2. Why does Madison like to stare into my eyes and hold eye contact (not when he wants food or something)? I understand why Morgan (the wild one) doesn't like to make eye contact, but what does Maddie's stare mean?

I will have to ask a behaviorist (or twelve) to get a better handle on this one but here's what I suspect: Dog domestication has evolved patchily over the last eon or so. Greater domestication is accompanied by behavioral traits that include the very human (and much less dog-like) eye contact thing.

Extended eye contact among dogs is verboten unless you want to spar, but domesticated dogs have come to associate eye contact with humans as a way to get things from us. Wilder dogs (like Morgan) would never deign to beg in this way but happy dogs like Maddie fall all over themselves to get your attenshun* any way they can.

3. Why do dogs' pads sometimes smell like evergreen meets rosin? And other times like corn chips?

Knowing your dogs I'd say it depends on the season, the hiking terrain and moisture levels. Got moist feet? Then maybe you've got yeast growing there; that can kind of smell like corn chips.

Hiking among the evergreens? Voilà.

4. What is the purpose of a dewclaw?

Vestigial; which means it no longer has a purpose. It is in the process of being evolutionarily rejected, which is why so many purebred and sporting dog owners want them lopped off.

5. Why does Morgan poop every morning like clockwork and Madison is not as regular?

Why does my receptionist constantly complain of constipation in spite of an Activia habit, and my acupuncturist not-so-subtly tut-tut that my elimination habits are more frequent than most?

Get over it! As long as everything that goes in comes out and no impact on health results … who the frick cares?

6. Why do they say dogs can't go into restaurants for health reasons — what health reasons?

They lie. Or rather … they are ignorant. They excuse the feverish sneezes of a human child in the table at the front of the restaurant as "cute" while a dog’s under-the-table snores are regarded as "the devil's music." (I’m making stuff up now.)

Honestly, I think most restaurants are more worried about dog bites and liability insurance than they are about any health risks. That or they truly are as stupid as all get-out.

7. Why do some dogs have hair in their ears (Morgan) and some don't (Madison)?

Arctic vs. non-Arctic breeds, mostly. Dogs who must survive in cold climes are more likely to have hairy ears. That's an easy one. Next...?

8. Did yoga develop from watching dogs? They totally do a downward dog thing.

Yes. Yogis obviously engage in bio-thievery. They totally stole the pose from dogs.

9. Why does a dog have a nose slit right in the middle of its nose as opposed to two holes like us?

Not sure I get your meaning. Especially since YOU have a perfect nose with a teensy divot in the middle just like your dogs. I'm not jealous or anything … I'm just saying.

10. If a dog's tail hangs over its anus why doesn't it ever get really dirty?

I'm not sure which way to go with this one but I think I'll err on the side of biology:

Dogs have a lot more natural oils on their fur than we do on our human hairs. These oils repel the mucosal exterior of most dog stool. But that's not universally true. By virtue of their hairy genetics, some dogs have finer, longer, less oily hair (think Maltese). That's what a groomer's "sanitary clip" was invented for: clean tails.


How did I do?

Dr. Patty Khuly

*Intenshunal misspell

Pic of the day: "Do you want a treat?" by Matthew Field