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Dr. Fox: Could my dog have hairballs?
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Dr. Fox: Could my dog have hairballs?

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Dear Dr. Fox: My dog is 5 years old. He's a mini Australian Labradoodle (a mix of Labrador retriever, poodle, Australian water spaniel and cocker spaniel) and weighs about 21 pounds. He's at about the expected size for his breed, and he has a visible waist, so he isn't overweight.

If I don't watch him, my mostly sensible dog will occasionally eat grass and then throw it up later, in the house, of course. Could he be purging fur balls like cats do? My dog's hair is fluffy and needs cutting when it grows too long. We get him groomed about every four weeks.

I feed him raw, frozen-until-thawed sliders from Smallbatch, a couple of small cubes of Northwest Naturals Fruit and Veggie Nuggets, and some mashed pumpkin. I sprinkle a bit of ground supplements on most of his meals -- parsley, turmeric and some folic acid stuff. I often put a small dollop of coconut oil in his food.

He scratches a lot, wheezes occasionally in his sleep, and licks one paw a lot. That paw is discolored, but no broken skin. He sneezes, too, mostly in the early morning. So he has allergies, probably, or dry skin. Any advice? -- M.W., Ashland, Oregon

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Dear M.W.: It is normal for healthy dogs to eat some grass, and often throw it up soon after. As I have detailed in earlier columns, grass eating is one example of animals' instinctual self-medicating. Couch grass (Elymus repens) is most dogs' preference. For an interesting overview on its use in humans (mainly in extracts from the roots, which dogs do not normally consume), visit indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/couch-grass.

That said, compulsive eating of grass and other materials could indicate an underlying health issue such as inflammatory bowel disease, transient indigestion/food intolerance, especially to soy and gluten, or internal parasites. Worms in puppies can even trigger gastro-encephalitic seizures.

My dog often eats a few blades of couch grass and Goldenrod leaves. I like giving her 1 teaspoon (per 40 pounds body weight) of shredded, unsweetened, organic coconut in her food daily. This contains inulin, as does couch grass, which is soothing to the gut and may help promote healthy gut flora. I also give her 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt or kefir as a source of probiotics. I would advise the same for your dog.

Self-grooming cats do indeed accumulate trichobezoars (hairballs) in their digestive tracts, and must regurgitate them if not passed in their stools, but this is not the issue with your dog. A half-teaspoon of local bee pollen might reduce the paw-licking if it is allergy-related. Such bee pollen (or raw honey, for non-diabetic dogs) helps many canines with seasonal, non-food-related allergies.

My dog often eats a few blades of couch grass and Goldenrod leaves. I like giving her 1 teaspoon (per 40 pounds body weight) of shredded, unsweetened, organic coconut in her food daily. This contains inulin, as does couch grass, which is soothing to the gut and may help promote healthy gut flora. I also give her 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt or kefir as a source of probiotics. I would advise the same for your dog.

Self-grooming cats do indeed accumulate trichobezoars (hairballs) in their digestive tracts, and must regurgitate them if not passed in their stools, but this is not the issue with your dog. A half-teaspoon of local bee pollen might reduce the paw-licking if it is allergy-related. Such bee pollen (or raw honey, for non-diabetic dogs) helps many canines with seasonal, non-food-related allergies.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of

Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106

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