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Why Do Dogs Kick Their Legs When You Scratch Their Bellies?

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Every dog seems to have one—that special spot on his belly or flank that, when scratched, sends his back leg kicking like crazy. It’s odd and amusing, especially because some dogs seems to be as confused by it as their owners are. What’s going on?

Not much more than a response called the “scratch reflex.” If you run your hand over a spot of your dog's skin that’s irritated, or scratch too hard or too lightly, you’re actually being counter productive and creating an itching sensation. Nerves running through the chest and abdomen register your friendly touch as irritation, and the dog’s leg reflexively leaps into action, often haphazardly, to try and scratch the itch.

Aside from being a great way to get a laugh at your pooch’s expense, the scratch reflex is a useful diagnostic tool. Veterinarians use it to test for spinal or nerve problems the same way they tap on human knees with that little hammer. If a dog doesn’t kick at all in response to a thorough belly scratch, the vet has reason to look further into possible nerve damage.

If you’ve got a question you want me to tackle, email me at askmatt@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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