Dogs & Cats: Common Myths

As with any profession and aspects of life, there always seem to be myths and misconceptions that have been told. Perhaps at one time, the message or question was different and over time have changed and altered, like playing "Telephone". We thought we would touch on a few of these for you, and perhaps more in the future.

You don't say....common myths and misconceptions about Dogs & Cats

My dog must be healthy, his nose is wet. My dog must be sick, his nose is warm and dry.

A wet or dry nose does not necessarily signify anything abnormal. If your dog has a dry nose, it might just mean he has a dry nose. Perhaps he was sleeping and just woke up?

If your dog has a wet nose, it could be she just has a wet nose. Perhaps she just had a drink? Perhaps she was drooling and licking her nose?

When your dog's nose condition becomes significant is when there is a change from the normal condition of your dog's nose. Did it suddenly become swollen? Red? Irritated? Flaky? Was there Discharge? Focus on any changes in your dog which could be an indication something is wrong.

Can my dog tell what colour shirt I am wearing?

Depends on which dog you are asking! Dogs do have the ability to distinguish some colours, just not as well as humans. The fact is that different breeds of dogs tend to see different colours. Dogs don't just use colour as an indication of the environment, brightness, movement and contrast also help a dog see the world around them. Bottom line, it's probably best not to let your dog co-ordinate your outfit, especially if you are going to a business meeting.

I need to bath my dog often, it makes her smell nice. This should be fine, right?

Bathing frequently can cause dry skin and dandruff. If you are bathing your dog, you should be using a shampoo specifically for dogs, a human shampoo can irritate your dog's skin. Ideally, keep washings to a minimum or what is recommended by your veterinarian (for some breeds, every 6 weeks or so is ok, for others, once or twice yearly!)

Again, watch out for changes, if you suddenly find yourself in a dry-skin dandruff blizzard, it may warrant a call to your vet.

My dog cut himself and is licking at it. I don't need to bring him to the vet, as dogs heal themselves by licking their wounds.

To a certain extent, a small amount of licking can help clean a wound. That being said, moderate or excessive licking will actually inhibit healing and slow down the process. It can even cause more damage and invite bacteria in for an infection party. Also keep in mind that licking can turn into a bad habit, so even after the wound is treated and healed, the licking may be hard to stop. If your dog has a wound that they are paying close attention to, it's best to give your veterinarian a call to discuss recommendations.

My dog chews bones/hard food/sticks. I don't need to worry about his teeth. Besides, brushing my dogs teeth seems silly. And do I really need to brush my cats teeth too!?

There is nothing silly about rotten teeth, especially when you get a wiff of your pets breath! Bad breath is not the only reason for brushing your pet's teeth. Eating regular hard food (kibble), chewing on sticks or bones will not likely have any positive effect on your pet's teeth. In fact, chewing sticks and bones can be dangerous. It could lead to fractured teeth, requiring extractions, or foreign bodies (where they get lodged in your pet's gastrointestinal tract) requiring surgical removal. Many cats can develop "cavities" which can be painful, so if you're no stranger to your cat's teeth, it may be easier for you to recognize a change in their mouth and have them treated promptly.

Dental health is an area that has a vast effect on the overall health of your pet and we could go on and on about the various health aspects of it. However, we will save that for another blog. Brushing your pets teeth can help make your dog more pleasant to cuddle, and help prevent an array of serious health problems down the road. Take a moment to imagine the condition of your mouth if you did not brush for 2 days? A week? A month? A year? Ew!

My dog/cat has been eating a lot of grass, does this mean he is sick?

There are several theories as to why this happens, but really the answer is "there is no answer". There are no proven reasons, however, research suggests an interesting possibility: they may just like to eat grass! So if your pet enjoys the occasional grass snack, don't panic. If it is accompanied by any other changes, such as vomiting, lethargy, not eating regular food or the grass-eating becomes excessive then we recommend to give your veterinarian a call.

My dog/cat has worms. I heard to just put garlic in their food and it will get rid of them.

Oh boy! The short answer is no way. The long answer is that aside from making your dog think you are his personal gourmet chef, putting garlic in his food will not get rid of intestinal parasites. In fact, garlic can be toxic to pets and cause health complications with their red blood cells leading to a condition called hemolytic anemia (in other words, their red blood cells just burst). So not only do we still have intestinal parasites, but also a potentially serious blood disorder. Keep in mind that some intestinal parasites are transmittable to people. However with people, the parasites become "confused" and end up in other organs and locations such as the brain, eyes, liver, and under the skin. So skip the garlic for your pet, your pet will not miss it! If you suspect your pet has worms, please give your animal hospital a call to discuss treatment.

I've heard that cats are immune to rabies. Is this true?

This is definitely not true, cats can certainly contract rabies. Don't expect that they will go crazy and hold your family hostage in some desolate, remote location, like the dog from the movie Cujo. However, rabies is a zoonotic disease (meaning it can be transmitted from animals to people) and a reportable disease (to Health Canada). Not only can rabies be spread by raccoons and skunks, but by bats as well. This means that even primarily indoor cats are at risk. In the end, your cat should be vaccinated against rabies. It is such a serious disease that the law requires all cats and dogs to be up to date on their rabies vaccination.

My wife is pregnant and says she cannot be in contact with our cat, is this true?

The concern with pregnant women and cats is regarding a parasite that cats can harbor called Toxoplasmosis. Expectant mothers don't have to run for the hills to avoid their cats and can continue to interact and love them but it's the litter box that will become a no-no. Toxoplasmosis is spread through feces and litter. So we're sorry to say, but this means our future dads will have to be in charge of the litter box for the duration of the pregnancy!

If I shaved off my cat's whiskers, will she lose her sense of balance?

It's hard to imagine where this myth came about but it is certainly not true. Cats use their whiskers as "feelers", not to maintain balance. You may also be able to tell your cats mood based on the positions of their whiskers. Whatever you do, don't pull on a cat's whisker; whiskers are deep-rooted into the skin and nerve endings are abundant. Ouch! So if your cat has her whiskers shaved off, don't worry, they will grow back and she will be perfectly balanced.

Should my cat/kitten have both water and milk?

When you think of kittens or cats, the idea of them quietly lapping milk from a saucer springs to mind. And that's how the world is supposed to be, right? Unfortunately, no. The truth is, milk packs a lot of punch for such a small animal. Many cats can get diarrhea and intestinal upset from drinking milk and the added fat can quickly add to an obesity problem. The best thing you can give your cat is fresh water and a high-quality, well-balanced diet. Save the milk for your cereal.

**Information and inspiration from Hills Pet Nutrition**

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