Sun, Nov. 17

Myths, Old Wife’s Tales, and other Snope-like puzzlers

This month I was talking with one of my staff about preconceived notions that still seem to permeate animal care.

Some are funny, some are scary, and all points help to add to our awareness of these critters we have in out families.

1) Bones are good for dogs, that’s what they eat in the wild. FALSE in general.

Out in the wild, large wolves and coyotes eat bones, that much is true, however, these bones are NOT cooked, and therefore aren’t brittle.

A steak bone is brittle yet strong enough that when broken, the points easily perforate the intestine of carnivores as it travels through the digestive tract.

When a bone isn’t cooked it is softer and more malleable, this isn’t to say that there aren’t hazards of uncooked meat/bones. Salmonella and other bacteria are harbored within the bones and tendons; this can be toxic to our pets. I use the kneecap test for anything that my dog chews.

Simply put, if I wouldn’t hit myself in the knee with one of their toys, it doesn’t belong in their mouths, as teeth can fracture and abscess while chewing.

2) Female dogs and cats need to go through a heat, or have a litter before they are spayed, it makes their temperament better. FALSE entirely. If a dog or cat is spayed before their first heat, it decreases the incidence of breast cancer by 92+ percent. The breast cancers they get can be very nasty. If you have a pet, that is not going to be bred, have them spayed (ovariohysterectomy) early…it’s not worth later heartache, and their temperament doesn’t change.

3) Male dogs and cats don’t need to be neutered if they aren’t with a female. FALSE in general. This depends on individuals making an informed decision. True, an intact male away from females won’t add to the pet overpopulation. What most of us don’t realize is that a male cat or dog can smell a female in heat for a VERY long distance.

While testicular cancers, prostatic infections are a very real threat to the intact male dog, so is the roaming of the countryside. Most dogs and cats that are hit by car or involved in a fight are intact males.

The instinct to find that female they sense is so strong that they lose sight of ‘personal’ safety. Again, if the male is not going to be used for breeding the health benefits of neutering are astronomical.

Oh, and by the way, neutering does not make a male a wimp, if they were going to be protective of what is theirs, they still are after being neutered!

4) Putting rat poison in a confined area away from my pets is safe. FALSE Many rats gorge on twenty times the lethal dose of these poisons before they start to show signs. If your dog or cat find these rodents, kill and eat them, they will get the poison second hand.

5) Grapes are toxic to dogs and cats. TRUE Although it seems strange, and the toxic principle is unknown, it has been proven that grapes and raisins will cause kidney failure and death in dogs and cats. Never assume that what is safe for a human is safe for an animal.

6) Some sweeteners aren’t safe for animals. TRUE This one is scary to me, as people start to look at their weight gains, sugar free and calorie free food items are hitting the market big time. Those diet cookies and gum that contain Xylitol also contain death.

For some reason in dogs especially, there is a paradoxical reaction, causing the blood sugar to drop to life threatening levels. Afterwards liver failure occurs, then death.

7) Swiffer cleaners cause liver failure and death FALSE There is no toxin in these cleaning tools. As with all cleaners, the chance for skin reaction, obstruction by eating the cloth, or mouth inflammation is possible. Keeping the pets away from wet surfaces, and not allowing them to chew on the fabric are the most important thoughts.

8) All feather plucking in parrots is due to hormones. FALSE This is ironic to me. It has been proven that Macaws and other parrots are actually allergic to Cockatoo dander. So if your Blue and Gold is itchy, check to see who else lives in the house.

9) Aromatherapy is toxic to birds. TRUE and FALSE There was a time where everything that had an odor was considered toxic to birds whose respiratory system is way different than a mammals. What is absolutely true is that any bird exposed to tobacco smoke has a huge increase in breathing difficulties and cancers. There are some products that are safe for them, each one needs to be considered with the help of your veterinarian.

10) Hard food helps keep the teeth clean. FALSE This is akin to anyone of us eating something to keep our teeth cleaned, it isn’t going to work. Most of us brush our teeth twice daily, and floss to keep the gums and tooth surfaces healthy. There is much more to chipping off tartar with a fingernail to dental health. Just like humans, dogs and cats have an extensive tooth root system. What is seen on the surface is the tip of the iceberg.

All the infection under the surface affects the animals’ heart, kidneys, liver and other organs. A dog that is 10 years old and has never had a dental, is like one of us venturing to the dentist for the first time in our 40s.

So these are a few facts and fictions in the veterinary world, this is also just the tip of the iceberg. I would invite everyone to submit any possible myths you have grown up with and I would love to take them and write about them month by month!

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