Animal Myths Exploded

Dogs

  1. Dogs should have a litter before they are spayed. This is not true. Dogs that have a litter before they are spayed are not better for it in any way. In fact, spayed dogs are at lower risk for breast cancer and uterine infections such as pyometra.
  2. Dogs are sick when their noses are warm. The temperature of a dogs nose does not indicate health or illness or if they have a fever. There is an “old wives tale” that cold wet noses indicate health. And warm or dry noses indicate a fever or illness. The only accurate method to access a dog’s temperature is to take it with a thermometer. Normal dog temperature is 38 – 39.2 degrees Celsius.
  3. Mutts are always healthier than purebred dogs. This is not true. Both mutts and purebred dogs can be unhealthy and there is no scientific evidence to suggest that a purebred dog has a weaker immune system than a mixed breed dog. However, genetic diseases are sometimes more common in purebred dogs, as they have a more limited gene pool from which they are produced.
  4. All dogs like to be petted on their heads. This is sometimes perceived as a threat by the dog. Rule of thumb, never pat a dog before asking the owner first.
  5. Happy dogs wag their tails. Yes and no. Aggressive dogs wag their tails too. Facial expressions of dogs are very important, as is body language. Refer to the rule of thumb above!
  6. Only unsterilised male dogs will “hump”. This is not true. ‘Humping’ (what a terrible term!) is more of a sign of dominance than anything else and female dogs are just as likely to try to dominate another dog or a human as male dogs. It certainly is not a sign of affection!
  7. Bones are good for dogs. We cut far too many bones from the intestines of dogs to believe this to be true. Rule of thumb, give a dog a bone and take it away from the dog after 24 hours and throw it in the bin. Don’t let the dog start eating the bone itself, only the grisly bits on the exterior. Pigs ears and rawhide bones are great alternatives as they will soften in the gut if swallowed. Some table scraps such as bones and pieces of fat can be dangerous to some pets. They may not digest the bones and the fat may cause gastrointestinal problems such as pancreatitis.
  8. Garlic prevents fleas. Garlic has not been proven to be helpful for flea control. Large amounts of garlic can even be harmful, as it belongs to the same family as onions (which causes anaemia in dogs).
  9. Household “pet dogs” don’t need to be trained. This is not true. Every dog should be trained.
  10. Dogs eat grass when they are sick. Dogs descended from wild wolves and foxes that ate all parts of their “kill.” This included the stomach contents of many animals that ate berries and grass. Many scientists believe grass was once part of their normal diet and eating small amounts is normal.
  11. Dogs put on weight after they are sterilised. This is certainly untrue. Dogs are mostly sterilised when they are younger. This myth may have been borne from the fact that dogs put on weight as they get older (don’t we all!) due to a slowing metabolism, an increase in food and less exercise.
  12. Licking is healing. It is natural for a dog to lick its wound but this not necessarily always “healing.” Too much licking can actually prohibit healing.
  13. Dogs will let you know when they are sick. This is not true. Dogs generally are very good at hiding that they are sick by survival instinct, thus not to appear vulnerable to “prey.” Often by the time they show you that they are sick, their disease or condition is quite advanced.
  14. Dogs that are mostly indoors don’t need heartworm prevention. This is not true. Indoor pets are also at risk for heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes which can come inside.
  15. Dogs eat rocks, lick concrete or eat their or another animals stools because of nutrient imbalances. No one knows why dogs eat “stuff” that they shouldn’t eat. Some veterinarians believe that some dogs that eat “things” may be trying to get attention or acting out of boredom. It is important for dogs to eat a well balanced diet that will fulfil their dietary and nutrient requirements.
  16. Bones will clean a dog’s teeth. It seems odd to many people that you should have to clean your dog’s teeth. The old myth that dogs clean their teeth by eating bones  just doesn’t hold true. How clean would your teeth be if you only relied on what you ate to clean them? I think mine would feel pretty darn furry after a couple of days!
  17. Bathing your dog too much will make them lose their natural skin oils.  Not true.  A dog should be bathed about once a week to keep it smelling nice and clean (well, what we humans consider nice and clean!!)
  18. Supermarket food is just as good for your dog as other, more expensive brands.  Supermarket foods are generally made with ingredients that are available and they are made to a price.  Premium foods (such as Eukanuba, Hills, Royal Canin and Advance) are made to a recipe.  Often the ‘Protein Source’ listed on some supermarket brands is keratin – that is, hair, hooves etc – not the muscle meat used in premium foods.  ‘Vegetable matter is generally the ‘left over’ bits also, such as the green part of the carrot tops, which have little or no nutritional value.  Often supermarket food is advertised at around $1 / kg and it makes me wonder what the manufacturers are putting in their for that price and still making a profit.  I suppose at the end of the day, as with most things, you get what you pay for!
  19. You should walk your dog every day.  Yes and no.  Certainly this is great for younger dogs.  Not only is it good physical exercise, it is also great for their mental health.  But as a dog gets older, often their mind says yes, but the body says no!  Short lead walks are great for older dogs – just remember that they can’t tell you when they are in pain.  After all, you wouldn’t expect your 80 year old grandma to go for a run on the beach every day!
  20. It is ok to give human medications to a dog.  Certainly not without the specific advise of a veterinarian.  Would you give your child medicine that was listed ‘strictly for animal use only’??  Ibuprofen (nurofen), for example, can kill a dog.

 

Cats

  1. Cats don’t get fleas.  They most certainly do!!  It has been said that ‘dogs scratch, cats groom’.  This means that cats remove parasites like fleas by licking them off as opposed to the vigorous scratching of a dog.  It is often hard to see fleas on cats because of their thick hair.
  2. Cats need to go outdoors.  People in many parts of the world never let their cat out side for the simple reason that it would die from the cold.  While we were living in California, our neighbours told us that they never let their cat outdoors because the coyotes would kill them.  So no, cats absolutely do not need to go outdoors.  Friends of ours have built a tremendous ‘cat walk’ from their laundry window that is fully enclosed.  This leads to a massive ‘cat avery’ that is built around a large tree.  This gives the cats a great mental boost and provides a fantastic talking point for their visitors (it actually looks very cool and I kind of want to climb around in it too!!)
  3. Cats can have cow’s milk. While a lot of cats love to drink cow’s milk, it’s not recommended. Many cats are lactose intolerant & giving them cow’s milk will result in them getting an upset tummy. This is especially dangerous in kittens who can dehydrate quickly. An adult cat doesn’t need to drink milk at all. If you must give your cat milk, it is recommended you purchase special “cat’s milk” which has been specifically formulated for cats to drink.
  4. Cats can only need to eat fish. It is perfectly fine to give your cat the occasional treat of fish, but it should not become a part of their regular diet. Feeding too much fish can lead to Yellow Fat Disease (steatitis), caused by Vitamin E deficiency. Cats require taurine in their diet & fish doesn’t provide this in sufficient amounts.
  5. My cat will get fat & lazy if it is sterilised. This is incorrect. As with dogs (see above) cats put on weight after sterilisation due to getting older, exercising less, their metabolism slowing and eating more.  By desexing your cat, you are preventing it from contributing to the very serious over population of kittens & cats. Entire male cats run the risk of testicular cancer, abscesses caused by fighting, being hit by a car while roaming, FIV (Feline Aids) & FeLV. Entire female cats have a greater risk of breast cancer & can develop pyometra (infection of the uterus).
  6. My female cat should have one litter before she is spayed. Not at all, in fact it is better to have her spayed before 6 months of age to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
  7. Cats must be 6 months before they can be desexed. With modern anaesthetics, cats can now be safely desexed as young as 8 weeks of age..
  8. Cats always land on their feet. Do cats always land on their feet? Well…it depends, if the cat falls a very short distance from the ground it doesn’t have enough time to right itself. A cat will be seriously injured & quite possibly killed if it falls from a great height. There is a new term coined by American veterinarians called “high rise syndrome”. Due to the ever increasing human population, high rise apartments are becoming more the norm & vets are seeing many cats who have been injured falling out of high rise apartments.
  9. Declawing won’t hurt my cat. Declawing is more than simply removing the cat’s claws, the last bone on the cat’s claw is amputated. This is an excruciatingly painful procedure & one which not all cats will fully recover from. Many declawed cats are surrendered to shelters because of behavioural problems they developed after being declawed including biting & refusal to use their litter tray. Cats by nature walk on their toes, so after they’ve been declawed, walking often becomes extremely painful to them. If you are worried about your cat scratching the furniture (or your family) you can try trimming your cat’s claws or you could put Soft Paws on it.
  10. Can I feed my cat dog food? Feeding your cat dog food is extremely dangerous. Dog food is missing essential the essential nutrients taurine & arachidonic acid. Taurine deficiency can lead to blindness & arachidonic acid can lead to dry, scaly skin. Cats require a higher protein & fat content in their diet.
  11. Cat fur causes allergies. The primary cause of allergic reactions to cats is caused by allergens found in the cat sebaceous glands in the cat’s skin, such as the allergenic glycoprotein called Fel D1(short for “Felis domesticus”), it is also secreted via saliva in lesser quantities. When cats lick themselves, they spread this protein, which is rather sticky, and glues itself onto dust particles, the home, your clothing and their fur; whether it’s long, short, straight, curly, or absent. As all cats have sebaceous glands, all cat breeds can potentially cause allergies. Allergic allergens are also found in the faeces, serum, urine, mucous, dander, and hair roots of the cat. Written by Tonia Marsh of Allarren Cattery.
  12. A cat purrs because it’s happy. Well yes, cats do purr when they’re happy but they will sometimes purr when they are in pain. Cats have been known to purr when they are giving birth & they will sometimes purr when they are dying. Purring is more an expression of an emotion than an expression of happiness.
  13. Cats will not mate with their siblings/parents/offspring. Cats do not share the same taboos about incest as humans do. If left entire, closely related cats including brother & sister, parent to offspring will mate. It is advisable to desex your cats before 6 months to prevent this from happening.
  14. All calico (tortoiseshell) cats are female. No, while the vast majority of calico cats are female, there is the occasional male. However, virtually all of these males are sterile. the calico colour is sex linked. For a cat to be calico it must have two X chromosomes ergo the cat is female. In rare instances however a male calico will be produced. This usually happens because the cat has an extra chromosome. So, instead of him being XY, he is XXY. These cats are known as Kleinfelter males. Approximately 1-3,000 calico’s are male & out of those only 1-10,000 are fertile.
  15. Calico males are worth a lot of money. While it is true that calico males are rare, they are not valuable in financial terms.
  16. All orange cats are male. No, it is possible to have an orange female. Unlike the orange male, who only needs one copy of the O gene to produce an orange coat, the female requires the O to be on both chromosomes. If she has only one O, the resulting coat colour will be calico.
  17. If you no longer want your pet cat, it is OK to release it into the wild because cats can fend for themselves.. It’s a shame I am even having to reply to this myth, but sadly there are still some people who tire of their pet cat & leave the cat outdoors, justifying their behaviour by telling themselves that cats can fend for themselves. This is NOT the case. Pet cats who find themselves turfed out will most likely die of either starvation, injuries caused by fights with other animals, disease or be hit by a car. If you no longer want your cat then do the right thing & either find it a new home or take it to a shelter.
  18. All male cats spray. Not all male cats spray. Entire male cats are much more likely to spray than desexed ones, which is another good reason to desex your cats. Female cats (especially entire ones) can also spray, although it’s less common for an entire female to spray than an entire male.
  19. You can’t turn an indoor/outdoor cat into an indoor only cat. Yes you can, and my cats are a great example of this. They were all indoor/outdoor but reverted to indoor only (with access to an outdoor enclosure) with very little difficulty. It is easy to do as long as you ensure the cat(s) have enough mental stimulation.
  20. Cats are independent & the ideal pet for somebody with a busy lifestyle. This is entirely dependant on the individual cat. Some cats are more independent than others but generally. ALL cats need some companionship. If you lead a busy lifestyle & spend long hours working it is advisable you have two cats, so they can keep each other company while you are out.
  21. Cats smother babies. While extremely rare it can happen. I have heard of two cases, one resulting in a fatality, the other resulting in a near miss. [1] However, there are several cases of parents accidentally smothering babies in their sleep. Care should always be taken to ensure a cat does not have access to a sleeping baby.
  22. Devon Rexes, Cornish Rexes & Sphyx’s are hypoallergenic. In truth, a rex cat is no different from any other cat and produces allergen like all other cats. They are not hypoallergenic by any means, as claimed by some. Then why do some people seem to have no allergic reaction to rex cats? There is no simple answer to this question at this time, and more research is required to get the answers needed. One possible hypothesis is that as rex cats have less hair to shed, they simply deposit less allergen-laced hair around the home. But, whatever the reasons some allergic people seem to tolerate them. From personal studies and observations by Margaret Lawrence in the UK, she found that around 10% of people allergic to cats tolerate rex cats. Please, before you race out and look for a rex cat, remember you should always test your allergies by visiting home or catteries that only own rex cats, and test continuously over several weeks or months. As you don’t want the poor little kitten to be re-homed if you find out you are allergic to him or her. Don’t let your new cat become another statistic at a shelter. Written by Tonia Marsh of Allarren Cattery
  23. Indoor cats cannot get diseases/parasites. Many viral/bacterial infections are airborne & can be carried into your house through the air or on a person’s clothing. Fleas & other parasites can also be brought in via a person’s clothing.
  24. Pregnant women shouldn’t own cats. If a woman hasn’t had prior exposure to Toxoplasmosis & becomes infected during pregnancy, it can harm her unborn baby. Cats are the natural host for Toxoplasmosis, however Toxoplasmosis can also be acquired from eating undercooked meat, improperly washed vegetables or gardening. I was tested for Toxoplasmosis throughout my recent pregnancy & remained negative even though I was living with 9 cats, one of whom had tested positive for Toxoplasmosis. Pregnant women should take precautions such as avoiding cleaning the litter tray, ensuring their meat is thoroughly cooked, washing vegetables properly & wearing gloves while gardening. There is no need to get rid of your cat just because you’re pregnant.
  25. Putting bells on a cat’s collar will stop it catching mice & birds. This theory has been around for hundreds of years. I used to put bells on my cat’s collars, in fact Eliot, who was my best hunter had three bells on her collar at one point & it did absolutely nothing to stop her catching the wildlife. In fact, there is new research to indicate that cats who have had bells put on their collars are better at catching prey. This is because they learn to move without the bell making a sound & therefore they are stealthier. For further information on putting bells on cat’s collars, read this article. Cats Indoors.
  26. All cats hate water. Most cats hate water but not all. Turkish Van’s are known to be fond of water & enjoy swimming. My Bengal also likes to play with water, although I can’t imagine him ever wanting to go swimming in it. I’ve known of other Bengal cats who enjoy playing with water also.
  27. Siamese cats are mean. This myth came about in part from the movie The Lady & the Tramp where the Siamese cat is portrayed in less than a glowing light. In my opinion, temperament is a result of genetics & socialisation. If a cat is raised in a loving environment, the chances are they will grow up into well adjusted & loving pets. If the myth were true that Siamese cats are mean, I’m sure they wouldn’t be one of the world’s most popular breeds of cat.