Health myths busted!

Although pet parents are becoming more and more educated about their pets’ health, care, management and behaviour, many still believe some of the common myths that veterinarians have been trying to debunk for years. Following are some of those myths and the actual facts.

Myth: Mutts are always healthier than purebred dogs.
Fact: Both mutts and purebred dogs can be either healthy or unhealthy. However, mutts generally do not have many of the genetic diseases that may be common in purebred lines.
Myth: Dogs usually get worms when fed on milk.
Fact: Dogs do not get worms from drinking milk. But they will often get diarrhoea because many of them lose lactase, an enzyme essential for the digestion of milk, around the age of 6-8 weeks. Young animals often are infested with worms because of direct contamination by their mother during pregnancy or through maternal milk and unhygienic environment. This is why it’s important to treat both mothers and their litters for worms.
Myth: Dogs are sick when their noses are warm or dry.
Fact: A warm nose does not indicate health or illness. There is a ‘myth’ that cold wet noses indicate good health and that warm or dry noses indicate a fever or illness. The only accurate method to assess a dog’s temperature is by using thermometers i.e., indicating a fever or illness. Normal dog temperature is between 100.5-102.5oF.
Dogs have wet noses because some of their tear glands empty into their noses. A dry nose does not necessarily indicate a sick dog. If your dog’s dry nose is not inflamed or infected especially if he is eating and playing normally, then everything should be fine.
Myth: Dogs eat grass when they are sick.
Fact: As dogs are naturally predators and have descended from wild wolves and foxes who used to eat their entire ‘kill’ including the stomach contents of many animals who ate berries and grass. Many scientists believe grass was once part of dog’s normal diet and eating small amounts of grass is normal.

Myth: Sea bath gets rid of ticks and fleas.Fact: Sea salt can kill adult fleas but it cannot kill larva. Also, it cannot eliminate fleas from your home or yard. If your dog has fleas, consult your vet for a holistic treatment.Myth: Dogs with scabies are also carrying rabies.Fact: Perhaps not a common myth, but I have quite a fair amount of clients in the past 10 years who tell me this as fact. I suppose it is because both diseases sound similar. Ignorance is bliss! –Dr Jenny Viegas, Goa

Myth: Dogs will let you know when they are sick.
Fact: 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.
Myth: Dogs who are mostly indoors don’t need heartworm prevention.
Fact: This is not true. Indoor pets are also at risk for heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes, which can come inside.
Myth: Garlic prevents fleas in dogs.
Fact: Fleas are not bothered by garlic or any other plant. If your dog needs flea treatment, consult your vet.
Myth: Dogs eat rocks, lick concrete or eat their or another animals stools because of nutrient imbalances.
Fact: No one knows why dogs eat ‘stuff’ that they should not eat. Some veterinarians believe that some dogs who 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 and have plenty of opportunities for play and exercise.
Myth: Dogs don’t need to be housebroken – they naturally know where to go. If they make a mess in the house, they should be punished.
Fact: You need to train your dog on where to go. This preferably happens when started at a young age and gives dog positive encouragement for jobs well done, rather than punishment when by find a mess after the fact. Punishment does not serve any useful purpose, and will only make dog nervous.
Myth: Household ‘pet dogs’ don’t need to be trained.
Fact: Every dog is required to be trained.
Myth: Happy dogs wag their tails.
Fact: This may be true but both happy and aggressive dogs often wag their tails. There are several physical body motions and cues that help dogs communicate their intent. A dog who wags his tail slowly and moves his entire rear end or crouches down in the classic “play bow” position is usually demonstrating a friendly wag. While, tails that are wagged when held higher, tails that “twitch” or a wagging tail held over the back may be associated with aggression.
Myth: Licking is healing.
Fact: It is natural for a dog to lick his wound but this not necessarily always ‘healing’. Too much licking can actually prohibit healing process due to regular irritation by licking. Since dogs routinely lick their anus and other objects that are laden with bacteria, licking can also deposit infectious bacteria on and into the wounds, thus potentially causing a serious infection.

Myth: Pets become fat and lazy after being spayed or neutered. In any case we don’t need to neuter males because they aren’t the ones having the litters. It’s better to allow your female to have one litter before she is spayed. Fact: The only changes in behaviour you’ll see are positive ones. Male dogs tend to reduce their territorial spraying and marking depending upon the age at which they are neutered. If neutered young enough, before they develop thehabit of spraying and marking, they may never develop the behaviour. Neutered male dogs fight less, prevent diseases and wander less. If your pet shows signs of putting on a little weight, reduce the calories and increase the walks or play sessions. Spaying your female dog at a young age prevents uterine infections like pyometra, which can be fatal. Infections of the uterus are a major cause of illness in unspayed pets. In fact, spayed and neutered animals live longer, happier, healthier lives.–Dr Kunal, Max Vets Dogs and Cats Hospital, New Delhi

Myth: Dogs like tasty food.
Fact: Dogs eat primarily on the basis of sense of smell as they have very poor taste buds.
Myth: Table scraps are good for dogs.
Fact: Some table scraps such as bones and pieces of fat can be dangerous to some pets. Dogs may not digest the bones and the fat may cause gastrointestinal problems such as pancreatitis, while chunks of bone can obstruct the intestines. Cooked bones are brittle and when they are chewed they can break up into sharp fragments that can pierce the intestines, which can cause a life-threatening emergency.
Myth: Dogs see in black and white.
Fact: Dogs do not see in black and white due to dichromatic vision; they can only see a part of the range of colours that are in visible spectrum. It’s believed that dogs are able to see various shades of yellow and blue since they have cones which detect these wavelengths of light. They have colour vision similar to red/green colour blind people. They only possess two of the three types of core (colour sensing cells in the retina): blue, green and yellow (often called red). Dogs only have blue and yellow and the yellow core detects yellow and red. When the yellow gets stimulated it signals either yellow or red, the yellow when mixed with signals from the blue receptors will detect green. Therefore dogs cannot detect the difference between red and green.
Myth: Dogs age seven years for every human year.
Fact: Unfortunately, it’s not very accurate because dogs mature much more quickly than humans do. Dogs have shorter childhoods and longer adulthoods. A more accurate formula would be: 10 and 1/2 dog years for the first two years, then four dog years per year thereafter. However, this formula does not take the dog’s size into consideration. We know that small dogs tend to live longer than large dogs, as much as twice as long. One way to handle the influence of size on a dog’s aging is to change the multiplication factor used once a dog is past two years old.
For small to medium sized dogs, multiply by four, for large dogs, multiply by six and for giant breeds, multiply by eight.
Myth: All dogs like to be petted on their heads.
Fact: Some dogs do like to be petted on their heads but many do not.
Myth: Dogs who scoot their anal areas on the ground have worms.
Fact: It may be true in some cases but not always. While dogs infected with tapeworms or other intestinal worm may scoot on the ground, most such pets have overly full or inflamed anal sacs. Anal sacs are structures located near the dog’s anus that produce a foul scent. Sometimes the ducts of these sacs close up causing a build up of material that causes itching and burning. In an attempt to relieve this discomfort, the dog scoots his anal area along the ground.
Myth: If a medication is all natural or homeopathic, it must be safe enough for my pet.
Fact: Herbal and natural remedies have the same concerns that regular medications have; they can become toxic if given in incorrect doses, given to a particular species which cannot tolerate the medication, or given along with another medication with which it may cause reactions. Pet parents should always check with their veterinarian before adding any type of medication to their pet’s regular diet, even if the product claims to be safe and nontoxic.
Myth: Only certain breeds of dogs will bite or attack people and a dog who attacks livestock or other animals is always a danger to people as well.
Fact: Any age, breed, sex and size of dog may bite. Some dogs or breeds of dogs may be more likely to bite than others if not socialised, trained and controlled properly. Pedigree dogs will bite for the same reasons as cross breeds and as often. Not all dogs who attack other animals are dangerous to people.
Myth: Dogs will bite people if they are fed fresh meat and will attack if the person has provoked the dog by teasing or cruelty.
Fact: A dog’s diet will not make him attack people but his environment and his pet parent’s behaviour do affect it. Dog attacks can be provoked accidentally and the victim is not always to be blamed.
(Dr Vikas Mahajan is PhD Scholar; D Dhirendra Kumar is Assistant Professor cum Scientist, Division of Animal Breeding & Genetic; Dr Pranav Kumar is Assistant Professor cum Scientist, Division of Veterinary & AH Extension, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences & AH, Jammu while Vibha Raj Shanti is Master in Applied Microbiology & Intellectual Property Law Scholar.)