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Common Pet Myths and Misconceptions

Milk is a good treat for cats – False. Cartoons can be blamed for this common misconception, in my opinion. Almost every cartoon cat receives milk as a treat at some point during a typical episode. Once beyond the kitten stage, cats don’t need milk and are actually lactose intolerant. If you do give your cat a little milk, you will likely end up giving it diarrhea to some degree.

Dogs can’t see color –  False. As a kid, this was one of the first ‘dog facts’ that I was taught. Many people still truly believe that dogs only see in black and white or grey. Dogs can in fact see a few colors, though they don’t see them in the same way we do. These colors include blue, greenish-yellow, yellow, and some shades of grey.

Certain breeds of dogs are more aggressive than others – False. This is probably the most common misconception our society is currently facing. While large breed dogs are more dangerous when aggressive, any breed of dog has the capability of exhibiting aggression at any point in their lives. Aggressive behavior is directly linked to the way a dog was brought up and treated by humans.

A wagging tail means a happy dog – False. This is another one of those myths that we keep perpetuating, even teaching to our children! A wagging tail can mean many things, not just that your dog is happy.

An even horizontal or side to side tail wag,  where a dog’s body looks like it’s wagging also, is typically an indicator of happiness.

A rapidly wagging tail in a very low position can mean your dog is nervous or anxious, not necessarily friendly or happy.

 A tail that is held very high and wagging may be a sign of danger, as it could indicate an over-stimulated or excited dog. Dogs with this sort of upright tail and posture are usually inviting other dogs or people to a challenge.

It is important to understand these basic cues to ensure your safety around a strange dog. The rule at our house is we don’t need to pet strange dogs. We have a perfectly wonderful dog of our own to pet at home!

If you get your dog or cat fixed, they’ll get fat – False. This is completely false. Many people find that after they spay or neuter their pet, the pet starts to gain weight even though nothing has changed with the amount of food being fed. Once your pet has had an alteration surgery, they require 25% fewer calories. So of course, if you continue to feed the same amount of food even after spaying or neutering, your pet is likely to gain weight due to excess calories, not from the procedure itself.

Cats can’t get heartworms – False. Heartworm disease affects cats differently than dogs, and may be misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis. Even cats that have never ventured outdoors can get heartworm as it is transmitted through mosquitoes. It is important to note that heartworm disease in cats is almost always fatal.

Cats only purr when content – False. There is nothing more soothing than a purring cat sitting on your lap. While cats purr when relaxed and happy, they may also purr to soothe themselves when sick or stressed.

Cats always land on their feet – False. While cats have an inbuilt automatic twisting reaction to falling, it by no means that they will always land on their feet. If a cat falls from a short distance, it may not have time to react and land on its feet. If a cat falls from a larger height, it will likely be injured if not killed.

Cats can steal a baby’s breath – False. There are several myths surrounding cats and babies, most of which are false. Before modern research focused on SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), if a dead infant was found with a cat nearby, the cat got the blame. Cats are naturally curious animals and will investigate an infant and may even lie down in your baby’s crib. While it is highly unlikely that a cat could suffocate an infant, it is recommended that your cat not sleep with your baby.

There are hypoallergenic breeds of pets – False. There are several breeds of dogs and a few breeds of cats that are known as “hypoallergenic”. There is no such thing as a truly allergy-free pet, as different people are triggered by different allergens. Even breeds such as Poodles and Yorkies will shed, although minimally.

There must be something wrong with a pet if it is in a shelter – False. Pets most commonly end up in a shelter because something has gone wrong with their owner. Financial hardship, a move to a new home, illness, or death of an owner are the most prevalent reasons for giving up pets to a shelter.

Anesthesia isn’t safe for older pets – False. While there are some cases where anesthesia isn’t considered safe, the age of your pet shouldn’t deter you from considering surgical procedures. Routine procedures such as dental cleanings are vital to the longevity of your pet, and the benefits outweigh the risks in most cases. At Sugar House Veterinary Hospital, we continue to educate ourselves on the safest anesthetic practices, and ensure that your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia before surgery is performed.

Pets only need dental care every few years – False. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Can you imagine if YOU didn’t brush your teeth for several years?! Periodontal disease, loose teeth, and infection are only a few problems your pet will face if they don’t receive regular dental treatment. We recommend having your pet’s teeth evaluated every 6 months to ensure no obvious problems are present. As a general rule, your pet will likely need a full dental cleaning with x-rays annually, though your veterinarian may decide otherwise.

Cats hate riding in cars or cat carriers – False. While many cat owners experience an unruly cat in cars or carriers, it doesn’t have to be that way! If acclimated to a carrier early in life, most cats will be fine with the smaller space. My cat, Gremlynn, was transported many times as well as being housed in a large crate for some of her kitten development. As a result, she remains fairly calm while in her carrier, as well as riding in the car. Practice makes perfect!

Cats and dogs are enemies – False. This doesn’t have to be the case! If raised together, most dogs and cats live in harmony in the same household. It can be a little more difficult to introduce a dog into the house later on if you have a skittish kitty, but not impossible. So long as appropriate boundaries are set initially to ensure that the pets will interact appropriately, they will be able to happily live together. If you do happen to experience issues introducing the two species, consult a behaviorist for specialized help.


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