There are a lot of old wives tales (and let’s be non-sexist, old husband tales as well, man can those old dudes talk!) about our pets. Most of them are harmless, but I thought I’d blow the lid open on some of the more common ones that I hear on a regular basis.
10 Common Misconceptions About Your Pet
1. If a dog has a dry nose it means it’s sick
This is probably THE most common myth out there. I’ve had more than a few clients rush their dog into the clinic when their only symptom was a dry nose. If your dog has a dry nose, it means they have…a dry nose. Yes, usually their noses are cold and wet, but if it’s dry that is completely fine. If your dog has a nose that is swollen, cracked or has any discharge coming out of it, then you might have an issue. Happy dog with a dry nose? You might just need a humidifier.
2. Cats purr because they are happy
They most definitely will purr when they’re happy, and who doesn’t love petting a cat and getting their motor running? However, happiness isn’t the only reason cats will purr. They’ll purr if they’re scared, in pain, sick, frightened or even dying. So please listen to your vet when they tell you your purring cat might be at deaths door!
3. Dogs and cats age 7 years for every 1 human year
I have no idea where this one came from. It’s kind of a useless fact, but people love to think that their 18 year old cat is really 126 years old. Look at him! 126 years old! But not really….
The rate at which animals age is related to their size. Small dogs live longer than bigger ones, and they mature faster as well. Big dogs don’t live as long and take their time maturing. Some giant breeds, like Great Danes, are still growing until they’re about 2 years old.
It’s that first year that’s the doozy…most dogs and cats will have all their adult teeth by the time they’re 4 months old (in humans it’s when we’re about 12-13), and are capable of reproducing by the time they’re 6-9 months old. Going by the old 1 year = 7 rule that’s a pretty early blooming 7 year old! By the time the average cat or dog is a year old, they’re probably in the late teens or early 20’s, developmentally speaking. After that first year you’re looking at maybe 3-5 years for every human year, depending on the breed.
4. (Insert Breed Here) is hypoallergenic
Sorry kids, I hate to break it to you, but there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet (no matter what that breeder charging you a premium is telling you!). There are pets that may not cause people with allergies to react as badly, but even then it’s pretty hit and miss. The best way to know if an animal is going to trigger your allergies is to spend time with them and see what happens.
5. Dogs are carnivores
This is always a fun one to talk about. People look at me like I’m nuts when I tell them I want to try their food allergic dog out on a vegetarian diet. “But look at those teeth Doc! Fluffy is a proud meat eater!”. It’s not just the teeth that determine what foods your body runs on, it’s your biology. Dogs can do just fine on a vegetarian diet. Wild dogs are scavengers and often eat fruits and vegetables along with whatever creatures they can get their fangs on. This doesn’t apply to cats though. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they MUST eat meat. Stop trying to make them vegans against their will!
6. Milk is an important part of a cats diet
People LOVE giving their cats milk. I’m not sure why, but it really makes us happy for some reason. I’ve even had clients bring their cats to see me purely because he WON’T drink milk. The thing is, most mammals become lactose intolerant after they are weaned and no longer get it from their mothers. Do cats like milk? Sure! Do they need it? Absolutely not. In fact if your cat is not used to eating dairy products it could cause them to have some diarrhea and room clearing gas. If your cat cannot handle it, just find another treat to share. A piece of protein (chicken, fish, beef or whatever you have on the go) is going to go over way better than milk will.
7. A dog who is wagging their tail is happy
This is the first thing you need to teach kids about dogs. Just because a dog is wagging their tail, it doesn’t mean they want to say hi. A low and slow wag can be a sign of aggression and a high, fast wag is a sign that the dog is extremely excited and possibly nervous. You need to look at the posture of the entire dog when trying to read their behaviour, not just what their tail is doing.
8. Rabbits and guinea pigs just eat pellets
I’m not sure if this is a misconception or just a rookie mistake. These beasties have teeth that grow continuously and they need to eat something abrasive that will help wear them down. You should be feeding them a hay based diet, with only a small amount of pellets. Pellets are easier to feed, but you’ll save yourself a huge bill at the vets if you feed them appropriately.
9. Dogs only see in black and white
Your dog may be simple creature who thinks in black and white, but new studies show that dogs see colours. They just don’t see ALL colour. They see colour in the same way that someone who is red-green colourblind does.
10. My cat is lonely! I’m going to get another cat!
Hang on there! Before you rush out to get a second cat (which leads to a third, and then a fourth and then all of a sudden you’re that guy…) remember this. Cats are generally pretty solitary creatures. They’re not as social as people and dogs are and are completely happy being alone.
If you do decide to bring in another cat, make sure you can return them. They may get along like a house on fire, completely ignore each other or decide to turn your home into a cat version of Thunderdome.