Puppy tales: debunking dog health myths

Pet industry experts expect Americans to spend more than $55 billion on their furry friends in 2013. They say $14 billion of that will go towards veterinary care and pet prescriptions.

When spending money on your dog’s healthcare, it is best to make sure you are getting the right information. There are many myths when it comes to your pet’s health.

So how can you tell if your dog is really healthy?

You may have heard that a dry nose is a sign of health problems in a dog. But that is simply not true. A dry nose without any other symptoms could just be a sign that your house is too dry.

What about adding garlic to a dog’s diet to prevent fleas and ticks? Not only is that false, but it could do more harm than good.

Garlic does very little to prevent pests, but the chemicals it contains can cause an increased heart rate and even anemia.

According to Dr. Brenda J. Stevens of the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University, flea and tick medication should be used to protect your pets. She says to apply topicals directly to the skin on the back of the neck.

"If your dog does a lot of swimming and you're bathing your dog frequently, then a topical may not be most efficient for you, so something oral might work a little better,” says Stevens.

And watch out for meds with pyrethroids. Those can cause even more damage.

"A neurological sign, tremors, up to seizures and even death,” Stevens says.

A study found that the chemical was responsible for at least 1,600 pet deaths over a five-year period.

As for your canine’s teeth, many believe that dogs naturally brush them. That is another myth.

Stevens says that it is important to manually brush your dog’s teeth at least a couple of times a week with pet toothpaste – not your own.

"(Dogs) seem to tolerate the side to side motion just a little bit better with that,” Stevens says.

Today’s technology makes it possible to locate a missing pet by using a microchip. One manufacturer says that 10,000 pets are reunited with their families every month because of microchips, but the internet is full of claims that the chips can also cause cancer in animals.

So are microchips a good safety measure or can they be dangerous?

No large-scale studies have looked into the issue, but of the millions of pets with microchips only a small number of tumors have been reported.

When it comes to bath time, Stevens says that most dogs should only be bathed once every few months. Doing it more often can dry out the natural oils in their fur and cause skin irritation. She says between baths you should brush as much as possible to prevent odor and excess shedding.

Brushing daily can also help stop fleas and ticks before they become a problem. It takes a tick 24 hours to transmit disease to a dog.

REPORT #2006

BACKGROUND: Keeping your dog healthy is one of the most imperative jobs you will face as an owner; even the most experienced dog owner can be misled by some of the myths floating around. Here are some truths and myths about your furry pet.

DOGS ARE COLOR BLIND: Dogs do see in color. However, they see differently than most people do and are less able to distinguish between colors. Veterinary ophthalmologists have determined that dogs see like people who have red/green color blindness. Dogs cannot easily distinguish between yellow, green and red, but they can identify different shades of blue, purple and gray. (SOURCE: http://www.nbcnews.com)

DOG WOUNDS HEAL BEST WITH DOG SALIVA: The myth that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a humans and that their saliva contains healing properties has been around far too long. Yes, it is true that a dog's saliva can be toxic to some bacteria, but it carries its own population of bacteria and other infectious organisms. That population is just different from the assortment of bacteria and other "germs" in the human mouth, based largely upon differences in diet. In reality, allowing a dog to lick even a minor cut or wound can lead to a serious infection. (SOURCE: http://www.nbcnews.com; http://shine.yahoo.com/pets/10-common-dog-health-myths)

ANIMAL BONES ARE VITAL TO A DOG'S NUTRITION: Tossing a dog a leftover steak bone does excite them, but it actually offers far more risks than health benefits. Bones tend to splinter and break apart in a dog's strong jaws and offer little value to a balanced diet. Realistically, bone fragments may lodge in a dog's throat, or create a life threatening tear in his digestive system. (SOURCE: http://shine.yahoo.com/pets/10-common-dog-health-myths)

ADDING MEAT DRIPPINGS OR COOKING OIL TO DOG FOOD PUTS SHINE IN THE COAT: A healthy diet and proper grooming are better paths to glossy, fur coats. Too much fat in a dog's diet can instead create unwanted gastrointestinal issues or life threatening conditions such as pancreatitis. (SOURCE: http://shine.yahoo.com/pets/10-common-dog-health-myths)

For More Information, Contact:

Brenda J. Stevens, DVM
Clinical Assistant Professor
North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine

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