Animal MythBusters

MVMA_Animal_Mythbusters_sml

Veterinarians help you sort through 
animal facts and animal fiction.

Test your animal knowledge by answering these questions, then Click them to see if you're right! 



MYTH: I shouldn't use Swiffer Wet Jet cleaning solution around my pets.

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

It is okay to use this cleaning solution in a home with pets. It has been rumored that this solution contains ethylene glycol - the same  ingredient that makes antifreeze toxic to people and animals. While antifreeze is toxic, veterinary toxicologists at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who work in the Animal Poison Control Center have confirmed there is no ethylene glycol in Swiffer Wet Jet cleaning solution. Generally, we don't recommend letting animals walk on wet floors as they can be very slippery. Plus pet paws are a quick way to mess up a freshly cleaned floor!


MYTH: Grapes and raisins are healthy treats for dogs.

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

About 20 years ago, the Animal Poison Control Centre began noticing that dogs that had eaten grapes or raisins would almost always develop acute renal (kidney) failure. Whether the ingested grapes were purchased fresh from grocery stores or grown in private yards didn't seem to matter, nor did the brand eaten. And the ingested amounts varied considerably, from over a pound of grapes to as little as a single serving of raisins. The cases weren't from any specific region, but instead came from across the United States. So why we're not exactly sure why they are harmful to dogs - Manitoba veterinarians don't want you feeding grapes or raisins to your dogs.


MYTH: Removing a tick before it’s full of blood prevents transmission of Lyme disease

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

How much blood a tick has ingested isn’t a reflection of how long it has been on a dog. A deer tick needs to attach to your dog for at least 24 to 36 hours before it can transmit the disease causing bacteria.

Depending on where it attaches to the dog will determine how quickly a tick fills up. If a tick gets a good blood supply and engorges quickly, it may drop off before transmitting infection. If it takes more than 24-36 hours to become engorged, it can transmit Lyme disease.

It’s always good to review some tick basics in any discussion about Lyme disease. The bacteria causing Lyme disease, Borellia burdorferi, is found in about 5% of Manitoban deer ticks. The larger, more common wood ticks do not act as a vector for Lyme disease. 

An engorged deer tick is much smaller than a full wood tick. Because deer ticks are tiny, they are easy to miss in a thick-coated dog.

If you are concerned about Lyme disease, your veterinarian can help you decide which methods of prevention are best for your dog.  Topical preventatives, daily ‘tick checks’, and vaccination against Lyme disease can all play a part in reducing your dog’s risk of being exposed to and developing Lyme disease. Your veterinarian can also screen your dog for exposure to the organism that causes Lyme disease with a simple blood test. It’s important to remember that most dogs that are exposed don’t become ill, and most of those who do show signs of illness (fever, lethargy, swollen joints) respond very well to a course of antibiotics. Finally, remember that if your dog is being exposed to deer ticks, then so are you! Make sure you check for deer ticks trying to make a meal of you, and report any suspicious bites to your doctor.  (People often develop a bull’s eye shaped rash around the deer tick’s bite). 


 
MYTH: Cats always land on their feet.

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

Whether cats land on their feet after a fall depends on the height from which they fell.

Cats have great balance that lets them tippy-toe along fences and tree limbs but, should they happen to fall from these perches, their fabulous balance gives them a “righting reflex” that orients their feet down so that they can land on their feet.

Heights above three or four feet are sufficient distance for Kitty to twist its body so it will land feet down. However, as one might guess, at great heights, even landing on your feet will still result in injury. A study published in the American Journal of Veterinary Medicine in 1987 looked at “High-Rise Syndrome” or the injuries resulting from falls in cats. As expected, the higher the falling distance, the worse the injuries. However, this was true up to about six stories. Interestingly, from about seven to 20 stories, falls were not nearly as bad. The authors suggested that once the cat had righted itself it would reach terminal velocity (or the speed where gravity and air resistance balance and you can’t fall any faster) and then relax, spread out its feet in imitation of a flying squirrel, and better prepare for the impact. At lower heights, cats would tense and, although oriented feet-down, be less able to absorb the impact. 


MYTH: Horses sleep standing up.

NOT BUSTED! But there is more to consider. . .

Horses have a special, unique structure in their legs that lets them “lock” them in place. It is called the “stay apparatus” (you can use this to impress guests at the next party you go to!). Because they can do this, they can doze in a light sleep while standing. 

This is a great advantage when trying to flee predators since the horse wastes no time in having to get up – it can run off immediately.

In order for a horse to get a real deep sleep, the kind we all like to get, they need to lie down. Horses will lie down when they feel they are in a secure location. It’s not at all uncommon to see domestic and wild horses lying down either upright on their chest or flat out on their sides. If they are in groups, there will usually be one horse in the group keeping watch.


MYTH: Cow tipping is a popular Prairie pastime!

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

Anyone who grew up on the Prairies can spot this myth miles away! Veterinarians who deal with cattle wish it was that easy to get a cow to lay down when they want them to!

The myth plays on the initially erroneous idea that cows sleep standing up. Unlike horses who can pull this one off, cows definitely cannot and do not sleep standing up. They either lie down on their chests upright, often with their heads turned back or they may even lie out flat on their sides. As well, research has shown that even if a cow were to stand completely still and allow you to sneak up on it and attempt to push it over, you couldn’t do it on your own (unless you’re some sort of amazing body builder!)
 
So, next time you’re out on a Sunday drive and happen past a field of docile-looking bovines, resist the urge to test the theory because if you do get close enough the only one getting tipped will be you!


MYTH: Spaying or neutering makes dogs and cats fat

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

Many scientific studies have quashed this myth and found that spayed and neutered pets are no more at risk of obesity if fed nutritious food and exercised appropriately. Obesity is caused by too many calories and lack of exercise.

A spayed or neutered dog or cat will require fewer calories than a sexually-intact pet; heat cycles, making babies, and looking for mates does take a lot of energy.

Removing the reproductive organs in your pet has so many advantages, it’s hard to believe that some people still worry about this!


MYTH:  Baby shampoo (or any other human shampoo) is great for dogs.

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

Human shampoo (regardless of how "gentle" it says it is) is not pH balanced for your pet. It will harm your pet’s skin and coat causing it to dry out, become itchy, and shed excessively. This makes life miserable for you and your pet!

Dogs (and cats) have thinner and less oily skin than humans, so it tends to dry out more easily. Most human shampoos will dry out your pet’s skin and hair because they are meant for human hair. We wash our hair to strip away the oils so we don't look all greasy. However, dogs need oil in their hair to keep their coat healthy, to provide waterproofing, and to help prevent infection from bacteria living on the skin.

Always use a good quality pet shampoo when bathing your dog. Try to use a mild, moisturizing shampoo with as little detergent and perfume as possible. For example, an oatmeal pet shampoo is quite suitable. If your pet has skin problems like sensitive skin, allergies, pyoderma (bacterial infection of the skin) or seborrhea (excessively oily skin) then a medicated or other special shampoo may be warranted (consult your veterinarian for advice).

Don’t bathe your pet more than once every few weeks as this will dry out the skin no matter what shampoo you use.

Here are some basics tips for bathing your pet:

1. Always brush your pet thoroughly before bathing. Any mats and tangles will only get worse during the bath. 
2. Put a towel or screen on the bottom of the tub or sink - your furry friend needs secure footing. 
3. Protect your pet's ears by placing cotton inside them. This will prevent soap from getting in which could be painful. Don’t forget to remove the cotton when bath time is over!
4. Place everything you’ll need within reach.
5. Close off all escape routes so you don’t have to chase a wet pet around.

Lather thoroughly, leaving the face until the end. After a good wash, make sure you rinse just as well. Soap left in the fur can irritate the skin. Towel your little buddy off and do a good rub down. If your pet accepts it, you can use a blow drier. Finish off with a good brushing.

Though it might be a struggle to keep your furry friend clean, it's well worth it. Not only are you improving your pet’s health (proper grooming and bathing are essential to your pet’s health and happiness), you're bonding with it in the process. Your pet will appreciate the attention it’s getting, and you'll appreciate the lack of fur on the floor, the furniture, your clothes, etc.


MYTH: A cold, wet nose is a sign of good health.

NOT BUSTED! But there is more to consider. . .

A cold, wet nose is one sign of good health in dogs and cats, however, even a healthy pet can have a warm, dry nose on occasion. On the other hand, really sick pets can also have cold, wet noses. Any one indicator of health is not 100 per cent accurate all the time. Any pet experiencing pain or symptoms of illness such as lethargy or not eating should be seen by a veterinarian.

But why do dogs have cold, wet noses anyhow?

Dogs don't sweat. They cool down by opening their mouths wide and panting. Some scientists suggest that having cold, wet noses also plays into this cool-down equation. A little moisture on the nose keeps it cooler and therefore helps to cool a dog on hot days. A dry nose might suggest that the dog is dehydrated, and a warm nose suggests the dog may be running a fever. If this condition persists for more than a day or two, you should head to your vet to have it checked out.

Another reason that dogs have cold, wet noses is because they’re quite fond of licking their noses. Many dogs have long tongues with which they can easily reach their nose; possibly enhancing coolness and transferring moisture to the nose. After dogs have eaten, they often use their tongues to clean off their noses, particularly after a messy meal. This in turn leads to the cold, wet noses we’ve come to expect in dogs.

An alternate explanation as to why dogs have cold, wet noses may have to do with survival skills, and predate domestication of our furry friends. It’s suggested by some scientists that extra moisture on the nose may increase a dog’s sense of smell. The tiny molecules that make up a scent can more easily stick to a damp surface. Working dogs especially need great “smelling” skills to herd, find pests, look for missing people, or sniff out illegal substances at airports. Cold, wet noses may simply be better at smelling things than dry noses.


MYTH:  Chocolate is deadly to dogs.

NOT BUSTED! But there is more to consider. . .

Although chocolate is a well known toxin in dogs, the two factors most often misunderstood involve the type of chocolate and the size of the dog.

Scarfing down some inexpensive chocolate or a candy bar is very different from the unlucky dog that gets his gums around a box of baking chocolate or a bag of semi sweet chips.

The toxic component of chocolate, theobromine, is found in the cocoa solids portion of the chocolate. By weight, milk chocolate has far less cocoa solid in it than dark chocolate, including semi sweet and unsweetened baking chocolate. White chocolate has no cocoa solids in it, so therefore has no theobromine in it. However, if you think your Easter egg scavenger is home free, the main ingredients in milk and white chocolate are sugar and fat – both of which can cause a nasty upset stomach for your dog. 

The second factor at play with chocolate toxicity is the size of the dog. A Labrador retriever who eats chocolate needs to eat much more than a Chihuahua to become sick. Size definitely matters with chocolate poisoning. 

If your dog does eat some chocolate, inducing vomiting within the first hour can be very beneficial – call your veterinarian for advice. If more than an hour has elapsed, call your veterinarian to determine if you need to come in for treatment and possible hospitalization, or if home monitoring is appropriate. If you have the wrapper from the chocolate (if your dog hasn’t eaten that too), keep it so the cocoa solids ingested can be determined. 


MYTH: Cutting a porcupine quill lets the air out for them to be easily removed.

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

Cutting the quill will absolutely not help removal in the slightest. In fact, it makes removing quills more difficult because there is less to grab hold of.

While mature quills have hollow, air filled shafts, it’s the black pointy tip that is the prickly end of the problem. The tip of the quill actually has tiny, sharp barbs that encourage it to work inwards after sticking into any animal that gets too close. The mechanics are the same as a barbed fish hook, or a barbed arrow head. The barbs make the quills a far more serious defense mechanism than smooth points. Quills have been known to migrate deeper into the body and in rare cases can penetrate vital organs. For this reason, prompt veterinary care is the best response to a porcupine encounter. The only way to remove quills safely is at the veterinary clinic, often under a general anesthetic. This will minimize the chances of a rogue quill migrating into dangerous territory and allows the veterinarian to fully and safely check your animal properly to ensure that ALL quills are removed.

It’s important to note that a porcupine uses its quills in defense. Porcupines don’t attack and they don’t throw their quills. A dog with quills indicates the dog initiated contact with the porcupine.


MYTH:  Carrots are the best thing to feed a rabbit

BUSTED! This information is INCORRECT!

While carrots are acceptable to feed rabbits, they should not be the only thing you feed. In fact, your bunny would probably be happier with the carrot tops or greens than with the orange carrot root.

A rabbit's diet should be made up of good quality pellets (available in most pet stores), fresh hay (timothy, alfalfa or oat - also available in many pet stores), water, and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a "treat" and should be given in limited quantities.

Hay is essential to a rabbit's good health, providing roughage which reduces the danger of hairballs and other intestinal blockages. In addition, pellets and hay should be fresh, and should be relatively high in fiber (18% minimum fiber). Do not purchase more than six weeks worth of feed at a time, as it may become spoiled.

When shopping, select different veggetables. Look for both dark leafy veggies (e.g. spinach, kale, romaine lettuce) and other vegetables (e.g. brussels sprouts, carrots, green peppers) and try to get different colours. Stay away from cabbage, beans, iceberg lettuce and rhubarb – they can cause intestinal upset and diarrhea.

For a suggested veggie list, check out the House Rabbit Society web page at www.rabbit.org or www.rabbit.org/care/veggies.html.

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