5 Pet Health Myths
Pet health shouldn’t be measured by nose temperature, and despite the recent pet-food recall, avoid feeding your pets table scraps.
By Leah Zerbe, Rodale.com
All this may have you thinking a bit more about not only what is on your plate, but what’s in your dog’s bowl, too. So Rodale.com invited Shelly Rubin, VMD, director emeritus of Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago, and past president of the Illinois State Veterinary Association, to debunk common pet myths so we can keep our furry friends safe. (Rubin also served as veterinarian to Oprah’s dogs for 15 years!)
Myth #1—Table scraps are good for dogs.
The reality: With the dog treat recall and past dog food scandals, such as the melamine-tainted food that killed thousands of pets in 2007, it might seem like people food could be a better choice for your animal companions. But Dr. Rubin warns of going there, because our animals’ health improves when they receive a consistent source of fat, protein, and carbohydrates—which isn’t how human diets generally work. He recommends a high-quality, natural food, such as the Wellness and Holistic Selectbrands. Organix is a high-quality pet-food line that’s certified organic.
Dr. Rubin also emphasizes feeding your dog appropriate portions of a high-quality food twice a day, as opposed to letting food sit out in a bowl all day. And forget doling out excess treats—the majority of America’s pets are already obese. “Show love with petting and attention rather than feeding them,” says Dr. Rubin. Healthy dog treats include baby carrots, cauliflower, cut-up apple pieces, lettuce, pear pieces and even watermelon (just don’t give them seeds, and avoid stringy produce that could cause digestive distress and get stuck in their teeth). And never feed dogs grapes and raisins because they often cause renal failure in dogs. (Avocado pits are also extremely toxic to dogs.)
Myth #2—Cats need milk.
The reality: While many of us can conjure up a cute image of a cat lapping a bowl of milk, resist the temptation to offer this in real life. Cats and dogs don’t have the ability to appropriately break down lactose in milk, and drinking it can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and other issues. To make sure your cat is hydrated properly, invest in a cat water fountain; the animals are naturally drawn to moving water. (That’s why they’re often found lapping up water beneath a leaky faucet.)
Myth #3—A warm nose means your dog is sick.
The reality: If you want to figure out if your dog’s ill, look for signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and other signs of distress. If a dog’s nose is cool, it may have just had a drink of water. If it’s warm, they may have been out in the sun. You can also feel the dog’s head with your hand—although, a dog’s normal temperature is 101 to 101.5, so it will feel slightly warm to a human.
Myth #4—Cats always land on their feet.
The reality: We wish this were true, but Dr. Rubin says he’s seen too many instances of high-rise syndrome, in which cats hanging out by windows accidentally fall out when a passing bug or bird steals their attention. Install a window bay, or a cat condo, and keep the window closed. And keep your cat healthily occupied in other ways, too. Dr. Rubin suggests a daily exercise routine in which the cat chases a toy on a string or a laser light on the wall. During the day, you can put a few pieces of cat food in a feed-and-treat ball and hide it, which will stimulate your cat’s natural hunting instincts.
Myth #5—It’s OK to kiss your dog.
The reality: “A dog’s general mouth bacteria may be OK for us, but where the dog’s tongue has been, it’s not a clean environment,” says Dr. Rubin. (Think butt-licking, poop-sniffing encounters in the dog park, and such.) In fact, you can actually come down with salmonella poisoning after receiving a dog lick to the face!
While this may not deter everyone from face time with their loyal companion, people with weak immune systems, such as people living with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy, should refrain from getting schlecked on the face.
While dogs are inherently prone to licking gross things, there are some things you can do as a pet owner to keep your pet’s mouth as clean and free of dental disease as possible. The gold standard is brushing your dog’s teeth. (NEVER use human toothpaste, though; it could contain xylitol, a substance that causes a precipitous drop in blood sugar, leading to hypoglycemia and possibly death in dogs. Always use toothpaste designed for your pet.)
Some dogs, such as golden retrievers and labs, could benefit from rope bones. As they cart the rope with knotted ends around like a bone in their mouth, it can actually mechanically clean teeth to a certain extent. The right-size ridged Kong toy can do the same.