As a veterinarian, I hear all sorts of sayings concerning animals. Does a warm, dry nose mean you dog is ill? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
Myth No. 1: Flea collars are effective
FALSE - I don't know how many times we have seen patients with large flea infestations that have on flea collars. Flea collars work only where they are touching the skin and the fleas are smart - they just run to the back end to escape the collar!
Use a monthly, topical or oral flea treatment to truly keep your pets protected. Make sure you do not use dog products on cats, as these can cause severe toxicity issues.
Myth No. 2 - You can't teach an old dog new tricks
FALSE - Of course you can! Using positive reinforcement, you can teach even the oldest dog something new. In fact, the more a dog (or cat, rat, bird, rabbit or ferret) focuses on you, and the more training you do, the easier it is for that pet to learn. The same rule of thumb applies to our brains - if you don't use it, you lose it.
Myth No. 3 - Raw food diets are better for dogs and cats
FALSE - Actually, raw food diets are traditionally unbalanced and can lead to dangerous salmonella and E. coli infections. Meat itself is a poor nutrition source for dogs because it has drastic imbalances in vital nutrients. We recommend feeding a high quality, dry commercial dog food instead, such as Science Diet, Royal Canin, Purina or Iams brand foods. These companies are continually performing food trials and checking quality control to make sure they bring the best possible nutrition to our pets that is based on medical facts and research.
[Related article: Is a raw food diet better for dogs?]
Myth No. 4 - My dog's nose is warm and dry - he must be sick!
FALSE - This is an old myth and one we hear all the time. We see dogs with high fevers that have cold noses and vice versa. There is no good correlation with health and the feel of the nose. A better gauge of illness in your pet is to look for signs of lethargy, appetite loss, or any other concerning symptoms.
Fever is hard to assess in dogs because they give off more body heat than we do and their normal temperature range is 100-103 degrees Fahrenheit. Rectal temperature is an accurate way to see if a pet has a fever.
Myth No. 5 - It's best to let my dog have at least one litter of puppies before spaying her
FALSE - The only reason to keep your dog intact is if you are going to breed him or her. Otherwise we recommend spaying or neutering prior to 7 months of age to prevent unwanted litters, avoid increasing the risk of mammary cancer later in life (this exponentially rises with each heat cycle a dog is allowed to go through), and eliminate the risk of pyometra (a life-threatening uterine infection), as well as ovarian and uterine cancer.
Dogs get no benefit from having puppies - in fact, breeding too many times puts a lot of stress on a pet's body and can lead to endocrine dysfunction earlier on in life. In general, pets that are spayed and neutered are healthier overall.
A special note about cats: Most people who have a kitten that goes into heat come into our office as quickly as possible. This is because cats have induced ovulation, meaning they must breed or they will never go out of heat. Imagine a screaming, yowling cat under your feet at all times of the day and night - forever. Cats that do not go out of heat are also at risk for estrogen toxicity, which can be fatal.
About this Experts Contributor: Lindsay Beckendorf, DVM, is a veterinarian with Country Club Pet Hospital in Mansfield, Texas. Established in 2006, Country Club Pet Hospital’s doctors and staff treat dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, rabbits, rodents and ferrets and offers other veterinary care to pets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with a goal of promoting overall health and longevity for your pets.
As of September 27, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.