We sometimes hear confident statements made about our pets, but can they all be trusted? Certainly not. Here are some to be aware of …
Female dogs should have a litter before they are fixed
There is zero health benefit to a bitch having a litter. In fact, not spaying her until after she has her first or subsequent heat (oestrus cycle) substantially increases the chance of her developing mammary cancer later in life. Furthermore, an infection of the uterus known as pyometra, which can rapidly become life threatening if left untreated, develops in around a quarter of all unspayed females before the age of 10. Behaviourally, having a litter does not magically settle down a bitch. Maturity, consistent exercise, training and stimulation will do this.
Dogs eat grass when they are sick
This is a curious one, because we do see dogs that eat grass and vomit it back up again, and it can be associated with gastritis or some other form of gut illness. But there are also plenty of dogs who regularly eat quantities of grass without having any other issues or signs of illness. As a vet, this is definitely one of those situations where I wish I spoke dog and could ask for a “please explain”.
My pet died of old age
Well, no. Old age is not a disease, and our pets die of disease. While it is common for an older animal to lose weight and slow down, it is not healthy. One example we frequently see in geriatric pets is dental disease. As we’ve not mastered the art of teaching a dog or cat to brush their teeth, a lifetime of tartar can cause very painful tooth and gum rot to the point of preventing normal eating. The turnaround in liveliness and appetite we see once we treat these never ceases to amaze owners and vets alike. Just like humans, arthritis occurs commonly in older animals, particularly of the hips, knees (stifles) and elbows. These animals are chronically stiff and painful and it can have a serious effect on their quality of life – but there are lots of ways to help with and manage the pain.
Dogs and cats are both carnivores
Dogs and cats are both classified as members of the order carnivora, but that’s where the similarity ends. Carnivorous, herbivorous and omnivorous actually describe feeding behaviours, and the dog is best described as omnivorous, being an opportunistic predator and scavenger. Their gut anatomy and physiology is similar to humans, and made to digest and utilise a widely varied diet from both animal and plant sources. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they rely on the nutrients found in animal tissues to meet their specific requirements, and have much higher protein requirements than either dogs or humans. An example is the amino acid taurine, which can only be found in animal sources such as in milk and meat that a cat must consume in its diet or potentially go blind. By contrast, humans and dogs can synthesise taurine within their own body.
Nena Nepia, Wellsford Vet Clinic