Common Pet Myths

The staff of Markham Veterinary Clinic are asked about many of these beliefs almost every day.

If a dog has a warm, dry nose, they are sick.
This myth is likely the most common. The origins of this myth are not definitively known but may be rooted in fact. Canine distemper virus was once quite prevalent. One of the symptoms of advanced distemper is thickening of the nose and foot pads resulting in them being hard and dry. Therefore, when distemper was more widespread, a cool, wet nose was considered a good sign that your dog did not have distemper. Fortunately, vaccinations have made distemper far less common today.

Cats always land on their feet!
Cats are very agile and athletic animals that have a unique and innate ability to reorient their body during a fall. However, if a cat is surprised, disoriented, sick or injured, it is unlikely to be able to adjust its position and land feet first. And of course, if it falls from a great height the force from the fall will cause serious injury or even death whether the cat’s feet hit the ground first or not. And if the cat falls from a short height, it may not have enough time to twist around and land on its feet.

Dogs eat grass because they feel nauseous.
It is true that dogs will often throw up after eating grass. However, this does not mean they ate the grass because they felt ill and wanted to induce vomiting. The origins of this myth may stem back to the days when wild canid would eat the stomach contents of their prey which consisted of grass/leaves etc. It is most likely that some dogs simply like to graze or chomp on grass.

Cats purr because they are happy.
Most cats do purr in the presence of their owners when they are being petted, which may be where the myth originated. However, cats will sometimes purr when they are ill, injured and in pain or frightened. It appears as if purring is an expression of some strong emotion whether positive or negative, similar to a person humming or whistling; commonly done out of happiness, but may also be done as a result of stress, fright or discomfort.

Dogs are color blind.
This myth is most likely based on old science, before scientists fully understood the eye and the function of the cones. Dogs are able to see colors but less able to distinguish between them, much like people with red / green color blindness. Dogs’ eyes have receptors for blue and green shades, but not for red shades, therefore it is believed that dogs see primarily in blue, greenish yellow, yellow and various shades of purple and grey.

Cats can see in the dark.
This myth originates from people observing cats navigate through the dark, as they are nocturnal therefore more active in the dark of night. The pupils of a cats eyes will open much wider in dim light than those of people, letting in more light and allowing them to see better. However, cats cannot see in complete darkness!

Dogs mouths are cleaner then human mouths.
The myth that a dogs mouth is clean probably stems from the fact that dogs lick their wounds and occasionally heal faster because of it. In reality, if the wound heals faster it is a result of the rough tongue removing dead tissue and stimulating circulation. Licking wounds usually causes more harm then good. Most dogs do not get their teeth brushed on a regular basis and as a result, generally possess large accumulations of bacteria and tartar in their mouth. However, a little “kiss” from your dog is nothing to fret over if you keep your friend healthy, dewormed and up to date on vaccines.

Garlic prevents fleas or will help get rid of worms.
Other then giving your dog the impression you are a gourmet Italian chef, putting garlic on its food will not do much. In fact, large amounts of garlic can be harmful as it contains thiosulphate, a compound that causes anemia in dogs.

Dogs like tasty food.
Dogs have very poor taste buds and eat primarily on their sense of smell.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!
This myth is one of the most common clichés about domestic dogs. The truth is you can teach an old dog new tricks, skills and commands within their physical capabilities. What’s more, they usually want to learn. Their minds need stimulation, just like ours. Some challenges can be present with old age sensory changes to hearing and sight and energy levels are lower in older dogs. With patience, kindness, persistence and consistency, owners can teach their older dogs all sorts of new tricks!

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